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The Alternative Blog


The Glasgow School of Art (GSA) and Alternative Flooring have joined forces in an exciting project to celebrate British design, British made, young talent and to support the wool industry by championing wool as a wonder fibre and sustainable textile. All great aims packed into an ambitious student design competition achieved in lockdown.

GSA is one of the top art schools in the world so where else would you go to choose to redesign a tartan?’ asks Lorna Haigh the creative and marketing director at Alternative Flooring who continues, “we are paying homage to the student’s work during such a difficult 18 months of them working from home, creating concepts and moodboards often in their bedrooms to work up their designs.”

The competition: the brief to those studying woven textiles at The Glasgow School of Art was to design a tartan as an extrapolation from the traditional tartan to the contemporary. Tartan with a twist to make it exciting and easy to wear on our floors. The design also had to embrace the Alternative Flooring brand – to inspire people to express their personality in their homes where different feels good.

The students: eight entries created during the confines of lockdown. The designs were entered as an illustration accompanied by an overview statement, inspiration and process. The winning design will be produced by UK mills as limited-edition carpet and with the possibility of a fabric and further promoted as part of Campaign for Wool this autumn. With plans to sell online. A fresh wool tartan for Alternative’s award-winning Quirky collection of patterned runners, rugs and broadloom carpet made in Britain is the best news!

The judging panel: Elaine Bremner Lecturer and Subject Leader of Woven Textiles at The Glasgow School of Art; Louise Gray fashion designer and former student at GSA. From Alternative Flooring Lorna Haigh, the creative and marketing director and Willie Woods, business development manager for Scotland. Elaine Bremner comments:

I am delighted that Alternative Flooring selected Woven Textiles students at The Glasgow School of Art to collaborate on this project. It gave Weave students a fantastic opportunity to work on a live industry brief and to design within the commercial boundaries set by Alternative Flooring, while also challenging their perception of carpet design and traditional tartan. The positive feedback from Alternative Flooring, on the quality of entries, was fantastic to hear and the publicity for those who undertook the project will be very much appreciated, particularly considering the conditions and constraints that students have been working under this year during the pandemic.

Each student embraced the challenge and as Willie Woods says,

they are all winners in my eyes.

We wholeheartedly agree and we are going to shout about every single entry. Winner announced next month.

Here’s The Glasgow School of Art entries in the words of the students:

Gillian McPate

The Glasgow School of Art Competition, Gillian McPate

 Gillian McPate, Design development

The highlands of our native Scotland have been the inspiration for poets, storytellers, artists, and romantics of all kinds for countless centuries. They have been my inspiration for this project and this new highland tartan. Most specifically the hills and valleys surrounding Glencoe.

During my lockdown my sense of stifled creativity. Brought on by an isolation from nature, was broken by my trips to the highlands for hill walking excursions. The peace and promise of the landscape prompted drawings, paintings, and this tartan. Glencoe is of-course, the site of the infamous massacre, but it is also home to the quintessential natural Scottish highland experience. Infused with that history and landscape os the song of a people and a place that continues to offer misty mystery and rustic romance to every generation of scots.

In this tartan I have tried to capture something of that mystery and translate the feel of the surrounding heather and thistle-strewn hills into an artistic representation of our national dress that represents that environmental heritage.

Sophie Anne Campbell

The GSA Competition, Sophie Anne Campbell

Sophie Anne Campbell, Design development

My design process is influenced by photography I have gathered around Glasgow when acting like a tourist walking down Great Western Road. Using composition within photography to capture any grid like pattern. I like to keep a hand drawn flare within my design process and that helps me identify the quality of line.

I wanted to design quite busy tartans, using a range of 6 colours from the first colour palette sourced. I also wanted the tartan to have a slight retro essence with the use of rectangle alongside some of the dark ruby. Overall, I have designed three tartans that work cohesively or individually and can be repeated.

Holly Sweet

The Glasgow School of Art Competition, Holly Sweet

Holly Sweet, Design development

My inspiration for Concrete Playground came from appreciating the city of Belfast and its buildings and architecture in a new light after been trapped in the house, during what seemed, countless lockdowns.

The structural outlines and shapes composed from geometric arrangements, generate patterns   within the surface of constructional buildings.  This emphasis’s the grid like structure of the classic tartan pattern intertwining the strong, bold concrete with a playful twist of colour and movement through hand drawn motifs. My work was also influenced by the experimental ideas and designs of Isamu Noguchi. His 1940 industrial looking playground was simple yet beautiful. The uncomplicated straight lines interacted and crate da playground filled with attraction and endless imagination. The playful drawn lines to which I added to my designs mimic this activity and curiosity into the concrete playground of this city.

The concept behind ‘concrete playground’ is to appreciate exploring things that you thought you knew but in a different light.

Yoko Hara

The GSA Competition, Yoko Hara

Yoko Hara, Design development

After I came to Scotland, I learned a lot of history and traditions of the country. I had opportunities to join in wedding parties, and it was great to see the different types of tartan and feel the strong connection to family. I also like the spectacular nature and coastline in Scotland. My inspiration is from the west coast of Scotland, which I love and often visit. The texture of stones, sand, rocks, and changeable weather creates many different colours and varied atmosphere.

In the first sample (traditional), I represent soft and tender feelings from the coast. In the second sample (traditional and contemporary), I represent the texture and strong wild nature using watercolour with brush marks. In the third sample (contemporary), I represent the relaxed atmosphere of the coast and each family’s tartan. I used colour pencil with block design like patchwork to represent these tartans.

Lili Chen

The Glasgow School of Art Competition, Lili Chen

Lili Chen, Design development

The inspiration of my Recall Memories project came from the urban environment within Glasgow, which focuses on the buildings surrounding me. Throughout my project, I started by doing primary and secondary research. I have been inspired by the photographer Stephanie Jung ‘s works. I like her idea of using multiple exposure techniques as they either contrast images or make the photographs tangible and contain movements. In addition, I have also explored the use of double exposure and experimented what effect layering images will have on a photograph. I then moved on to create a series of drawings of the urban environment that focused on layers and patterns. I like to explore how photography, drawings, and colouring interact with each other. The process of this project has intrigued me to contemplate the connection between human beings, art, and the social environment.

Adele McCully

The Glasgow School of Art Competition, Adele McCully

Adele McCully, Design development

Taking inspiration from my hometown, the Larkhall Viaduct was the tallest Viaduct in Scotland standing at 170ft above the Avon water and is 530ft long. Opening in 1904 it became a transporter of raw materials such as coal and was also open to the public. However, it was closed in 1964. Today it is a derelict building and safety measurements have been out into place.

As well as rich in history the Doon Viaduct has a lot of patterns and textures from the waring through the years that inspired me. I enjoyed looking at the way lines both bold and fine work together to create grid-like segments in the design

Sandra McWilliams

The Glasgow School of Art Competition, Sandra McWilliams

Sandra McWilliams, Design development

I have drawn inspiration for my designs from research into the ‘Govan Weavers’. The Society was started in 1756 to control entry into the weaving trade and to provide assistance to handloom weavers who had fallen on hard times. The Society gained its funds from quarterly subscriptions from the weavers and by collections made to the swear box.

The banner has painted images that represent the societies ethos: Two spindles represent the industry, a fish with a ring referring to the story of St Mungo and some Scottish thistles. The Latin words ‘Nihil Sine Labore’ are inscribed translates to ‘Nothing without Labour’, the motto of the Burgh of Govan.

The inclusion of the ram’s head, according to legend, is due to a Govan ministers’ refusal to give his maidservant permission to marry. The village people showed their disapproval of his behaviour by cutting off the heads of his flock of sheep. The ram’s head was kept, and it is paraded around the village each year in the weavers’ procession at the Govan Fair. The background for my design came from wool wraps where I experimented with end of line Rug Wools and felt strips donated by ‘Turnberry Rug Works’. Although these were not as accurate to my palette as I would have liked they were in line with my ideal of using sustainable resources.

Abbey Campbell

The GSA Competition, Abbey Campbell

Abbey Campbell, Design development

I collect GQ Magazines, given to me by my grandpa. I use them to create paper weaves, transferring them digitally to textile concepts. I’d love to be able to create something inspired by the magazines to give back to him.

Watch this space as we announce and chat to the winner in our next Alternative blog.

Begin to follow the story of the winning design from competition to carpet on our social media platforms.

See more of Alternative designs and explore our collections HERE

Find more flooring and interior design inspiration on our Alternative BLOG

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The Edit - home style by Alternative