Kathleen Butlin obituary

·2-min read

My aunt Kathleen Butlin, who has died of cancer aged 89, was a graphic designer whose work was used in a wide range of commercial products, from tourist guidebooks to biscuit tins, and packaging for ice lollies, plum puddings and dried peas.

She was born and raised in Dundee, the eldest of three children of Catherine (nee Anderson) and Charles Mowat, who were both primary school teachers. After attending Morgan Academy, Kathleen gained a diploma in design at Dundee College of Art (now Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, part of the University of Dundee). On graduation in 1954, she and two other students were awarded travel scholarships to visit five European cultural cities, Paris, Florence, Milan, Rome and Venice.

Working in the commercial design industry in the 1950s and 1960s, she was commissioned to design packaging for products for a wide range of firms, including the Scottish Tourist Board, East Lothian Co-Operative Society, Morven shoes, the biscuit manufacturer Alfred Hughes & Sons and Shaw’s Bakery. Throughout her life she remained fascinated by contemporary design.

She married Tony Butlin in 1972, and they settled in Sunderland, where Kathleen taught art, design and photography at the city’s higher education college. After divorcing and retiring in the mid-1980s she returned to Dundee and became involved in many facets of city civic life. She was one of the volunteers contributing to projects to return RRS Discovery to the waterfront in Dundee, where the steamship was built, and to restore the Verdant Works jute mill.

In 2018, she donated a portfolio of 100 of her drawings and designs to the University of Dundee Museum Collections. Some of her student designs from that portfolio have since been commercialised, with products bearing the designs sold under her maiden name, Kathleen Mowat, raising money for the museum.

Friends and family received an annual example of her creative design skills in the form of a handmade Christmas card. Each one would transform from its flat envelope to become an elaborate, colourful, seasonally themed three-dimensional card. There was a different design each year. Last December’s card, with an elegant handcut Christmas tree, was as fresh and original as all the others that preceded it.

Kathleen is survived by her sister, Eleanor, and by three nieces and four nephews.

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