Barbara Sawyer was born in 1919 and lived and worked for most of her adult life in London and north Kent. She studied at Birmingham College of Art and attended short courses at Ethel Mairet's Gospels Workshop when a student; she frequently returned there as a vacation and weekend weaver throughout the years 1942-5 and was highly influenced by Mairet. Sawyer taught weaving full-time at Hastings School of Art (1943-5) and at Hull School of Art (1945-7). She then taught part-time at Blackburn Technical College (1948-50) and on many weaving summer schools at Loughborough and at Barry, Glamorgan, throughout the 1950s. She received the Gold Medal for Textile Design at Manchester in 1948.
In 1950 Sawyer moved to Beckenham, north Kent (aged 31) and took up a part-time teaching post in the Textiles Department at Camberwell School of Art and Crafts (1950-82), working there on average for over two days per week and becoming more closely involved with the curriculum as an associate lecturer in the early 1970s. Her skilled teaching and unassuming nature influenced a generation of textile students whose careers she followed closely. She set up a loom at her home in Beckenham and for several years in the mid-1950s also used premises in North London rented by Peter Collingwood.
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