Mary Barker Trophy

The Mary Barker Trophy commemorates the Guild’s last President, who died in January 1999 just short of her 92nd birthday. She was a remarkable woman and something of a trail-blazer as she was the first woman to be allowed to study textiles full time at Leeds University, where she also attended art courses. By 1930 she was designing carpets for a London company, one carpet being for the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.

After service with the WRNS during WW2 Mary gained a Teacher’s Diploma at Hornsey School of Art and taught both there and at Brighton School of Art. At the same time she was weaving and exhibiting her work. She became one of Ethel Mairet’s weavers at Gospels in Ditchling, working alongside Peter Collingwood and Marianne Straub. She exhibited with the Phoenix Group in Brighton from the late 1950s until 1982 and in 1965 her work appeared in an exhibition entitled Weaving for Walls at the V&A. Following her retirement from teaching she did lecture tours in Australia, New Zealand, USA and Canada.

In 1952 Mary had been a founder member of The Journal and she worked tirelessly as its Editorial Secretary for over 30 years; in 1983 she was elected Vice President of the National Association. During this time she had also worked hard for the East Sussex Guild and was asked in 1982 to become its President. She expressed a wish to be an active one, not a mere figurehead, and she certainly fulfilled this. At Guild meetings Mary was always available to listen, advise and help and successive Chairmen were always grateful for her support and wisdom. In 1992 her services to her craft were recognised by the award of an MBE and although she was in urgent need of a hip replacement she made it successfully to Buckingham Palace. Her description of the event makes amusing reading in her autobiography Tangled Threads, published in 1998 with assistance from the Guild.

In later years Mary mainly wove garments using the Moorman technique of inlay; she graced a number of our fashion shows at exhibitions wearing her full-length kaftans and would also demonstrate her skills at the loom, while chatting to visitors and members. To those of us who attended Mary’s funeral it seemed sad that her family appeared to recognise only her art work — her weaving was barely mentioned — but to us it was priceless, and some of us are lucky enough to own some of her pieces.

As we are unlikely to meet for a while longer – despite good news about a vaccine – we would like to encourage you to enter the Mary Barker Trophy competition. The theme for 2021 is ‘Recycled’ – definitely open to much creative interpretation. Send us your photos and information about what you’ve made and we will put it here for you to see and vote. We’ve extended the deadline to 15th January 2021.

Please vote via Gaynor or Gina. Votes to be in by 23rd February.

And the winner is……Jean Weddell for her woven shoulder bag!