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Since 1990 Timorous Beasties have been designing and creating unique furnishings that have taken the design world by storm. A MagnaColours customer for many years, we spoke to them about their love of hand pulled prints, the importance of fabric choices and their unique design process.
Timorous Beasties was founded in 1990 by Alistair McAuley and Paul Simmons. Since meeting while studying at the world-renowned Glasgow School of Art, the pair have been creating and designing unique patterns and prints with a traditional feel. Focusing on soft furnishings and wallpapers and utilising a mixture of printing techniques, traditional motifs and fabrics, they have created a unique brand, winning multiple design awards in the process. Alongside their own award-winning range of furnishings, they have also collaborated with brands such as Nike, Ercol and Fortnum & Mason.
They are based at their production facility and design studio in Glasgow, with design shops located in Glasgow, London and Berlin. Timorous Beasties have been utilising MagnaPrint inks in their products and designs for many years. We spoke with co-founder Alistair McAuley about their design process and use of inks.
Timorous Beasties has a very unique look within home furnishings, what drew you into developing and designing a style that ultimately is very modern but also has such strong roots in classical fabric and wallpaper design?
We trained at the Glasgow School of Art in the late eighties. The commercial or textile design world that we inhabited at the time was either new colourings of old archive pieces or contemporary work being quick, loose and abstract and not in a good way. We were inspired by historical textiles, of course, and in awe of the craftsmanship and the labour involved. We simply took those values of drawing and manufacturing and applied them to our own ideas.
You use and print many different types of fabric including velvets and cotton, how important is the hand-feel and finish of the fabric within your design and development process?
The feel of the cloth is incredibly important. Each ink and fabric have its own characteristics but sometimes it’s good to mix these up. Using heavy metallics and pigments to flatten the pile of a velvet, or opaque’s onto sheers to create shadow. We have used transparent inks onto dark grounds to create subtle washes of colour. Fabrics can reveal many properties depending on how treatments are applied, and that’s worth exploring.
How do you decide which printing effects or inks to incorporate into prints or patterns when developing new designs?
We design with the process in mind. If its screen printing and we want to keep the number of screens to a minimum, mixing transparent with opaque or overlaying inks on top of metallics creates variations that has the illusion of using more screens. We experiment with different inks often, creating effects that we may not use then but can come into their own when different opportunities present themselves. Keeping an open mind to happy accidents too, however doing exactly the same thing twice can sometimes be an issue.
Do you have a favourite ink or effect in the MagnaPrint range that you like to use?
It’s a moveable feast. There is always something exotic to get excited about, glitter, phosphorescent, colour changing. But I like the simple matt lacquers, they are crisp and luminous, with the added magic of watching it create a variable opacity of a light shade on a dark ground.
What drew you to start printing with MagnaColours Products?
We wanted to use an affordable, environmentally conscious ink, that was versatile and robust. MagnaColours has excellent technical support and are interested helping to resolve the types of small batch production issues that we have had in the past.
Timorous Beasties use traditional hand printing as well as more modern digital printing techniques in production, how do you decide which process is the best fit for the product you are designing or producing?
Digital is exciting, of course, but hand printing is beautiful and human. It flows with characteristics that you don’t see anywhere else. It’s simple and versatile, and you can print when there is a power cut. But it can also be time-consuming and costly. We make our choices based on many factors, cost, quantity, finish, purpose, and expectation. It’s fair to say that most of our printing is digital, but our handprint studio is busy all day, every day and it is a wonderful skill to have at your fingertips.
With thanks to Alistair MacAuley, Timorous Beasties and SISS.