Scrapbook, belonging to Alexandra Mackenzie of Annan Fabrics Pty Ltd, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 1935-1958
Annan Fabrics, a studio enterprise which printed textiles by the silk and screen process, was established in 1941 by Anne Outlaw (1891-1991) and Alexandra Mackenzie (1912-1998, she was also known as Nan, but was more commonly referred to as Nance. When Mackenzie married she changed her name to Kirkwood, but still used Mackenzie professionally). The two women had met through the New South Wales Society of Arts and Crafts, of which they were both members. Mackenzie first developed an interest in textile design in the 1930s when she trained at East Sydney Technical College, but she could find no one willing to print her designs. Initially, Outlaw and Mackenzie intended to open a restaurant, but this led to them opening their own textile design studio. Together, the women designed and made furnishing fabrics that melded bright colours, geometric patterns and Australian motifs. Mackenzie created the designs for the fabrics, while Outlaw mixed the dyes and managed the business.
The two established their studio in a building in Mosman which had previously been a stable and later a cordial factory. Here they worked on all aspects of silk-screen printing: making screens; mixing dyes; drawing and printing designs; drying fabrics; fixing colours; and soaping and rinsing the final product - around 36 metres of fabric each day. Their customers included interior decorators, select department stores (including David Jones in Sydney and the Myer Emporium in Melbourne) and specialist boutiques. Qantas was also a major customer, while the Department of Public Works commissioned 'Banksia' for the Parliament House dining room (Vivien Leigh also bought 'Banksia' for her home in England).
In 1954 Annan Fabrics secured the sub-contract to print the Aboriginal and heraldic emblems on the official street banners for the Royal Tour. All other work was suspended, but the contract was unpaid for as the contractor declared himself bankrupt. Due to this fact, they could not support their loss and were forced to close. This, however, freed up Mackenzie for a teaching position at East Sydney Technical College. Throughout this latter period, she continued to screen-print textiles and experiment with a range of imported colourfast dyes.