Isabella Whitworth

by | Sep 14, 2020

Isabella trained as a graphic designer in the late 1960s, and worked in industry for several years as a designer, editor and copywriter. After travels in India and Indonesia during the 1980s she realised she wanted to work with textiles and began using techniques such as gutta and wax resist and shibori, initially using synthetic dyes on silk to make scarves and shawls. But an interest in natural dyes was ignited in the early 1990s after she attended a lecture on indigo given by Jenny Balfour Paul.

She then began work with natural dyes too and became intrigued by the individual trade histories of dyestuffs. Her extensive research into the nineteenth century orchil trade (orchil is a natural dye obtained from lichens) began in 2008 when an industrial archive came to light in her small Devon town. Her knowledge of making and working with orchil has brought her into contact with many international researchers working in conservation and science, and she has published several papers on her research work.

Isabella continues to combine studio work, teaching and research. She is an elected member of the Devon Guild of Craftsmen, and in the past has served as Dye Features Editor for the Journal for Weavers, Spinners and Dyers. She teaches short courses at West Dean College and at various venues in the UK.