Noted for its surreal and provocative textiles and wallpapers, the design studio Timorous Beasties was founded in Glasgow in 1990 by Alistair McAuley and Paul Simmons, who had met while studying textile design at Glasgow School of Art. Timorous Beasties was shortlisted for the Designer of the Year prize in 2005.
By depicting uncompromisingly contemporary images on traditional textiles and wallpapers, Timorous Beasties has defined an iconoclastic style of design once described as “William Morris on acid.” Typical is the Glasgow Toile. At first glance it looks like one of the magnificent vistas portrayed on early 1800s Toile de Jouy wallpaper, but closer inspection reveals a nightmarish vision of contemporary Glasgow where crack addicts, prostitutes and the homeless are depicted against a forbidding backdrop of dilapidated tower blocks and scavenging seagulls.
Timorous Beasties was founded in Glasgow in 1990 by Alistair McAuley, born in Duntocher in 1967, and Paul Simmons, born in Brighton in 1967, who met as students at Glasgow School of Art. After beginning by designing fabrics and wallpapers for production by other companies, Timorous Beasties then started to manufacture its designs and recently opened a shop on the Great Western Road in Glasgow. McAuley and Simmons also execute special commissions, such as fabrics for Philip Treacy’s hats and for the interiors of the Arches Theatre in Glasgow and 50 Piccadilly, a London casino.
As their working practise as designer-makers has progressed, Timorous Beasties have become increasingly experimental in their approach to both hand-printing and machine production. These changes are reflected in their evolving aesthetic: from early wayward interpretations of naturalistic images of insects, plants and fish; to a searingly contemporary graphic style which, as Glasgow Toile illustrates, explores social and political issues.