Heriot Watt University Textile Collection, Galashiels

Last Thursday, during Storm Doris, I visited Heriot Watt Borders Campus in Galashiels, to view some 1930s textiles designed by Marion Dorn within the Heriot Watt University Textile Collection. The archive is situated within the Borders College campus and managed by their archivist Helen Taylor. The collection was developed in the 1950s by Dr James Martindale, Principal of the Scottish Woollen Technical College. As the tweed mills in the Scottish Borders began to close, he took in records to preserve the local heritage as well as to establish a research resource for staff and students. The Collection contains furnishing fabrics the borders, also a large collection from Dundee firm Donald Brothers, Paisley, tartan, tweed and lace.

I had been informed about the archive by former Textiles curator at The Whitworth Art Gallery and Museum, Frances Pritchard when I viewed a few woven examples of her 1930s textiles within their archive last year.

Marion Dorn was commissioned to design the carpets for the Midland Hotel in Morecambe by the architect Oliver Hill in 1932. She also designed the Seahorse mosaic in the entrance, which was recreated on the hotels crockery, table and bed linen. Predominantly a textile designer, Dorn was born in America, and her career took off significantly when she moved to the United Kingdom in the 1920s.  After some her designs were featured in Vogue in 1925, she went onto have a successful career collaborating with influential architects, designing interiors for iconic buildings such as Claridge’s hotel, Savoy Hotel, the New York skyscraper The Orion and the RMS Queen Mary Ocean Liner.

Marion Dorn and her fabrics from July 1947 House and Garden, photograph by Horst P
Marion Dorn and her fabrics from July 1947 House and Garden, photograph by Horst P

She worked with a range of influential textile manufacturers in the 1930-40s, including Edinburgh Weavers, based in Carlisle. Helen Taylor showed me a range of textile design sample books from Donald Brothers for printed furnishing fabrics, that included designs by Marion Dorn from the 1930s.


Donald Brothers Sample Book with Black and White Visual of pattern in front section of book


Donald Brothers Sample Book with Black and White Visual of pattern in front section of book



Above you can see the visual of the Marion Dorn design ‘Langton’ in Black and White, produced by Donald Brothers in a range of fabrics. Below it is printed onto ‘Crash’ a rough fabric woven in Dundee.


Marion Dorn’s design ‘Langton’ printed in four colourways onto Crash
Marion Dorn’s ‘Langton’ design printed onto Glazed Chintz

Another example of Marion Dorn’s design was Stanford, which references Stanford, where Dorn studied for a Bachelor in Graphic Arts from 1912-17. It was unusual for a woman to access Higher Education during this time, but she came from an elite and wealthy family, that believed in education.

Stanford, Marion Dorn
Stanford, by Marion Dorn


Stanford design printed onto Semi Glazed Chintz


Stanford design printed in three colourways on Chenille


Stanford printed on Chenille

Helen Taylor also showed me a sample of Old Glamis fabrics, which were woven. This included ‘Cyprus’ tapestry by Marion Dorn, as featured below, in a range of colourways.

Thanks to Helen Taylor for her help and guidance.

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