I went along to meet Malcolm Lochhead in his amazing home in Glasgow’s West End; a tribute to his excellent taste, artistic flair and flamboyance. We settled down in his lounge with some marvellous coffee and chatted about his work and what led to his becoming one of the most accomplished and sought after ecclesiastical designers in Scotland, and beyond.
Supposedly now settled into retirement after an astonishing career, Malcolm informed me that a request ‘had just popped into his inbox’ inviting him to design an installation for the school chapel at St Andrew’s College in Christchurch, New Zealand. Closer to home, he’s also excited about a Community Arts Project, linked with the Oncology Department of Vale of Leven Hospital, Alexandria. With regard to the latter, Malcolm is seeking old photographs and information about people’s memories of the hospital and all aspects of the area.
A graduate of Glasgow School of Art (GSA), he initially fancied a career as a window dresser. After undertaking some work for Jean Elder, who owned the West End boutique ‘Unicorn’ in Bank Street and then the wonderful ‘Campus’ in Gibson Street; now Offshore Cafe, he decided that ‘all he every wanted to do was be a window dresser.’ However, his father felt he should set his sights higher and off he went to GSA to with the intention of studying interior design.
Whilst at the Art School, Malcolm became enthralled by the work of Kathleen Whyte, the embroidery design and textile artist, working in ecclesiastical design. He asked to study with her – the first male to make this choice. He was accepted; having assured her that ‘as a family we sew.’ And indeed he could.
Not long after graduating Malcolm received his first commission to design dresses for Lena Martell, the Glaswegian singer’s first television show. This was right up his street as he was keen to work as a costume designer with BBC. However, his mother wanted him to ‘have something to fall back on’ so like many talented artists he gained a teaching qualification. He hated the course and was initially very unhappy in his first job teaching at a Junior Secondary School in Coatbridge Having got off to such a bad start as a teacher, he soon got into his stride and particularly remembers how the children threw themselves into one particular project – creating a scale model of the famous Coatbridge Fountain
He also had considerable impact when he was employed as a lecturer at the Queen’s College Glasgow which subsequently became Glasgow Caledonian University, where he played a key role in developing the degree in Marketing and Design and held the title of Millennium Fellow in Design. I had the pleasure of working with some of Malcolm’s students on placement with me when they undertook marketing work for my website. I was highly impressed both by the students and the confidence Malcolm inspired in them.
Whilst lecturing at the University, he simultaneously worked on a wide array of projects including the tremendously ambitious 'Keeping Glasgow in Stiches' – a community arts project jointly organised by Needleworks, a community sewing project, and Glasgow Museums as part of the European City of Culture. In total 640 people were involved with Malcolm holding overall responsibility. Twelve banners representing the months of the year and aspects of the city were designed and displayed at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. The complete set of 12 banners was unveiled in the Centre Hall at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum on 16 December 1990. Amazing to think this is the 25th anniversary of the project.
Since then, the projects and commissions Malcolm has undertaken have been many and varied. This includes designing furnishings for two of the nine chapels at Durham Cathedral, he also designed the textile installations and embroideries for both the Great Hall and the Chapel Royal at Stirling Castle.
He has also been commissioned to create works for a large number of churches throughout Scotland. Some of these are memorials and one which he is particularly proud of, and which he found very emotional in its creation, was a design for a memorial curtain for the synagogue in Giffnock. The description sounds beautiful and the idea is to convey darkness into light – representing the death of a nineteen year old Scottish man in Israel, as a result of a terrorist attack.
With such commissions Malcolm’s approach is to talk to people who knew the person in whose memory the work is being designed. The impression he gained was that this youngster had been a ‘bright light’ in the lives of those who knew him and this provided the basis for his design. I would love to see it.
I hope that Malcom will continue to improve the world around him with the beauty he creates.
Pat Byrne, February, 2015.