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Published: 15 February 2020

By Andy Ross

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Article of the week - Number Two

Each week the blog will feature an item from the collection in the studio. This time, the work of Barbara Brown.

With an instantly recognisable graphic style, Barbara graduated from the Royal College of Art and began to create textile designs for Heals in the 1950s. At the time Heals was undergoing radical change with new ideas and outlooks influencing the design on furniture and interiors. Barbara was part of this movement, as you can see by following this link which takes you to a timeline of the store's history. Scrolling down to "1952" click on the "View Gallery" link and number 3 image includes one of the iconic fabrics from the designer. In 2017 Manchester's Whitworth Gallery held an exhibition of the work of Barbara Brown, which you can read about here while a Google search using the terms Barbara Brown textile brought up these examples. 

The collection in the studio includes not only an example of the piece in the link above but also "Sweetcorn" from 1958, in the blue colourway as pictured on this page. One of the pieces we have is "Frequency" in red (pictured on this page) and this particular piece has an interesting history. It was purchased in 2002 from a charity shop in Lerwick along with other textiles to furnish our new venture in Yell, the Wind Dog Cafe. The fabrics were made into curtains and tablecloths but this was their second life. Originally these fabrics had been purchased for use in furnishings at the newly operational Sullom Voe oil terminal on Mainland Shetland. This was an era which propelled  Shetland into the forefront of oil exploration in the North Sea and made the islands wealthy through trusts established with oil money. It is highly apt that such distinctive and modern cloths were used in the interiors of oil terminal buildings to show the dynamism and energy of the time.