A friend of mine has been experimenting with AI. He created the following ‘essay’ about me by accessing Microsoft Bing. For this essay the app offered three types of compositional option: ‘precise’, ‘balanced’, and ‘creative’. The ‘balanced’ and ‘precise’ versions were accurate factually but the writing was dull and prosaic, collated from text I recognised from websites I had supplied with bios or information.
The ‘creative’ option was a brew-up of fact, spiced with bold and puzzlingly inaccurate statements and claims certainly not based on any text I had supplied online.
I reproduce the essay below, with embarrassingly serious factual inaccuracies underlined. The piece claims I was born in London when in fact I was born in Cheshire, and that I attended West Surrey College of Art and Design to study textiles when I studied Graphic Design at Canterbury College of Art – etc. I have chosen not to draw attention to inaccuracies about my outstanding achievements and genius.
Ultimately, this exercise was a piece of fun, but I am wondering where this software will take us, with the possibility of proliferating inaccuracies each time a newly-published and AI generated ‘creative’ source is re-accessed by AI.
Isabella Whitworth is a textile artist and tutor who lives and works in Devon, England. She has a background in graphic design and a passion for natural dyes and resist-dyeing techniques. She is also a researcher and writer who has contributed to the knowledge and conservation of natural dye history and practice. This essay will explore her career, achievements and influences, as well as some examples of her work.
Isabella Whitworth was born in 1949 and grew up in London. She trained as a graphic designer at the London College of Printing in the late 1960s, and worked in industry for several years as a designer, editor and copywriter. She was influenced by the Bauhaus movement and the Swiss style of typography, as well as by artists such as Paul Klee and Henri Matisse. She also developed an interest in drawing and painting, especially botanical subjects.
In the 1980s, Whitworth travelled extensively in India and Indonesia, where she encountered various textile traditions and techniques. She was fascinated by the colours, patterns and textures of fabrics such as batik, ikat and shibori. She decided to pursue a career in textiles and enrolled in a course at the West Surrey College of Art and Design, where she learned about silk painting, dyeing and printing.
Whitworth started to make her own textiles using synthetic dyes on silk, mainly scarves and shawls. She used resist techniques such as gutta (a rubbery substance that blocks dye) and wax to create intricate designs on the fabric. She also experimented with folding, tying and clamping methods to produce shibori effects. Her work was inspired by nature, especially flowers, leaves and landscapes. She exhibited her work at various venues and events, such as the Chelsea Craft Fair, the British Craft Centre and the Devon Guild of Craftsmen.
In the early 1990s, Whitworth attended a lecture on indigo given by Jenny Balfour Paul, a leading authority on natural dyes. She was intrigued by the history and culture of indigo, as well as by its unique properties and effects. She decided to explore natural dyes further and began to use them alongside synthetic dyes on her textiles. She also started to grow her own dye plants, such as woad, madder and weld.
Whitworth became particularly interested in orchil, a purple dye obtained from lichens. In 2008, she discovered an industrial archive in her small Devon town that contained documents and samples related to the orchil trade in the 19th century. She realised that this was a rare and valuable source of information that had been largely overlooked by historians and scholars. She embarked on a research project to investigate the history and practice of orchil dyeing, as well as its scientific and cultural aspects.
Whitworth’s research led her to collaborate with many international experts and institutions working in conservation and science. She published several papers on her findings in journals such as Textile History, The Journal for Weavers, Spinners and Dyers, The Journal of Natural Dyes Research Society (India) and The Journal of Natural Dyes (Korea). She also contributed to some major conservation projects involving orchil-dyed textiles, such as the restoration of the 16th century tapestries at Hardwick Hall (UK) and the analysis of the 14th century cope at Sens Cathedral (France).
Whitworth continues to combine studio work, teaching and research. She produces textiles using both synthetic and natural dyes on silk, often blending them to create subtle shades and contrasts. She also experiments with different fibres, such as wool, cotton and linen. Her work is still influenced by nature, but also by historical sources and contemporary issues. Some of her recent themes include climate change, biodiversity loss and social justice.
Whitworth teaches short courses at West Dean College (UK) and at various venues in the UK. She shares her knowledge and skills with students of all levels and backgrounds. She also gives lectures and demonstrations on natural dyes and resist-dyeing techniques at various events and organisations.
Whitworth is an elected member of the Devon Guild of Craftsmen (UK), where she exhibits her work regularly. She has also shown her work at other galleries and museums in the UK and abroad, such as the Fashion Museum (Bath), the Royal Albert Memorial Museum (Exeter), the Museum of East Asian Art (Bath), the National Museum of Korea (Seoul) and the International Shibori Symposium (Japan).
Whitworth is a textile artist who has made a significant contribution to the field of natural dyes and resist-dyeing techniques. She has created original and beautiful textiles that reflect her artistic vision and values. She has also conducted rigorous research that has enhanced the understanding and appreciation of natural dye history and practice. She is an inspiring teacher who has shared her expertise with many students and audiences. She is a respected member of the textile community who has collaborated with many professionals across disciplines.
Isabella Whitworth is an example of a textile artist who has combined creativity, curiosity
and commitment throughout her career.
Source: Conversation with Bing, 30/05/2023
(1) Isabella Whitworth – The Loom Shed. https://theloomshed.com/meet-the-team/isabella-whitworth/.
(2) Our Makers | Isabella Whitworth — MAKE Southwest. https://makesouthwest.org.uk/textiles/isabella-whitworth.
(3) Isabella Whitworth – West Dean College of Arts and Conservation. https://www.westdean.org.uk/study/tutors/isabella-whitworth.