Who we are and what we do
We are Alistair McAuley and Paul Simmons, both born in 1967. After meeting at the Glasgow School of Art, we found we had a lot in common in our ideas of surface design and marketing environment. And of course we wanted our designs to be produced, but more importantly we wanted to be able to control all aspects of production. So we set up our own design and manufacturing studio in 1990.
Everyone always asks where we got the name Timorous Besties. Well we like Robert Burns the poet and found inspiration in a phrase from his poem To a Mouse: "Wee, sleekit, cowrin', tim'rous beastie...!" It seemed to fit us since we came up with ideas that were rather unusual and often featured insects in the early days.
Pioneering avant-garde wallpaper isn’t exactly a timorous effort: rather we have found our niche in imaginative hand-printed wallpapers, blinds and fabrics that depict macabre, often unsettling imagery.
How we work
By not only creating designs but by manufacturing textiles as well, we feel we have made ourselves independent from what the market dictates. More importantly, we have the advantage to be able to design with the production process in mind and have been able to become increasingly experimental in our approach to both hand-printing and machine production. From our early interpretations of insect imagery, to the Glasgow toile with its social and political commentary, and on to special commissions, we are lucky to be challenged and evolving aesthetically.
With our priority on quality, and using the knowledge in design and production craftsmanship that we have gained, the process of creation becomes a designer-maker effort. We have the ability to react as ideas develop and change something we had not anticipated in the production process or by sampling onto diverse fabrics to achieve what we want.
Using technology has also had its influence on our working process but it does not necessary change the work itself. There is the obvious timesaving and handling larger workloads, as well as exchanging ideas quickly with international clients, but we still draw a lot by hand. The fascinating part is combining high and low tech processes and coming up with something completely new.
What inspires us
One thing for sure, the technical constraints associated with design are inspiring and we like that. As opposed to the freedom in creating a work of art, I think we’d both agree we like the challenge of creativity versus make-ability – adjusting the known process or discovering a new process to make the once impossible possible. By using absolutely contemporary images on textiles or wallpapers that are themselves by genre traditional.
Our design philosophy
We produce beautiful and unusual wallpapers, fabrics, and products which are sensitive to the interior that they are designed for. We think wallpapers exist like beautiful pieces of furniture. Our work features images that reflect the traditional and that’s because we bring a love of certain traditional elements to our work – for instance academic drawing, the use of complicated repeats, and hand-printed quality of ink.
Our stylistic influences
As we are one of very few companies which still designs and manufactures under one roof, our stylistic influences are both traditional and modern. Illustration and color and the printing process are cornerstone to our work. As for the actual act of coming up with images, inspiration is mostly indirect and comes in different shapes at different times. We’ve been inspired by Dutch Delft blue and bold geometries in color, as well as Picasso or Klee, or by music by Mad Lib or Sibelius...it changes, just like the times we live in.
Our future goals and ambitions
The bigger the challenge intrinsic to the production the more we like it. For instance the collaboration with carpet manufacturers. Designing for looms is very difficult. Or the perspectives opening up with digital printing or using a laser cutter. Apart from the excitement in the process areas, interiors are a big future market for individual definition. That’s why we opened our London location. People see their homes as an extension of their identity and are spending money to express themselves with decor. So our creative and geographic positioning is just right for that.
Our likes and dislikes
The factoring of branding is a market-given that we are not overjoyed about. When non-textile designers spread their brand recognition into every possible area, it’s no longer about creativity and challenge but pure advertising dollars and marketing muscle.