Emergence of Donald Brothers as manufacturers of decorative fabrics : (the feel for rugged texture)
Donald Brothers of Dundee were factory weavers who designed and manufactured rough woven textures as furnishing fabric between 1896-1983. This thesis examines Donald Brothers' emergence as makers of decorative cloth within an artistic framework that established the aesthetic for texture, and by close examination of their sampled fabrics sheds light on the design and meaning of woven texture for the Arts & Crafts interior between 1896-1914. Chapter 1 examines the basic unpublished documentation of the Donald businesses which establishes that the firm's historical involvement in Dundee's coarse cloth trade conditioned their emergence as makers of decorative texture in 1896. The aesthetic context that precipitated this emergence is considered in chapters 2, 3 and 4, through a study of contemporary movements in painting, architecture and hand-crafted textiles. The appreciation for texture as an object of design in Britain and America is explained. Chapter 5 provides an analysis of the industrial basis and practicalities of running Donald Brothers between 1896-1914. Examination of the firm's records builds up a profile of the men who directed the firm and the methods by which they shaped its design and marketing policy. Chapters 6-9 form the heart of the thesis. They examine in detail the unique sample book records to establish the character of Donald Brothers' materials, manufactured between 1896-1914. Chapter 6 is devoted to a study of their plain and printed jute canvases used for wallcoverings. Chapter 7 examines their range in plain and printed linens and their uses, while chapter 8 explores in detail developments in their figured weaves. Chapter 9 focuses on the originality of the rougher textures developed in jute canvas and linen between 1906-1914. The relationship of these factory woven fabrics to the fashionable hand-woven fabrics of the Arts & Crafts Movement is defined. Chapter 10 examines the unpublished business records of Gustav Stickley in order to establish the importance of Donald Brothers' materials to the Craftsman aesthetic. The contribution their fabrics made within the Craftsman, Arts & Crafts home is defined. In conclusion it is claimed that Donald Brothers' early textures were Arts & Crafts in design and manufacture and quintessential Arts & Crafts fabrics for use within the American Craftsman interior in the early twentieth century.