Marian Clayden Art Textiles

As someone who does quite a lot of tie dye, or shibori, I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that I hadn’t heard of Marian Clayden before visiting this exhibition at the Fashion and Textile Museum. Yet her skills – and influence – extended well beyond dyeing – for example, her work was behind the widespread popularity of velvet devoré in the 1990s (I had several scarves!).

Clayden was born in the UK and went to Nottingham School of Art. But it wasn’t until she emigrated to Australia in 1962 that she took up dyeing, teaching herself from a book. She then moved to California and was commissioned to produce all the textiles for tours of the musical Hair.

Her work from this period very much reflects the palette of the period, in purple, orange and brown – but the painterly effects she produced are far from common.

marian clayden dress marian clayden dress

These dresses were made using stitch resist (nui shibori), which normally produces broken lines – so I suspect that after stitching and gathering the fabric she then bound over the top of the stitching.

After receiving a grant from the National Endowment of the Arts in 1971 she was able to scale up, producing large hanging pieces of silk using several stages of stitching, dyeing and discharge.

marian clayden silk hanging marian clayden silk hanging

My favourite from this period was cotton rather than silk, in more earthy colours of blue and ochre – a detail is shown below.

Marian clayden hanging

I also liked a wonderful coarse cotton mask, inspired by Australian Aboriginal masks.

Marian clayden mask

In the mid-70s Clayden developed an interest in clamped resist (itajime shibori) and discharge dyeing – most of these pieces in the exhibition were from later periods, like this silk organza coat from 2001.

marian clayden coat

She also became increasingly interested in texture, experimenting with non-loom weaving. This stunning hanging consists of ropes made from cotton roving, dyed, discharged and hand plied.

marian clayden rope hanging marian clayden rope hanging

Her innovation continued throughout the 1980s, perhaps best exemplified by her “toaster print”, originally produced by coating the ridges of a sandwich toaster with ink, adding the fabric and closing the toaster. 🙂 You can see this on the tulip coat below.

clayden toaster printclayden toaster print detail

Clayden also developed the technique of ombre discharge, producing subtle shading, and cut velvet panels, widely imitated by the cheaper devoré semi-sheer cloth with pile patterns (my scarves!).

clayden ombre dyeclayden devore

For me, two other pieces in the exhibition highlight Clayden’s global range of influences. The Japanese aesthetic clearly shows in these beautifully minimal “towers” of cotton strapping discharge dyed and wrapped around dowelling. They were inspired by palm trees wrapped in fronds that she saw in Hawaii.

clayden towers

Then, in 1992, Clayden was invited by Aid to Artisans to work with felt makers in Hungary. The result was a series of felt hats and waistcoats, dyed, discharged and appliquéd.

clayden felt hat clayden felt waistcoat

Marian Clayden Art Textiles runs at the Fashion and Textile Museum until 17 April 2016.


12 thoughts on “Marian Clayden Art Textiles”

    1. Thanks for the run through of the exhibition, I was not keen to visit as tie dye has a dated hippy reputation, however a it was a real surprise and I am full of admiration for the range of work.

      1. I know what you mean about “hippy tie dye” Diane – I’m not a fan myself! 🙂 But I thought the exhibition beautifully showcased her development and innovation in the use of dyes and discharge as well as her curiosity about other techniques.

  1. Hi Kim, I agree completely with your comments. I visited yesterday , and find it really surprising that I didn’t know her work. The colours were so vivid and the over-dyed discharged velvets were intriguing.

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