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  1. #31
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    A number of the recently designed Irish and county tartans are very nice. However people in Ireland are extremely unlikely to recognise them and will see these tartans as Scottish. However a Saffron kilt will be perceived as Irish across Ireland and across communities, albeit not worn much outside of pipe bands or in years past, Irish dancing.
    I wear one occasionally and have never had a bad reception.

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  3. #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by figheadair View Post
    The idea that colours in tartan have meanings is fairly recent and I have to say, somewhat annoying.
    I'm with you there.

    I'm neither a tartan weaver nor tartan historian. I'm a working artist, but somehow it's brought us to the same opinion about this issue.

    In art and design there are various principles such as form follows function, being appropriate to format, and something I'm having a hard time putting into words...integrity, being honest, not trying to be something it's not, not trying to serve two masters? (It's 5am and I'm a bit addled, on 2 hours sleep and heading off to work soon.)

    The old traditional tartans, seems to me, were designed with purity of purpose: to be attractive.

    Many newer tartans are like that too, for example House Of Edgar's "Irish county" tartans. It seems clear that the colours and designs were selected purely to be attractive, and attractive most of them are.

    The dress and coats-of-arms of knights of old, and old and newer flags, had a completely different function: instant recognizability at distance. It was important to know whether it was Sir Nigel Loring riding towards you, or somebody else.

    I think it was the oft-misguided Allen brothers who first put forth the notion of tartans-as-heraldry or tartans-as-flags, that the purpose was to be able to recognise bodies of soldiers on the battlefield.

    Well, tartans ain't flags, and they ain't heraldry. They're clothing.

    I think an ancient Highlander would be as dismayed to find out that people hundreds of years later were reading all sorts of symbolism into the fabric he happened to wear, as we would be if we found out that hundreds of years in the future people were reading all sorts of hidden meanings into the patterns on the soles of our athletic shoes.

    About serving two masters, I've had a discussion with pipers who play in pipe bands whose primary purpose or qualification for membership is non-musical: it's rare for such bands to play as well as bands who have music as their only purpose and qualification for membership.

    Likewise a tartan which has its colours and perhaps even its proportions selected on a non-aesthetic basis will rarely look as nice as tartans which have only being attractive as their design guidelines.

    It's extremely difficult to design a nice-looking tartan in an attempt to replicate something like a flag or a coat-of-arms. I know, I've tried my hand at it many times! All one needs to do, for an example, is to look at the aesthetic gulf between HOE's Irish county tartans (purely aesthetic purpose) and the Irish County Crest tartans (whose main purpose is to replicate a crest). Ditto any flag tartan. Boy those are hard to design...it leaves you questioning the value of it all.

    A tartan is a piece of art. Would you say to Leonardo Da Vinci "I'm going to commission you to paint a portrait of my wife Lisa but you can only use the colours contained in the coat-of-arms of my family." It's absurd, and in my opinion the same as saying "I want you to design the fabric I'm going to have made into a piece of clothing I'm going to wear, but you can only use the colours contained in such-and-such a flag."

    Well time to get off this artist's soapbox!

    PS there are certainly exceptions, though understandable ones: the Scottish Wildcat tartan is lovely, and the designer used the colours appearing on that creature's fur. The palette is a lovely one (nature is usually like that) and in this case having such a nice palette helped the designer rather than hindered.
    Last edited by OC Richard; 27th January 19 at 07:27 AM.
    Proud Mountaineer from the Highlands of West Virginia; son of the Revolution and Civil War; first Europeans on the Guyandotte

  4. #33
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    I would argue the opposite. Recognizing it's more of a current trend than clan names for tartan pattern designs (but one that has FIRMLY taken route whether it's liked / appreciated or not), I like the colors having SOME symbolism in the tartans. To this tartan designer, it sounds / feels better to add meaning or thought to symbolism other than "I liked the color x, so I used color x in the design". To me, that's no different than wearing a clan tartan b/c you think "the colors are pretty" (which is done as well).

    Also, ascribing meaning to colors in tartan designs has been done at least for the last 66 years, so the trend isn't that new when compared to giving tartans clan names in 1815 (only 204 years ago). The earliest example of someone ascribing meanings to tartan colors I know of is the Nova Scotia tartan from1953:

    https://www.tartanregister.gov.uk/ta...tails?ref=3202

    And as we move towards "appreciating" the designs more and looking for MORE symbolism in art (tartans and otherwise), this is the obvious natural progression of the design process. It's not coming, it's already here.
    Last edited by RockyR; 27th January 19 at 08:54 AM.

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  6. #34
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    OC Richard,
    I'm going to have to disagree with almost everything you've said.

    Quote Originally Posted by OC Richard View Post
    A tartan is a piece of art. Would you say to Leonardo Da Vinci "I'm going to commission you to paint a portrait of my wife Lisa but you can only use the colours contained in the coat-of-arms of my family." It's absurd, and in my opinion the same as saying "I want you to design the fabric I'm going to have made into a piece of clothing I'm going to wear, but you can only use the colours contained in such-and-such a flag."
    Creativity thrives within constraint. And your example proves it. Francesco del Giocondo did not commission Da Vinci to paint a pretty picture, or even to paint some random person in Florence. He specifically wanted a portrait of his wife, Lisa. That's an incredible constraint.

    Reductio ad absurdum (by adding additional constraints) does not prove your point.

    Quote Originally Posted by OC Richard View Post
    It's extremely difficult to design a nice-looking tartan in an attempt to replicate something like a flag or a coat-of-arms. I know, I've tried my hand at it many times! All one needs to do, for an example, is to look at the aesthetic gulf between HOE's Irish county tartans (purely aesthetic purpose) and the Irish County Crest tartans (whose main purpose is to replicate a crest).
    Have you considered an alternate explanation? Such as a possible difference in the level of talent possessed by the designers?

    To continue with your Mona Lisa example ... let's say that you, and I, and Leonardo Da Vinci all sat down to paint Mona Lisa. You and I had a full color palette of paints to work with, while Leonardo Da Vinci was limited to the color palette of that family's coat of arms. (The colors appear to be ochre, navy blue, claret, black and white.) Which of the three of us do you think would create the best portrait? Which of the three of us do you think would be the most likely to create a portrait identifiable as the subject?

    My money is on Da Vinci.

    Quote Originally Posted by OC Richard View Post
    In art and design there are various principles such as form follows function, being appropriate to format, and something I'm having a hard time putting into words...integrity, being honest, not trying to be something it's not, not trying to serve two masters? (It's 5am and I'm a bit addled, on 2 hours sleep and heading off to work soon.)
    I think the word you want is "vision." Great art has a vision. It follows that vision, and does not compromise that vision.

    I'm not sure that "be attractive" (or "sound nice" if you're talking about music as art) is enough to qualify as "vision." It's probably part of a greater vision.

    But adding the previous concepts together, the colors, materials, etc. used in an artwork should work with the vision, rather than being at cross purposes.

    Quote Originally Posted by OC Richard View Post
    The old traditional tartans, seems to me, were designed with purity of purpose: to be attractive.
    That seems oversimplified. Clothes communicate something. (The entire fashion industry is based on this idea.) Historically, clothes have communicated wealth and status. They've communicated allegiances and affiliations. They've communicated an adherence to societal norms, or a disdain for those norms. I think you're trying to fit the original tartans into a neat box that meets your preconceived notions, not the reality that actually existed.

    Just out of curiosity, do you consider the Jacobite tartans to be attractive? I generally find them to be garish.

    Quote Originally Posted by OC Richard View Post
    I think an ancient Highlander would be as dismayed to find out that people hundreds of years later were reading all sorts of symbolism into the fabric he happened to wear, as we would be if we found out that hundreds of years in the future people were reading all sorts of hidden meanings into the patterns on the soles of our athletic shoes.
    You're finally making a point that I agree with.

    There is an obvious, external symbolism to clothes (i.e. dressed up vs. dressed down). There is an inobvious, internal symbolism to clothes (i.e. "My wife bought me this shirt for our first anniversary"). I think people are conflating these different forms of symbolism ... sometimes in ways that put them in obvious conflict.

    Nobody knows the shirt was an anniversary gift ... until I tell them. I would be foolish to assume that anyone knows about the internal symbolism, aside from my wife and me. (Our friends are old and forgetful. They require periodic reminders.) But if I tell you that I received a shirt as a gift from my wife on our first anniversary, you can infer some symbolism, based on that piece of information.

    The anniversary shirt also has external symbolism. It's a t-shirt that says, "I do what the voices in my wife's head tell her to tell me to do." That symbolism is obvious to anyone who sees me. In addition, it is one of dozens of funny/snarky t-shirts that I own (an external symbolism that is obvious to those in our extended social circle).

    The internal symbolism says one thing. The external symbolism says something else. Combine the two, and it speaks volumes about the nature of our relationship. But I don't make the mistake of conflating the internal symbolism and the external symbolism. (If I take my wife out to dinner to celebrate our anniversary, I don't wear the anniversary shirt. The external symbolism won't pass muster in a nice restaurant.)

    If someone is trying to add an internal symbolism to an older tartan, that's almost certainly going to have nothing to do with the original symbolism. The revisionist internal symbolism will have everything to do with the person trying to ascribe it, rather than the original intent. It will indeed be the same as ascribing meaning to my sneaker treads.

    Quote Originally Posted by OC Richard View Post
    a tartan which has its colours and perhaps even its proportions selected on a non-aesthetic basis will rarely look as nice as tartans which have only being attractive as their design guidelines. Ditto any flag tartan. Boy those are hard to design...it leaves you questioning the value of it all.
    "Looking nice" might not be the only important criteria.

    Example ... symbolism and the House of Edgar:
    Let's say the House of Edgar created a USA tartan. For the sake of simplicity, let's say that it's identical to your favorite of their Irish County tartans. (I'd personally lean toward their Cavan, Galway, or Tyrone tartans ... but this is based on your favorite, not mine.)

    So ... it's the Fourth of July ... would you want to wear that House of Edgar kilt to the city's Fourth of July celebration? (Just to save you some time, none of the the House of Edgar Irish County tartans are red, white and blue ... but feel free to double-check.)

    If you were to wear practically any red, white & blue tartan, someone would surely notice that your kilt matched the USA national colors. Given that people tend to ask questions about kilt choices, would you rather be wearing your favorite House of Edgar "USA" kilt ... or would you rather be wearing the USA Kilts "American Heritage" kilt?

    The best tartan for a specific purpose might not be the best possible tartan for general purposes.

    That said, I agree with you in one small point. If everyone believes a county tartan is ugly, nobody is likely to wear it. Therefore, it will not gain traction as a symbol of the county. The aesthetics hold some degree of importance.

    Palettes and aestheics:
    Some great tartans have been made out of color palettes that ... um ... aren't intuitively obvious choices. Look at the Isle of Skye tartan. Would you have chosen that color palette as being a sure-fire winner?

    This leads me to believe that any non-garish, non-clashing color palette could become a great tartan. Talent can overcome a weird color palette.
    Trying to look good on a budget.

  7. #35
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    Many valid points there, and obviously I put myself in the role of Devil's advocate in the post above.

    I think Isle Of Skye is brilliant. The first time I saw it I immediately thought it was the coolest tartan I'd ever seen.

    It does that thing very difficult in design, and which so many designers in so many fields strive for, which is to simultaneously look retro/old-school/traditional/throwback AND cutting-edge/ultra-modern.

    Some years ago I was regularly hired for those auto focus groups. For some reason my age and income and car purchase decisions put me in some desired category.

    The most blown-away any of those focus groups were by any new design is when they showed us preliminary concept sketches of a yet-to-be-named new car. We loved it! It was the epitome of retro and new combined, like a car out of the 1940s blended with cutting-edge modernity. Now it's been on the road for a decade and looks old-hat to everybody, but at that moment it was the coolest thing we had ever seen. It was the PT Cruiser.

    That's how Isle Of Skye struck me at first sight. The proportions and overall colours looked so within the tradition, yet when I looked more closely it was innovative and imaginative. Who would think to alternate chocolate brown and vivid purple like that? Who would use three different shade of green in the same tartan? Simply brilliant balancing of all those elements.

    There's no better Poster Child for trying to make a nice tartan while limited to the colours of a flag than the garish USA tartans. The only nice ones are the ones which abandoned the red/white/blue constraint and introduced other background colours such as purple and black.

    Ditto the Cornish-themed tartans that limit themselves to the Cornish colours of black, yellow, and white. Red/white/blue and black/yellow/white just don't have the range of tones needed to create a nice clothlike tartan. And that's a huge point: tartan is cloth, not a graphic design. Good tartans are clothlike, not sign-like, flag-like, or logo-like. That's the point I was trying to make above about form-follows-function, integrity, and being honest to the format.

    I've tried my hand at many Cornish designs and finally came up with something I like. The solution was once again abandoning the three-flag-colour restraints and introducing an outside colour as the background colour, in my case blue.

    Here's the best I was able to do at reconciling the "need" to show the St Piran flag and shield-with-bezants with looking like cloth rather than a graphic design



    This tartan, the Declaration tartan

    http://www.xmarksthescot.com/forum/f...-tartan-87937/

    IMHO does an admirable job at somehow reconciling flag colours (and very specific thread counts etc) with the Prime Directive of making attractive cloth



    (BTW I designed my "Cornish" tartan before I had seen the Declaration so the similarities are coincidental and come from each tartan trying to combine two preexisting graphics.)
    Last edited by OC Richard; 28th January 19 at 06:06 AM.
    Proud Mountaineer from the Highlands of West Virginia; son of the Revolution and Civil War; first Europeans on the Guyandotte

  8. #36
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    Quote Originally Posted by Allan Thomson View Post
    I think I agree with what you are saying, at least as I interpret it, that assigning a meaning where the designer had none is pretentious, but if the designergenuinely had a reason for picking the colours inspired by something then that is different?
    Broadly speaking, yes. The point I was trying to make is that tartan colours do not need a rationale for their choice and the contortions that some people go to in order to justify the unnecessary is often ridiculous.

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  10. #37
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    Quote Originally Posted by McCafferty View Post
    Can someone please tell me which is the "True" Irish national tartan or can the colors change because of the weavers?

    Thanks
    The Irish regiments wear a plain saffron coloured kilt without a sporren.
    Gweld Dim Ond Y Gwir

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