Hunting George Bain’s Rugs and Carpets

It never ceases to amaze me how many of our visitors turn out to possess one of George Bain’s ‘Hunting’ or ‘Hebridean’ rugs or carpets; I can see why these two exhuberantly patterned, bright designs remain popular. However, we know that Bain made more designs for rugs and carpets – Groam House volunteer Alastair Morton has been trying to track them down.

In the GB Collection there are quite a number of objects that relate to George Bain’s work in creating Celtic designs for rugs and carpets. After he had established his ill-fated College of Celtic Cultures he was approached by the Kidderminster carpet firm of Quayle and Tranter to produce some Celtic designs for them. After negotiations he agreed in 1949 to become a special adviser and consultant, with regard to Celtic design, to the company who gained the right to use the “guarantee” (of authenticity) mark of the College in connection with every design that was commercially produced.

Blue and white carpet label featuring the logo of the College of Celtic Cultures and a description of the motifs included in the carpet design.

ROMGH.2005.5.8.95 An example of the label attached to the back of a Bain designed rug produced by Quayle & Tranter Ltd.

As a Groam House volunteer I have embarked on an informal project to expand as far as possible the museum’s knowledge and understanding of Bain’s work in this area. A good starting point seemed to be trying to achieve a complete inventory of all the designs he supplied and confirmation of which designs were commercially produced as rugs or carpets. Whilst the museum already possesses several examples of actual rugs, it would be good to know of which other designs it should be seeking examples to acquire in the future.

Red background rug covered in motifs from Celtic art such as interlace, deer, boar and hunters on horseback.
ROMGH.2010.8 An example of one of the version of Bain’s ‘Hunting’ design

Amongst the relevant objects in the collection are three handwritten lists by Bain of the various designs he supplied to the company. For the most part they concur but not completely. My work to date has been to take the list which seems most comprehensive and try to identify images of the designs described. This process has been made easier and more successful by the fact that the museum has photographs, taken by former curator Susan Seright, of items in the possession of Mr Cedric Quayle, the son of Stephen Quayle who dealt with George Bain in the 1950s.

handwritten list of carpet designs with names and dates
One of the lists of designs

So far, out of 22 different designs or design groups listed by Bain, 15 have been able to be associated with images, either definitively or with a good degree of probability – like those pictured below. The remainder may yet be identified either through further work on the collection or through further discussions with Mr Quayle. Already we are a lot further forward than we were !

A good example of the discoveries to be made during the project is the design which Bain describes as “Knotwork repeat with Ulbster stone etc. “ supplied on 22nd March 1948. While scanning drawings in the Collection for a digitisation project I recognised one as fitting the description. This drawing had not previously been associated with Bain’s rug designs but the annotations “No 14” and “Suggested title “Ulbster” ” now made more sense.

Tessellating interlace crosses alternating between white interlace on a black background and black interlace on a white background.
ROMGH.2006.10
Posted: 29 March 2022
Categories: News, Research

Call to all artists, designers and makers inspired by the Celtic style

Groam House Museum is delighted to introduce a new website dedicated to the work of George Bain (1881-1968) and the application of the Celtic style across contemporary art, craft and design. 

The new website provides free digital access to the George Bain Collection, allowing people to discover, appreciate and study Bain’s innovative work. A Scottish illustrator, watercolourist, designer and art teacher, his vision and advocacy of a living, creative Celtic craft continues to influence and inspire interest in Celtic art today. 

You may be already aware of George Bain through his book Celtic Art, Methods of Construction which is still in print. He was a master of original and new applications of insular art, promoting its use from the 1920s until his death almost 50 years later. 

We aim to continue Bain’s objective of sharing the creativity of Celtic art and ask you to help us achieve this. 
We invite you to join a new online community of contemporary creatives inspired by the Celtic style. Together we can build a rich online resource to showcase, discover and discuss contemporary Celtic art and design. 

The community is free to join from anywhere in the world. We welcome emerging and established artists, designers, makers and craftspeople of all disciplines who work in a Celtic style or reference Celtic art. 

Submission process: Our team of museum professionals, curators and artists review each submission. Please do only submit relevant work. Take time to ensure images are of high quality and the relevant information is provided. 

Go to https://georgebain.groamhouse.org.uk for further information and to join. 

Further information:
Held by Groam House Museum, The George Bain Collection is a Recognised Collection of National Significance to Scotland. In 1997 the Bain family chose Groam House Museum as custodians of George Bain’s archive. With financial support from Museums Galleries Scotland and Creative Scotland, we are digitising the archive and publishing it online. The website focuses on Bain’s large drawings from sources like the Book of Kells and Pictish cross-slabs. It also illustrates how he and his students applied their own forms of key pattern, knotwork and spirals to wood, leather, ceramics, textiles, rugs and memorial plaques. 

Posted: 1 October 2020
Categories: News