C o l l e g e D a y s
Our story begins in the Scottish Borders in the mid 1970’s. We met and studied at the Scottish College of Textiles in Galashiels – they were very happy years!
The Scottish College of Textiles, or SCOT as it was affectionately known, was established by the textile industry to train a skilled workforce; ranging from design, business studies to all aspects of textile manufacturing. Offering full time, part time and ‘block release’ courses which allowed people employed in the industry to come to the college for a six-week block of specialist training.
There was a real sense of community during our time at the college with less than 200 students over all the courses - split roughly 50/50 male and female. There were successful football, rugby and hockey teams, lots of dances (discos) and the occasional lecture!
The Textile Design degree was really practically based course with the lecturers all having spent time in the industry.
John drawing through the warp threads inside his George Wood Loom
Moira in the Design Studio
We both studied, woven, printed and knitted textiles for 3 years then John chose to specialise in woven textiles in his 4th year, while I focused on printed textiles for my final year. We then had to work in industry for 2 years to become Associates of the Textile Industry (A.T.I.)
Class of 1977 – some are still working in the textile industry today!
W o r k i n g i n t h e I n d u s t r y
My first job was with Arthur Dickson, which was a vertical mill in Galashiels. A vertical mill takes in raw fibre and carries out all the processes required on one site to make a finished product. An exciting place to work as a young designer.
During my interview, it was made clear that they would rather have a man for the job – changed days thankfully! I did get the job and was lucky enough to be trained by Jim Slater who had a wealth of knowledge, which he was very happy to share with me and later, with John.
I was sent to New York, which was a different place in 1978 and very different from Galashiels! I also had opportunities to work with leading designers of the time at the mill or in their studios.
Unusually, and cutting a very exotic figure in mid 70’s Gala, Ralph Lauren visited the mill with Kenny Bates to discuss special designs and developments. More about Kenny later....
Moira working at a Trade Show in Toronto, Canada 1970's
John’s graduation 1978
John, when he graduated, started work at the College as a technician for about 9 months whilst waiting for a job within the industry.
He then took over my job (at a vastly increased salary!) at Arthur Dickson when I went to work as a designer at Claridge Mills in Selkirk.
Claridge Mills was set up by John Claridge to weave short runs of luxury fabrics and accessories. There was a range of specialist machinery including a Jacquard loom strung to allow every thread across the width of the loom to work independently – allowing for an infinite variety of designs to be created.
Four special shawls were created on this loom for one of Vivienne Westwood’s fashion shows in the early 1980’s. The models carried them in like flags and the Jacquard card maker said he had never made up such a complex pattern.
The most complex project I worked on at Claridge Mills was to recreate antique Navajo blankets belonging to Ralph Lauren. They were so valuable his staff had to hand carry them on the plane and hold on to them for the entire journey!
.....STORY TO BE CONTINUED.........