The Oban art graduate wins competition to design new tartan for larger flooring company

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“My grandmothers are so proud,” said Oban art graduate Sophie Campbell, after she won a national competition to design a new tartan for rugs and runners.

The Glasgow School of Art (GSA) and an innovative carpet mill, Alternative Flooring, joined forces in a project to celebrate British design, British manufacturing, young talent and to support the wool industry by fighting for wool as a ‘wonder fiber’ and sustainable textile.

The competition asked those who studied woven fabrics at the GSA to design ‘an extrapolation from the traditional tartan to the modern’. Eight entries were submitted during the lockdown in the spring of 2020.

The competition was won by 23-year-old Sophie Anne Campbell from Oban, who has just graduated from the GSA and is about to begin a Masters at the Heriot-Watt School of Textiles and Design in the Scottish Borders.

The judges, who included Lorna Haigh of Alternative Flooring, Elaine Bremner, a teacher of Woven Textiles at the Glasgow School of Art, and Louise Gray, a fashion designer and GSA graduate, all praised her vibrant, colorful and imaginative designs.

Sophie Anne Campbell, winner, said: “I wanted my own personality and creativity to shine through in all my designs, even though I adhere to a pretty strict design convention such as tartan.”

“I come from a creative and musical family, and my interest in making and exploring different materials has always been encouraged,” she said. ‘As a kid, I always made scrapbooks and filled sketchbooks with drawings.

‘When my dad came home from work offshore, I would show him my magazine, The Hillside Times (named after our house) filled with news and illustrations of what we were all up to.

‘Being a Campbell and coming from the highlands, tartan is a design I grew up with. I have lived in Glasgow for four years and decided to use my surroundings as inspiration for the competition.

‘Because it was under lockdown, I could not get out much, so I walked around my neighborhood (Great Western Road) as if I were a tourist, taking pictures and looking at the city from a different perspective.

‘I took note of geometric shapes, different textures and colors, and woven all these influences into my tartan design using six clear colors. I’m quite a ‘maximalist’, so I found it natural to come up with a Scottish checkerboard that was cheerful and colorful with lots of walking. ‘

Sophie’s winning design was woven on an Axminster loom at the Alternative Flooring plant in Hampshire.

Sophie was invited to the Alternative Flooring factory in Hampshire to see her design being created on the looms. She said: ‘It’s amazing to see my little digital design brought to life on such a large industrial scale. It’s refreshing to see such an old technique as weaving that transforms wool thread into a modern tartan that I have designed. ‘

Sophie’s winning design will be produced by British mills as carpet and fabric in limited edition.

‘As a highlander, there is a lot of tartan to be seen in homes, I know that. You can see the tartan rug at some of the old hotels in Oban. It’s a very traditional look, but it can be quite dark. I enjoyed bringing lighter colors and a more modern look to my own tartan design.

‘Wool is sustainable and it works in a circular economy. Both of my grandmothers are good knitters. My grandmothers are so proud to hear that I work with wool to create a new tartan. ‘

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