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Ann Richards

Born in 1947 and originally qualified as a hydrobiologist, Ann Richards started weaving in her spare time when working as a biology technician at Chelsea College in the late 1970s. First, she took an evening class and then a part-time, three-year higher diploma course at the Surrey Institute of Art and Design under Margaret Bide, head of the Textiles Department, gaining a first class diploma in 1987. When still a mature student Richards wove small items and sold them locally but did not found her workshop until 1988, then aged 40.

She set up at her home in Southampton, Hampshire, with only a small, 8-shaft countermarch loom but, a year later, having been awarded a Crafts Council Setting-up Grant, was able to add a Swedish Oxaback countermarch loom with an American Cyrecfco 'Pegasus' dobby mechanism. In the interim, Richards had taken a six-month study trip to the University of Uppsala, Sweden, in 1989 and there worked on a variety of looms. The experience taught her how to choose equipment for fine linen and lightweight fashion fabrics in silk and wool.

Ann Richards's products from the first half of the 1990s comprised pleated dresses which moulded themselves to the form of the body and accessories such as scarves and shawls which sold in increasing numbers through group exhibitions and the Chelsea Crafts Fair. In 1993 her name was added to the Crafts Council's Index of Selected Makers and in 1996 she received an award from the David Canter Memorial Fund to undertake a power weaving project at Whitchurch Silk Mill, Hampshire. In addition to design and production work, Ann Richards has worked as a lecturer in woven textiles at the Surrey Institute of Art and Design, Farnham, since 1995.

She moved to Southsea, Hampshire, in 1995 from where she continues to run her home-based workshop and is now returning to the 'loom to body' dress theme. Richards's crisp, structured weaving is connected to forms in the natural world, and she is 'particularly intrigued by how things works as well as how they look and feel.'* Her current work is influenced by the exhibition and conference 'On Growth and Form: textiles and the engineering of nature' in which she participated at the Textile Museum of Canada, Toronto, in 2001.

*CSC Digitisation Project correspondence, May 2003]



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