Margaret Calkin James, graphic and textile designer : papers

Scope and Content

This collection contains Calkin James' designs for posters, including London Transport, book jackets, Rainbow Workshop sign, sketches and fabric samples.

Administrative / Biographical History

Margaret Bernard James (nee Calkin), known publicly as Margaret Calkin James (1895 - 1985), was educated at North London Collegiate School and the Central School of Arts and Crafts where she specialised in calligraphy and gilded illumination. During the First World War Calkin James worked for the YMCA art department. Following its closure she took over the premises and set up the Rainbow Room Gallery. It was the first gallery managed by a woman to promote art, craft and design.

She married Charles Holloway James in 1922, the pair being known as Jane and Jimmy, and continued her work alongside a growing family. Observational drawing and watercolours underpinned all Calkin James's designs and in 1935 she designed the first ever GPO greetings telegram form. She had three solo shows in London: at Cooling Galleries (1935); at Kensington Art Gallery (1948); and at St George's Gallery (1957). She had a stroke in 1969 which left her without speech or use of her right hand. As a result, she began experimenting artistically with her left hand. Work done after 1969 was exhibited during the International Year of the Disabled (Welwyn, 1981; Central London YMCA, 1982). From the 1920s she was committed to the teachings and ideals of Christian Science, beliefs which continued throughout her life.

Access Information

This archive collection is available for consultation in the V&A Blythe House Archive and Library Study Room by appointment only. Full details of access arrangements may be found here:

Access to some of the material may be restricted. These are noted in the catalogue where relevant.

Acquisition Information

Given by Elizabeth Argent, 2010.

Conditions Governing Use

Information on copying and commercial reproduction may be found here: