History

It is due to the vision of Edward James, supporting traditional arts and craft skills that West Dean Tapestry Studio exists today to carry on the 5,000 year old tradition of woven tapestries. The studio opened as a commercial workshop in 1976 with a commission from Mary Moore to produce a tapestry from a drawing by her father, Henry Moore. A further seven tapestries were produced in this series and exhibited at the V&A in 1980, followed by a tour of New Zealand, the USA and Canada over the next five years.

Exhibited throughout the world, tapestries by the Studio are also on permanent view at the Henry Moore Foundation, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Surrey History Centre, Shipley Art Gallery, Gateshead and many other locations.

Current Weavers and Artists

Our weavers work on both low and high warp looms, a unique aspect of our studio that connects the past with the future. Most tapestries are woven in wool, but our weavers also use cotton, linen and silk to convey the subtleties of an image.

Philip Sanderson

Philip Sanderson is Master Weaver and Designer at the Professional Tapestry Studio at West Dean College. He studied at both at Middlesex University and the Royal College of Art Sanderson. Philip has designed tapestries for numerous clients, most famously the New Parliamentary Buildings in Westminster. His tapestry Nr. The Cheesewring was exhibited and sold at 'Collect', the premier fair in Europe for contemporary craft, which was held at the Saatchi Gallery.

"The landscape/tree tapestries explore the representation of an image in the woven surface, originally taken from photographs the image is often photocopied and enlarged or reduced to give the image a specific quality before it goes through a final transformation in the translation to tapestry.

A combination of blending in the weft and the setting of the warp are used to create a parallel between the woven bead and the pixel so the image retains a sense of the original photograph."

Katharine Swailes

Katharine Swailes is a Master Weaver and Designer who worked on the Historic Scotland commission for Stirling castle. She exhibits nationally and has work in international collections. Katherine trained in tapestry weaving in 1998 as a fine arts discipline, and continued to develop this practice alongside her work for West Dean Tapestry Studio.

Working in textiles for over 20 years and for a large part of that time her career path has led Swailes to research and investigate the re-interpretation of historical textiles. This personal investigation into the nature and structure of textiles has led to a series of small-scale tapestries that are three-dimensional and often use constructive devices and enclosures. Both her 3D pieces and wall pieces tend to be small and fine in nature.

Currently a Master Weaver and Designer West Dean Tapestry Studio, Katharine Swailes is working on the Historic Scotland commission for Stirling castle. She exhibits nationally and has work in international collections.

Katharine Swailes was one of the three artists involved in Citrus Sinensis (triptych), which was exhibited at Collect 2008 and purchased by the Shipley Art Gallery for their permanent collection, with part funding from the V&A purchase fund.

Help preserve our future

West Dean is part of a registered charity and relies on the support of generous donors, friends, legacies to help us deliver world-class education in conservation and the creative arts and maintain our award-winning gardens.

Find out how you can help support us