Learning Index >> Pioneers and their practice: a reference guide

Textiles >> Ethel Mairet (1872-1952) and the Gospels Workshop
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Born Ethel Mary Partridge in Barnstaple, Devon, she studied at the Municipal Science and Art School, Barnstaple, later gained a teaching diploma in pianoforte from the Royal Academy of Music. She worked as a governess, then married the Anglo-Ceylonese geologist Ananda Coomaraswamy and lived in Ceylon and India from 1903 to 1907. There she studied and collected the indigenous arts and crafts and began writing articles.

On her return to England she made her first experiments in weaving at Broad Campden in the Cotswolds where C.R. Ashbee was part of her circle. In 1913 she divorced and married Philippe Mairet, moving first to Saunton, then to Shottery near Stratford-upon-Avon, where she wrote A Book on Vegetable Dyes ( first,1916) and exhibited in the Englishwoman Exhibition, London.

She built and set up her major workshop 'Gospels' in Ditchling, Sussex in 1918-20 and here trained and employed a stream of 130 apprentices, assistants and workgirls until 1952. The most notable of these were Marianne Straub and Peter Collingwood. Her output changed roughly with the decades, consisting of furnishing and dress lengths, scarves and garments, using high quality yarns of wool, silk and cotton - both hand and machine-spun and mostly vegetable-dyed. Her colourful work was widely exhibited in England and abroad and was also sold from her Brighton shop and from the workshop.

Mairet travelled widely in Europe, published six books and many articles, and circulated pamphlets with her 'textile portfolios' or teaching packs which were loaned out to schools and teacher training colleges from 1939 to 1952. A touring retrospective exhibition of her work was organised by the Crafts Study Centre, Bath in 1983.



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