Papers of Kath Whyte, head of embroidery at Glasgow School of Art, Scotland

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

  • Family papers, press cuttings and photographs c1927-1979
  • School certificates c1922
  • Correspondence 1927-1947
  • Early sketches and drawings 1920s
  • Sketchbooks, notebooks, photographs and correspondence from Grey's School of Art c1922-1947
  • Personal correspondence 1943
  • National Identification Card 1943
  • Travel diary c1940s
  • Lecture notes, sketchbooks and notebooks 1852-1977
  • Assorted textile samples, undated; sketch books and notebooks 1950s-1970s
  • Examples of weaving by Kath Whyte and her pupils, undated
  • Diaries 1974-1988 and miscellaneous books owned by Kath Whyte

Administrative / Biographical History

Helen Kathleen R Whyte, or Kath Whyte as she was known, was the outstanding influence of her generation on embroidery in Scotland and, through her writing and teaching, made a major contribution to textile art in Britain and abroad.

She was brought up in a home where 'real' things - hand-made textiles, books, pictures - were loved and appreciated. Some of her formative years were spent in India, where her father worked, from where the rich colours and exciting textiles obviously made a lasting impression.

After attending Arbroath High School, Arbroath, Angus, Scotland, where the strength of design teaching in the art department developed her sense of direction, she went on to Gray's School of Art, Aberdeen, Scotland, where she took the Diploma Course in General Design. Two strong influences of that period in her life were James Hamilton, a colourful character and strong design teacher, and Dorothy Angus, who awakened in Kath her true dedication to stichery and textiles.

After leaving art college she taught in schools in Aberdeen and organised craft classes for youth clubs during and after the war. But her influence on textile design really developed after she took up her post of head of embroidery and weaving at Glasgow School of Art, Glasgow, Scotland, in 1948, a position she held until she retired in 1974. She became part of the team of design lecturers there, earning great respect from her colleagues for her passionate and single-minded enthusiasm.

She promoted embroidery vigorously, forming a group in 1956, who exhibited regularly and which still continues today as the One 6,7.

She was also active in other forms of art education. She was part of a team appointed to validate the DipAD course in English art colleges. She was a much respected adviser on many of the English course sand continued her interest in them through the years as a friend.

She was also an art advisor to the Scottish Education Department, so her influence carried through to secondary school education.

Kathleen Whyte was awarded the MBE  in 1969 for her contribution to art education. Also, in 1969, her book, Design and Embroidery was published by Batsford and was also produced in the US and Holland with a second edition in 1982.

Her teaching style was that of infectious enthusiasm. Her attention was total, her words thought-provoking, direct, practical and inspirational.

In the introduction to the catalogue for her Retrospective Exhibition in 1987, William Buchanan said: 'She is one of a great line of embroiderers at Glasgow who have practised and taught and written and proved that, along with the brush, the pencil and the chisel, used by the finger of an artist, the needle is a potent means of visual expression.'

Source: Kath Whyte's Obituary, The Herald, 15 February 1996. Written by Hannah Frew Paterson, MBE.

Arrangement

The material is sorted roughly into 7 areas, but has yet to be formally listed:

  • 1. Papers and photographs relating to Kath Whyte's family, her time at School and in India
  • 2. Papers and photographs relating to Kath Whyte's time at Gray's School of Art, Aberdeen
  • 3. Lecture notes and notebooks
  • 4. Assorted textile samples
  • 5. Sketchbooks
  • 6. Weaving examples
  • 7. Diaries and books owned by Kath Whyte

Conditions Governing Access

Open

Glasgow School of Art Archives are open for research Monday to Friday, 9.30am-12.00 and 2.00-5.00pm, by appointment only

Acquisition Information

Gift : 1997

Other Finding Aids

An item level list of the collection will be available shortly

Alternative Form Available

No known copies

Conditions Governing Use

Applications for permission to quote should be sent to the GSA Archivist

Reproduction subject to usual conditions: educational use & condition of documents

Appraisal Information

This material has been appraised in line with standard procedures

Custodial History

Held by Kath Whyte

Accruals

No accruals expected

Related Material

Press cutting relating to Kath Whyte can be found in the Press cuttings collection available in the search room