Isabella Whitworth

probably more than natural and synthetic dyes, wax, resists, and history

The simple reappears once the dyer’s quite exhausted


Dyeing at Leewood on Dartmoor continues next week and on 11th April Jane Deane and I will be working on the same five fleeces as last month (see here), but this time using madder. Visitors are welcome and it’s free, but please phone Leewood before you make the journey.

I can now announce that our historical dye  project has been granted financial support from the Worshipful Company of Dyers, one of the historic London Livery Companies. I have been grateful for their assistance with research into the Wood & Bedford / Yorkshire Chemicals archive over the past years, but this is the first time I have requested support for a practical project. The Dyers Company has a long history of charitable giving which you can read about here.

Next weekend I’ll be in London for the AGM of the Association of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers followed, on the Sunday, by our quarterly Journal committee meeting. This whole weekend of meetings coincides with the major Huguenot of Spitalfields events and The Big Weave on the 13th, also in London. It’s most unlikely I will be able to bunk off meetings to inspect the Huguenots, however – it’s a shame there is so much on at once.

Despite a whole new bunch of lively committee members, there will be a sad  goodbye to Cally Booker (whose blog you can see here) and Belinda Rose , who have now completed their terms on the Journal committee. They have contributed hugely to a range of ever-changing Journal demands and I’ll really miss their intelligence, cheerfulness and good humour.

Plans for Fusion, West Dean’s summer event, proceed. This week I was asked for a ‘top tip’ by the organisers for a publicity campaign. I don’t have a practical one about dyeing dog hair or boiling sheep dung so I thought of a piece of Eastern philosophy I find revealing and useful. I first heard it when I read that Peter Collingwood had it fixed to his loom.

The simple only reappears once the complex is exhausted

It comes from Nigel Richmond’s Language of the Lines, written about the I Ching. The word I appreciate most is ‘reappears’. It’s because I recognise the simplicity of an idea in the inspiration stages, but endless, exhausting ‘stuff’ gets in the way and I struggle to pare everything down to try to find what I first saw. In so doing, I frequently take the wrong things out. It’s a process I often go through – in fact, I am doing it now, with work based on our trip to Australia last October.

Bookings for Fusion can be made through West Dean’s Fusion page here. I will be demonstrating wax resist on silk on Saturday 22 June and running three workshops on Sunday 23rd. These will be beginners’ workshops, but if you have done some work with wax before it should be equally enjoyable.

4 thoughts on “The simple reappears once the dyer’s quite exhausted

  1. That is a wonderful post, Isabella. The work with the dyes and fleece sounds engrossing and so helpful, too – I do so wish I could be both there to see you folks at it – and in Spitalfields to participate in the Huguenot fest, too! I have some table mats from the V&A that use an historic Huguenot print by a female textile artist. Will post a pics when I find it! I have been at the fair in the market in Spitalfields…nostalgia

    • Thanks Wendy. My son lives in the Spitalfields area and I have asked him to go and take some photos for me. It is a really fascinating district. And I’ll try to post some images of the ‘madder day’ before I go up to London next weekend.

  2. Dear Isabella, I saw the line ‘THE simple reappears when the complex is exhausted’ in a picture on the weaving ‘machine’ of Peter Cottingwood. It hit me like a flash…
    As a graphic designer and painter I should had know this more than 40 years ago when I started my business after art college. I stay interested so I will going to read all of it. Like the book of Nigel Richmond. And I Will study your site as well. No flattering!

  3. Thanks for the comments, Lex. I have always found this not-so-simple statement about simplicity intriguing and inspiring

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