We recently took a trip up to the Design Archive in Cummersdale, Carlisle in the North of England. This is an astonishing printed textile design archive with original artwork and printed fents (sample swatches) thousands of which were printed on the site. The Cummersdale Design Collection is named after the village in which Thomas McAlpin and his step-son John Stead set up their fabric printing factory in 1835. The works are now in different hands.
The curator of the collection is Alan Cook who originally worked as an artist for Stead McAlpin in the on site studio. We were welcomed in the car park by Alan and had to walk through the works with the rotary printers and automated screen tables laying colourways onto cloth for many retail companies including John Lewis, Romo, Nina Campbell and Liberty.
On the first floor at the back end of the works is the recently refurbished archive of painted designs on paper. These cover the whole of the 20th century and go back way beyond the Victorian era.
It is rich in mid-twentieth century designs by prominent designers such as Mary White, Tibor Reich and Lucienne Day and earlier turn of the century artwork originating in the Silver Studio. These painted sheets are held in vertical flip files and skillfully archived by Alan Cook. In fact there are 2 Alans at work in the archive, the other is the now retired Alan James who, in his working life, was the print manager of the works.
As one of the highlights we were shown the Lucienne Day artwork which had recently been loaned to a Glasgow School of Art Exhibition. The framed designs are, from left to right, Flower Show, Rock Rose and Spectators, all originally printed on site.
Another terrific feature of the archive is the collection of printing blocks, tools and objects some of which are shown here in the hands of the engaging and informative Alan James.
The archive welcomes researchers, designers and producers wishing to develop their ideas through the inspiring collection. Many of the patterns are also available under licence and can be adapted for current design needs and printed on site.
Details can be found at www.cummersdaledesign.co.uk