Ten-a-penny Mackintosh knock-offs and modelling animals have no place in the sleek and design-focussed new GSA shop, as Claire Sawers discovers
‘You know the sort of thing. We call it Mackintrash, or Mockintosh.’ Cathy Randall is laughing as she tries to diplomatically describe the kind of thing she definitely doesn’t want in the newly opened Glasgow School of Art shop. Shoppers will just have to go elsewhere if they want to find tacky tea towels and naff brooches. ‘It all starts looking a bit samey,’ she explains. ‘Plus you can pick stuff like that up pretty much anywhere, so we wanted to steer well clear of it.’
Instead, the shop is stocking its newly fitted shelves and glass cabinets with innovative designs from students, alumni and staff. ‘We know the school is known world-wide for its association with Charles Rennie Mackintosh, but also for its cutting edge design,’ says Randall, general manager at GSA’s shop, which opened its doors last month. ‘We wanted to sell a gift range that showcased both elements.’
Tourists will still be able to take home a momento of the school’s famous former student, but there’s a strictly tat-free approach to the new souvenirs. Before designing the range of coasters, mugs and sketch books, tour guides at the school were asked to pick out their favourite nooks and crannies in the building. The hidden details were then photographed by British designer Ella Doran, who also creates candy coloured, retro-flavoured gifts and homewares for the Tate galleries.
Beyond the celebration of all things CRM, the shop sells hand-made and bespoke treasures from graduates. Hideko Inoue, a former fine art student, provides chunky clutch bags stitched from vintage Japanese fabrics, while Betty Fraser Myerscough, who finished her degree back in 1954, supplies knitted dolls in psychedelic acid brights and homespun jumpers made from socks. Eva Gustavsson, a tutor at the GSA, has designed hand-bound notebooks and sketchbooks, and one-time student Katy West showcases her cool and contemporary china and glassware collection.
The new shop – a bright and airy space, filled with exposed red brick and chunky oak beams – was part of the £8.6m revamp taking place throughout the building. Long before it was gutted to make room for the shop, the room used to be a studio for live animal drawings by students. The posing beasts are a distant memory now though, and Randall hopes visitors will like the changes that have been made.
‘We’re really pleased with the range of designs that have come in. We put out an email to students inviting them to submit samples, and it’s great to be able to give support to local artists, up and coming designers, and people who started their career right here.’
The GSA Shop is open 10am-5pm, Mon-Sun. Mackintosh Building, 167 Renfrew Street, 0141 353 4526, www.gsa.ac.uk