Noted for surreal and provocative textiles and wallpapers, the design studio, Timorous Beasties, was founded in Glasgow in 1990 by Alistair McAuley and Paul Simmons, who met studying textile design at Glasgow School of Art. The name of the company comes from a line in the poem ‘To a Mouse’ by famous Scottish Poet, Robert Burns.
Their work could be seen as a wayward take on the often “twee” world of textiles, with heavily illustrative insects, ‘triffid’-like plants, birds and other animals. They are also known for their contemporary take on the ‘Toile de Jouy’ fabrics of Napoleonic France, and have designed a number of toiles based on different cities around the world. The original ‘Toile’ designs are viewed today as very traditional but in fact depict scenes of drinking and womanizing that reflected the society of the day. Similarly, Timorous Beasties’ toiles reflect the under-belly of urban social realism against a back-drop of familiar, landmark buildings.
One of their strengths is the ability to provide a bespoke service from custom colours to original artwork. All design work takes place at their Glasgow Studio, where they continue to hand-print many of their fabrics and wallpapers. In addition, their experimental approach and their investment in new design and manufacturing techniques have allowed them to move into other product areas including lace, jacquards, lighting, rugs and ceramics. Their designs have also been engraved on the stone cladding of Cabot Circus Shopping Centre in Bristol, granite over slabs for the Burns Museum in Ayr and bespoke gravestones. In 2011 work was finished on an aluminium trailing leaf installation on the exterior of Princes Square Shopping Centre in Glasgow.
Timorous Beasties opened their first retail shop in 2004 on the Great Western Road in Glasgow and a second shop in central London in 2007. In addition they have collaborated with brands such as Brintons Carpets, Nike and Famous Grouse. In 2011 they produced a bespoke collection of cushions for John Lewis Department Stores, an exclusive range of textiles and home accessories for Liberty of London and home accessories for the newly refurbished National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh.