Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Off to Dundee, a weaver l'll be...

Michael Nairn born in 1804 came from a family of Master Weavers. His great grandfather Andrew Nairn was the Deacon of the Guild of Weavers and his grandfather Robert also worked in weaving. As a young boy Michael would run down to the harbour after school to watch ships arriving from the Baltic ports laden with flax.

Down to the harbour when school skailed, 
To eagerly watch what cargoes sailed,
Coal, canvas and linen are outward bound, 
And in from the Baltic bales of flax abound.

by Penny Sinclair (2013)

Michael was determined to learn the craft of weaving and went to Dundee to serve his apprenticeship.  In 1828 he built a canvas factory at the top of his garden in Coal Wynd, Kirkcaldy.  Over the four floors of the factory were some three dozen handlooms at which weavers produced a variety of canvas including sailcloth, oilcloth, and tarpaulin.  His customers were local and global from Liverpool to Calcutta, Quebec, Montreal, Boston, Jamaica, Adelaide, New York and Philadelphia.

Sailcloth - a page from my sketchbook
2013 Photograph: Penny Sinclair © Penny Sinclair
Muir A, (1956), Nairns of Kirkcaldy - A short history 1847 - 1956, Cambridge: W Heffer & Sons Ltd
The Start of the floorcloth industry at The Fife Post

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Linoleums and oilcloths in all manufactured widths (ca 1910)

Just found this great image on the National Library of New Zealand website.
Tonson Garlick Co :Linoleum and floorcloth department. Linoleums and oilcloths in all manufactured widths. [ca 1910].. Tonson Garlick Co :Complete modern house furnishers. [Catalogue. ca 1910].. Ref: Eph-B-DECOR-1910-01-005. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22541945

Arches and Rectangles

I was intrigued yesterday when photographing the canvas factory.  The building seemed to have two very distinct parts.  One a single storey building with lovely stone arched window recesses and fascinating roof supports and the other an elegant three storey premises with rectangular windows and an impressive sweeping profile.  For all intents and purposes there appeared to be two separate buildings.  My puzzle was soon to be solved when last night I picked up Nairns of Kirkcaldy.  Browsing through its pages I spotted a section entitled - St Mary's Canvas Factory.  Apparently what I had suspected was correct and there were indeed two buildings.  The single storey premises constructed probably around the early 1860s (no specific date is given) marked a period of manufacturing diversification for the Narins.  The small factory at the foot of the Path produced a varied range of products including table baize, black Japan cloths, hessians, marbled linen, waterproof carriage-roofing, stair-cloths, bath and coal scuttle mats, and gig and carriage oil-cloths.

By the late 1860s Michael Barker Nairn started to build alongside this factory to create the St Mary's Canvas Factory.  This building heralded a new industrial era for the Nairns with the birth of the steam power loom capable of weaving canvas eight yards wide.

Fascinated by some of the products produced by the smaller of the two factories I decided to undertake some research.  I had always thought table baize referred to the green felt covers that adorned the snooker and billiard tables of gentlemens clubs and stately homes.  But no, in the book there was reference to table baize having a backing of cotton and being printed in three different patterns.  Entering baize into Google I discovered:

Baize - A coarse, napped, felt-like, woollen or cotton material that goes back at least to the 1500s and used as a protective cover for carpets, tables and bookcases in the 18th and 19th centuries.

The only image I have been able to find for a table baize, that isn't green and snooker/billiard/card game related, is for an 1868 block printed baize - see image held by the Bridgeman.

Saturday, February 02, 2013

St Mary's Canvas Factory

With a respite in the rain and the light levels improving I decided it was time to go out and photograph some of the Nairn industrial heritage that survives in Kirkcaldy.  My first port of call (no pun intended) was the St Mary's Canvas Factory that overlooks Kirkcaldy harbour.  Part of the building is now just a fa├žade that hides an architectural atrocity which is part of the Adam Smith College Priory Campus.  Unfortunately the atrocity is all to visible through the lovely stone arches that once served as window frames for the canvas factory. The Victorians sure knew how to build great looking factories.  I'm afraid the same can't be said for today's metal sheds that house what little manufacturing now remains in this country.  Well before I digress too much and this post turns into a rant about modern architecture I'll post some images.

A small remaining fragment of the once substantial Narin dynasty
       2013 Photograph: Penny Sinclair © Penny Sinclair
A section of railway line that ran from the harbour to extensive  sidings near  Den Road
2013 Photograph: Penny Sinclair © Penny Sinclair
St Mary's Canvas Factory
2013 Photograph: Penny Sinclair © Penny Sinclair
St Mary's Canvas Factory
2013 Photograph: Penny Sinclair © Penny Sinclair
Roof supports - St Mary's Canvas Factory
2013 Photograph: Penny Sinclair © Penny Sinclair
Roof supports - St Mary's Canvas Factory
2013 Photograph: Penny Sinclair © Penny Sinclair
I thinking of turning some of these images into linocuts and collagraphs.  Tomorrows project maybe?