WHEN is a wally close not a wally close?

When it is a window into a city’s past – and a fascinating celebration of art, social history and tenement life….

Zan Phee’s Tenement Tiles Exhibition (also known as Tnmnttiles on social media) has finally opened after a year and a half of delays and COVID restrictions.

Curator Zan, who came up with the idea for an online archive in 2015, is delighted it also now exists ‘in the real world’ at Glasgow’s Tenement House, the perfectly preserved Garnethill home of shorthand typist Agnes Toward, who lived there from 1911 until 1965.

Now run by the National Trust for Scotland, the building includes Agnes’s personal possessions and reveals what life was like for a woman at that time.

Zan said: “Having the exhibition alongside the time capsule that is the Tenement House museum allows visitors to revel in the nostalgia of tenement living, while learning more about their history.

“The management and staff have been great at easing this first timer into setting up an exhibition.”

Glasgow Times: Design your own wally tile...

She added: “Since gaining Glasgow City Heritage Trust funding back in 2019, the exhibition has changed form to deal with the effects of the pandemic. After almost two years in storage, it couldn’t have landed in a more perfect venue.”

Zan has been curating pictures from tenements across Glasgow and beyond for the online archive, documenting the ceramics, stained glass, ironwork and woodwork found.

Glasgow artist Marion Gardyne, who is inspired by the architectural design of the city’s buildings, provided a collage piece for Tenement Tiles, created by layering images of Art Nouveau tiles.

Glasgow Times: Tenement Tiles Exhibition

“Tenement Tiles has always highlighted those creatively inspired by these shared spaces,” said Zan.

“With that in mind, while visiting the exhibition, people will be able to design your own wally tile coaster, colour existing designs, and add your stories of tenement living and thoughts on the exhibition to our exhibition wall.”

She added: “The online archive will continue to capture and show images of these historic shared spaces, and in turn help to tell the stories of the thousands that have called tenements home, for over a hundred years.”

Michael Rennie and Tom Foster visited the opening night of the exhibition.

Glasgow Times: Tenement Tiles Exhibition

Michael said: “I loved it. It was so interesting and well presented. It genuinely feels like the photographer has a great love for our historic built environment, and wants to share it.”

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Tom added: “This was a storied insight into the many colourful and characterful spaces, that all too often are taken for granted.”

Zan started properly noticing tenement closes on long walks around the southside of Glasgow. After posting pictures to her own social media channels, she set up a separate Tenement Tiles Twitter page, and the response was phenomenal. Six years later, she has thousands of followers on Twitter and Instagram.

She said: “It’s pretty incredible but we have a worldwide audience - USA, Canada, Germany and even China. Tenement design is something that attracts people from all over. I think that’s one of the most rewarding parts of this.”