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Art Textiles: Marian Clayden - Retrospective Exhibition at Fashion and Textile Museum

By Edited Jun 27, 2016 1 0

Joyful Noise by Marian Clayden

The work of internationally renowned artist Marian Clayden is the subject of a major retrospective exhibition at London's Fashion and Textile Museum. Art Textiles: Marian Clayden takes visitors behind-the-scenes in the world of textile dyeing. 

May Schoeser, well-respected textile historian and Curator of the exhibition, tells us: “The exhibition illustrates Marian Clayden’s ever-changing mediums and style, celebrating her ability to, as she put it, ‘dance’ with her techniques. It is evident how she amalgamated her knowledge of dance and musical theatre into her creation of fashion. Having lived in four countries and travelled around the world, her trailblazing textiles embody a global sensibility.”

Textiles: The Art of Mankind
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Textiles: The Art of Mankind by Mary Schoeser, curator of the exhibition, tells you all you need to know about textiles.

Mary Clayden: About the Artist

China, Silk, Stitch-resist dyed dress
Born in Preston in 1937, Marian Clayden studied Education at Kesteven College in Lincolnshire and Art at Nottingham School of Art. Clayden exhibited paintings at the Harris Museum & Art Gallery and taught in various primary schools before emigrating to Australia in 1962. She later relocated to California in 1967.

 Although initially working as a painter, she became interested in dyeing and set up her own studio Los Gatos. Clayden said: “I came to find dyeing fabric to be even more expressive than painting, perhaps because attempting to control all the variables was an exciting challenge – even though I tried to envision the final result as a painter would, I had to dance with the technique to reach a happy conclusion”.

Florentine Dress by Marian Clayden
Around this time she was invited by costume designer Nancy Potts to work on the musical Hair, designing all the fabrics used during the shows nine touring productions worldwide. 

In 1971 Clayden, now very well respected on the international textile scene, received the National Endowment for the Arts Award, which enabled her to set up a professional dyeing workshop.

Clayden turned from textile art to hand-made limited edition garments – timeless wearable art – and is often likened to designer Mariano Fortuny. Commenting on this move, she said: “The real thrill of clothing design was making a successful combination of all the elements – body, style, fabric, drape, dyeing, and how it moves when worn – so as to create a garment that makes the wearer feel she is enclosed in something as valuable to her as a work of art.” 

Between 1981 and 2005 she created several highly successful collections enjoying national acclaim. Her garments were sold in luxurious department stores including Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue. Many of her designs, some worn by such famous names as Barbara Streisand, Elizabeth Taylor, Sigourney Weaver, Oprah Winfrey, Whitney Houston and Catherine Zeta-Jones, have appeared at red-carpet events. Her work has featured in major exhibitions around the world and samples of her work can be seen at the

Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York; De Young in San Francisco; Los Angeles
County Museum of Art, and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. 

Marian Clayden retired in 2005 and died in 2015.

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Silk, by art historian Mary Schoeser, tells the fascinating story of silk.

Art Textiles: Marian Clayden - The Exhibition

Disintegrating Circle Square - Marian Clayden
Collar by Marian Clayden
Art Textiles: Marian Clayden reveals why textiles are one of the most pervasive, diverse, and consistently creative art forms. 

This highly imaginative and creative artist utilised tie-dye methods to create an extraordinary statement of 1960s attitude and style. Clayden believed art should be wearable. Indeed, many Hollywood stars, including Cher, Whitney Houston and Meryl Streep, have worn her designs.

Colour Knot by Marian Clayden
Art Textiles features luxurious furnishings, accessories, vibrant and colourful tie-dyed fabrics, silk wall hangings, as well as hand-made structural works using donkey straps and ropes. Also on show are items from her psychedelic clothing range together with designs for the musical Hair (1968). 

The exhibition also features more than thirty garments from her 1981–2004 fashion lines, each one a work of art in its own right.

International Textile Design
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Mary Schoeser's "International Textile Design" is a fascinating book for anyone interested in textiles.

Festival of Textiles 2016

Textile Art: Marian Clayden is accompanied by the Festival of Textiles 2016, consisting of three displays: 

  • Gesture in Cloth, curated by Linda Brassington, looks at the work of seven textile professionals including Mary Restieaux RDI. 
  • Chemistry for Couture features the practice-based research of metal horticulturalist Jo Horton at De Montfort University. 
  • Textiles Surface and Structure shows work by students on the BA Hons Textiles course at University for the Creative Arts, Farnham.

The exhibition is open until 17th April 2016. Tickets and further information can be obtained through the Fashion and Textile Museum's website[1].


The Fashion and Textile Museum is at 83 Bermondsey Street, London SE1 3XF



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  1. Fashion and Textile Museum "Art Textiles: Marian Clayden." Fashion and Textile Museum. 11/03/2016 <Web >

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