While the sculptor George Kennethson is widely known in artistic circles, what many do not know is that he worked alongside his wife, Eileen Guthrie, a textile designer, in their studios at the Old Anchor Brewery in Oundle.
Eileen was trained at the Royal Academy School of Painting. She worked primarily from the 1930s to the 1950s. Her work was championed by John Betjeman and Henry Rothschild at his Sloan Street Shop, Primavera. While her husband was teaching in the Oundle School art department, she raised her five boys. In the 1980s, she and her work were rediscovered and she was commissioned to produce designs for the Edes at Kettle’s Yard and Peter Jones on Sloane Square.
World of Interiors, the interior design magazine, wrote an article about Flockhart Fabrics in 2013. The writer recalled that she had originally visited the Old Brewery in 2002 to write about Kennethson’s work, but her attention had been quickly drawn to Eileen’s own studio filled with fabrics and print-making paraphernalia. The article describes ‘racks of dazzling exuberant landscapes’ and ‘lengths of hand printed cloths’ in her studio.
When she died in 2006, her undisturbed studio was described as a ‘treasure trove’.
Her textile designs were left to the family, and are now being revived by her granddaughter Lucy Mackenzie who established Flockhart Fabrics to produce fabrics using her grandmother’s designs. Lucy learned how to print fabrics from her grandmother in her teens.
She has 43 original designs by Eileen to reproduce. The original process used lino blocks to produce the prints. Lucy now has the fabric printed in Britain by Standfast and Barracks, using ink-jet digital technology to reproduce the original quality of the designs on 100 percent linen.
The fabric designs were inspired by the natural world with examples such as ‘Fig and Bird,’ ‘Bird and Sun’ and ‘Winter Flower’. Some of the fabric designs that were once produced by Eileen are now sold in designer showrooms and are also available online at Flockhartfabrics.co.uk.
By Lucy Baker-Cresswell