Drawing and designing The Great Tapestry of Scotland
Launched at The Scottish Parliament 3rd September 2013
143 metres long and 1 metre high.
Involved over 1000 stitchers.
As the designer of The Great Tapestry of Scotland I drew out every one of the 164 panels, which measures 1 metre high and 142 metres long.
The Tapestry is a timeline starting with the formation of the rocks that would become Scotland to the opening of The Scottish Parliament.
The idea came from Alexander McCall Smith, inspired when he visited The Battle of Prestonpans Tapestry at The Dovecot Studios in November 2010. The storyline was devised by Alistair Moffat. Managed through the trustees by Jan Rutherford and Anna Marshal, involving Gillian Hart. The chief stitcher was Dorie Wilkie. Throughout this process I worked closely with all these amazing people.
The aim was to tell the story of Scotland whether good or bad in a manner that highlighted its breadth. The aim was not to just tell of its Kings, Queen's and battles, but a wider story of those who have lived in Scotland. To begin to tell the wider history, a peoples history and to show how Scotland has grown over time and is now developing into a multicultural country. To create images that are "stitchable" yet tell a clear storyline. It was designed in a way, that although it is stitched in many communities, when it is exhibited, it should click together and become one artwork. Yet it could be shown in smaller sections and could add more panels.
It took six months of planning, understanding Alistair's timeline, many sketchbooks, loads of research, gathering visual information, creating a grid structure, emails, meetings and more drawings until I could start drawing full-size. The grid that underpins the design, went through many stages, until it became clear that it is split into 10cm squares within the 1m square design.
The style of drawing is split into 5 sections: Introduction and ending; Pictish carvings, illuminated manuscripts and Medieval architecture; Industrial Revolution and " The age of enlightenment"; Art Nouveau and the two World Wars; living memory and The Scottish Parliament architecture. Altough there are many more references to songs, poems and quotes to name a few. The stitchers themselves are a theme and are drawn into the design. The music of Scotland runs through the artwork. The colour palette is based on the Scottish landscape. When I started drawing the full-size drawings, it involved over 1000 stitchers and their creative magic. Working with the stitchers over a three period was a very creative process and a joy, visiting various groups around Scotland, meetings, emails to amend the tapestry and begin to bring it all together. Adding the ideas around the main drawings, adding hidden and secret messages (when I knew about them!) were important and my full size drawings developed again.
it was not until it was hung in The Scottish Parliament had we any idea what we had created on such a large scale. We opened on a Monday, by the Friday 5000 a day were coming to see the tapestry.
Since its launch just under 400,000 visitors have visited exhibitions at Scottish Parliament 2013; Cockenzie House; Aberdeen Art Gallery; Anchor Mill, Paisley, Scottish Parliament (return) 2014; New Lanark Heritage Centre; Great Hall, Stirling Castle; Ayr, Town hall; Kirkcaldy Art Galleries; Museum nan Eilean (Sgoil Lionacleit), Benbecula, Outer Hebrides ; Inverness Museum and Art Gallery; Verdant Works, Dundee.The Great Tapestry of Scotland bespoke building in Galashiels opened in August 2021. For me as an artist and designer, the impact has been that many more tapestries are sill developing as this way of working evolves.
Tapestry design and drawing copyright © Andrew Crummy