Isabella Whitworth

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

CV and experience

Further Education 1968 – 1971: Canterbury College of Art; Dip AD (Graphics) specialising in illustration

Work in industry: 1972: Designer / Editor for Purnell Books (children’s publishing)

1972 -1982 

Posts in Research and Development Department of Milton Bradley Europe, toy and games manufacturers based in London including Product Development Manager for Art and Craft; Copywriter for Research and Development and Senior Designer, Playskool pre-school toys; freelance research in toy design

Exhibiting textile artist; tutor and author 1982 – 

Textile work specialising in resist processes on silk, cotton  and wool; work in synthetic and natural dyes

Exhibitions in galleries throughout the UK and selected events such as the Country Living Fair, Art in Action, Contemporary Craft Fair, Fusion

Tutor at Denman College, West Dean College,  Ardington School of Crafts and at invited venues such as Guilds of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers; Embroiderers Guild; family workshop leader for DAN; workshop leader for Devon Guild of Craftsmen Big Hand, Little Hand, an artists in school programme. See courses page for teaching calendar.

Research work into the history of dyes: 2008 –

Research into Yorkshire Chemicals archive with initial assistance from The Worshipful Company of Dyers; 2008

Research trip to Galicia, Spain, to study traditional methods of orchil dyeing; 2008

Research trip to Ecuador; lecture to Biology Department at the Universidad Central del Ecuador, Quito; 2008

Article: An Archive and Beyond for the Journal for Weavers Spinners and Dyers issue 227; 2008

Paper: The Dyer’s Tale given to the conference on Sustainability for the Worshipful Company of Dyers, 2009

Paper: A Leeds Archive Rediscovered and the Orchil Trail to Ecuador delivered at DHA (Dyes in History and Archaeology) in Posnan, Poland; 2009

Paper: The Orchil Trail: from Portugal and Angola delivered at DHA Lisbon; 2010

Paper: An Unsustainable Demand  delivered to the Textile Society Conference; 2010. Published in Text, Volume 38: 2010-11

Article: Beyond the Archive – to Ecuador for the Journal for Weavers Spinners and Dyers issue 233; 2010

Paper: J.M. Despréaux’ Lichens from Canary Islands and West Africa: an account of a XIX century collection found in an English archive; co-authored with Dr Begoña Aguirre Hudson and Dr Brian Spooner, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and published by the Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society, 2011

Poster presentation: A Leeds Company and the C19th Orchil Trade. Expanding trade : diminishing stocks  for ISEND (International Symposium and Exhibition on Natural Dyes) La Rochelle, France, 2011

Treasures from a Leeds Dye Chemist: A Century-Old “Tyrian Purple”?. Delivered at DHA (Dyes in History and Archaeology) La Rochelle, October 2013. Joint paper with  Professor Zvi C. Koren, The Edelstein Center for the Analysis of Ancient Artifacts, Shenkar College of Engineering and Design.

Research co-operation: Assisting research into orchil in tapestries undertaken by Maria Jordan at Hampton Court Palace: published online by the Institute of Conservation  Recreating the life of a tapestry: Fading dyes and the impact of the tapestry image (2012)

Assisting researchers and conservators in application techniques and analysis of ‘Purple Parchments’, such as the 9th Century Krönungsevangeliar: 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015.

Assisting Austrian National Library, Vienna, with conservation study into the Vienna Genesis: 2016 – 2017

Orchil and Tyrian Purple: Two Centuries of Bedfords from Leeds; Isabella Whitworth and Zvi C. Koren published in Ambix, Vol. 63, Issue 3. November 2016. Abstract and details here

Wood & Bedford / Yorkshire Chemicals Archive; paper presented at DHA Conference, Royal School of Needlework, Hampton Court, October 2017

Tyrian Treasure: A Surprise from the Archive for the Journal for Weavers Spinners and Dyers 265, 2018. Read online here

Towards the identification of the lichen species in historical orchil dyes by HPLC-MS/MS  Elisa Calà, Marcello Benzi, Fabio Gosetti, Andrea Zanin, Monica Gulmini, Ambra Idone, Ilaria Serafini, Alessandro Ciccola, Roberto Curini, Isabella Whitworth, Maurizio Aceto; Michrochemical Journal, Vol. 150, November 2019

Contributor to Dyeing Now: Contemporary Makers Celebrate Ethel Mairet’s Legacy, initially an exhibition involving international dyers who recreated many of the recipes in Mairet’s 1916 A Book on Vegetable Dyes. Now a publication available from Ditchling Museum of Art and Craft

Chapter entitled Cloth Dyes and Dyeing co-authored with Jenny Balfour Paul for Cloth book of an Exeter wool merchant, 1763-1765, edited by Todd Gray for for Devon and Cornwall Record Society; published by Boydell & Brewer, February 2021 

Chapter on eighteenth century dyeing for Bluestockings co-edited by Kate Davies and Nicole Pohl, published by KDD & Co, 2021


Curatorial work 

2011: Fleece First; exhibition about south west wool for the Devon Guild of Craftsmen

Editorial work

2010-15: Dye Features Editor on the editorial committee of the Journal for Weavers, Spinners and Dyers and assisting with Journal social media 2016 – 2019


Short Course tutor at West Dean College; occasional tutor for Devon Guild of Craftsmen education programme and other organisations such as Oxford Asian Textile Group, Association of Guilds of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers etc

Professional Organisations

Elected Member of the Devon Guild of Craftsmen 2006, serving on Selection Election Committee 2012 -2018, including three years as Chair

The Textile Society

The Guild of Silk Painters


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s