Art Textiles: Marian Clayden

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By Alannah Messett –

The Fashion and Textiles Museum’s current exhibition is all about Marian Clayden for their Festival of Textiles.

‘Using luxurious velvets and other cloths masterfully airbrushed, discharged and dyed, her increasingly successful collections from 1981 until 2005 resulted in national acclaim.’


After attending Nottingham School of Art, Marian Clayden emigrated to Australia and began to experiment with dyeing, with help from Tie-Dye as a Present Day Craft by Anne Maile in 1964. ‘In this technique, selected areas of cloth are prevented from taking in a dye by folding, tying or stitching prior to immersion.’

In 1967 she moved to California and opened her own studio in Los Gatos. Nancy Potts, costume and set designer for the musical Hair, saw Clayden’s work and she was hired to produce the textiles for the rest of the show’s tour.


Left: Marian’s dress, early 1970s, China silk, stitch-resist dyed. Right: Dress, early 1970s, China silk, multistage stitch-resist dyed.

In the 1970s, Marian Clayden showed her work in exhibitions across the world. She was constantly experimenting, and ‘her range of techniques expanded to include burning, brush-discharging and space-dyeing.’

Clayden Inc. was created in 1981 and clamp shapes became Clayden’s signature.


Florentine dress, 1976, Striped silk with chenille clamp-resist discharged and dyed.


Dragonfly Tunic and Scarf, 1998, Silk chiffon, clamp-resist discharged

Clayden Inc. began producing four collections a year in 1988. Clayden began to experiment with household objects, including her ‘toaster prints’: ‘fabrics printed with a design created using a sandwich toaster…pigment was rolled onto the ridges and transferred to the cloth by closing the toaster.’ Her collections were being sold in luxury department stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue, and worn by celebrities such as Sophia Loren and Barbra Streisand.


Tulip Coat, 1987, cotton corduroy, toaster printed

‘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’ – Marian Clayden


Joyful Noise, 1971. Silk, folded, multistage stitch-resist dyed and discharged.

Ceremonial Enclosure, 1974: silk, folded, multistage stitch-resist dyed and discharged:


‘Clayden made two such enclosures, the first of which is in the collection of the Museum of Arts & Design, New York City.’


Learn more at the Fashion and Textile Museum’s website here. The exhibition is open until the 17th of April!




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