When I embarked on this journey to have my own personal tartan created I selected Clare Campbell of Prickly Thistle as my designer. A relative newcomer to the field of bespoke tartan design, an accountant by professional trade, Clare launched her tartan design studio on the Black Isle of the Scottish Highlands barely 18 months ago. Already she is planning an expansion to include opening her own mill. Her goal is a simple one, the creation of bespoke tartans from design to registration to product delivery sourced and crafted entirely in the Scottish Highlands. Her philosophy, as much as her work, captured my imagination - "Your story, woven into the fabric of Scotland."
Tartan was not invented in Scotland but it has, through history, become the national dress of Scotland, yet Clare believes strongly that you don't have to be Scottish to love tartan or to have your own tartan. While steeped in Scottish history and culture, Clare sees tartan as a globally accepted fabric and day by day I'm finding more and more evidence that suggests she is right.
A newsreel from the 1950's viewed recently one late night spoke of the popularity of tartan in the Portugeese fishing village of Nazaré after Scot fishermen landed there. No less a travel authority than Rick Steves was filming there in late May (just days ago as I write this) and included this photo in his blog post, "It's Good to be Back on the Beach in Nazaré." Check out those tartan shirts!
Erny Van Reijmersdal is a Dutch fashion designer who often works in tartan as evidenced by these photos from a 2012 show in Amsteredam...
Images ©TeamPeter Stigter
While The Netherlands is not that far removed from Scotland, The Ukraine certainly is and yet there Natalie Zaytseva recently professed her love of this tartan dress on a Scottish affinity Facebook forum saying she's been told she looks Scottish and so it might be time for a visit there.
Photos used with permission of Natalie Zaytseva
Clearly tartan is not for the Scottish only!
Beyond the global suitability for anyone wearing and owning a tartan, the second prime element in Clare Campbell's approach to design is that every tartan should tell a story. There should be reason behind the colors in a tartan and reason into the number of yarns of each color in the warp and the weft that comprises the sett of a tartan. In this manner, a client's individual story can be translated into and shared via a bespoke tartan. Through a series of conversations and the sharing of important life events, influences, likes and dislikes, and more, Campbell learns the story her client wants to share and builds an interpretation of that story in tartan.
In my case, my story (in as few words as possible) is my mantra, "Texan by Birth, Scot by Ancestry." I want my tartan to showcase my pride in my native and ancestral homelands. With that and other factors considered, Clare and I explored and developed a color palette for my tartan - beginning with my favorite color, cobalt blue, and adding the colors of the Texas and Scottish flags, and of the sky where I've spent no small part of my life living my other passion as a hot air balloonist. (My Tartan Journey: Defining the Color Palette) Using those, and other story elements, Clare created the following six initial design interpretations of my story in tartan...
Click to enlarge
As you can see there are significant differences in each and there is a storyline behind each design that explains the colors used, the number of yarns and width of the stripes in both the weft and warp . It's not important to reveal all of that here but each design is an impression of my story as Clare has come to understand it, and her interpretation of it in tartan.
From these six original designs we discussed my likes and dislikes of colors and patterns. Some colorings and shades I like more than others. Some patterns I like and others I dislike. Elements can be freely exchanged one to another and from another round of discussion, revisions will be made and that is the next step of my journey. Ultimately, once I've settled on the design, Campbell will see it officially recorded (along with its design storyline elements) in the Scottish Register of Tartans, the only such registry in the world. Then we will have achieved the goal of MY story, "woven into the fabric of Scotland."
In my next in this series of blog posts, I'll reveal my favorite of these six, and the design revisions suggested and made leading up to the reveal of my personal tartan and the story it tells.