Hans Tisdall (Aufseeser) 1910-1997


In his 1937 publication British Textile Designers Today H G Hayes Marshall described Hans Aufseeser (later Tisdall) as a designer ‘whose careful attention to detail and his real ability to design for any technique has placed him in the front rank of British Designers for Industry’.

Tisdall was born Hans John Knox Aufseeser in Munich to an Anglo-Irish mother and a German father, Ernst Aufseeser (an artist and designer). He adopted his mother’s maiden name Tisdall in the 1940s. He studied at The Academy of Fine Art, Munich in 1928 and was apprenticed to the sculptor Moisey Keegan. He lived in Paris and Ascona, Switzerland before settling in London in 1930. He began his professional life in Britain working for an advertising agency – but he soon abandoned this to concentrate on a career as a painter. However, the economic climate of the thirties meant he had to diversify and became well known during the decade as a textile designer producing patterns for some of the best firms of the day – including Warner & Sons, Edinburgh Weavers, Donald Brothers and Allan Walton. Hayes Marshall describes how he was the only designer submitting his patterns on rice paper which allowed a prospective buyer to appreciate the design when gathered up.

His work was extremely wide-ranging and he also worked as a muralist, including on a commission with Edward Bawden and John Armstrong for the Michael Rachlis’ International Building Club in Park Lane just before the outbreak of the war. His large scale work was further developed in 3D form in 1951 when he designed plaster centaurs for the Festival of Britain Pleasure Gardens at Battersea in 1951, alongside a cockerel mural . He revisited the cockerel motif in this 1957 design for Edinburgh Weavers.

In 1941 he married Isabel Gallegos the daughter of a Spanish painter who worked as a stylist for Edinburgh Weavers. She set up her own firm Tamesa Fabrics in 1964 and Hans provided many of the designs.

His textile patterns are often large in scale and owe much to his experience as a mural painter – such as his design ‘Pheasant Moon’ for Edinburgh Weavers, 1960. This design has an enormous repeat (220cm).


‘Pheasant Moon’ Edinburgh Weavers, screen-printed Ravel Satin (authors’ collection)

The large scale patterns he designed for Edinburgh Weavers are particularly effective and were perfectly suited for the prevailing fashion in architecture for floor to ceiling windows.

Tisdall was an extremely versatile designer and  was also well known for his graphic work, particularly book jackets.

Like many artist-designers of his generation he worked across a number of design disciplines, and added twelve large scale designs for the Edinburgh Tapestry Company between 1959 and 1974 to his expanding catalogue . He is pictured here checking the colours of his tapestry ‘Space’.


As well as continuing to practice as a painter he also taught at the Central School of Arts and Crafts between 1948 and 1975 initially in textiles and later in painting.


Further Reading

Marshall, HG Hayes (1939) British Textile Designers Today (Leigh-on-Sea, F Lewis Ltd)

Jackson, Lesley (2012) Alastair Morton and Edinburgh Weavers (London, V&A Publishing)

Powers, Alan – (7.2.1997) ‘Obituary of Hans Tisdall’, Independent. http://www.independent.co.uk/incoming/obituary-hans-tisdall-5581928.html

Robertson, Bryan (1990) Hans Tisdall: Paintings 1960-1997, (London, Albermarle Gallery)

Schoeser, Mary (1992) Influential Europeans in British Craft and Design, (London, Crafts Council)

Victoria & Albert Museum


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Coasters for Christmas

I have been sorting through fabric and making up coasters for Christmas orders. The designs above are new (in acrylic casings) and many of the fabrics are now also available in glass casings (below).

You can see the full range with details of how to order – just click on the link below:



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Marion Dorn: Illustrations for William Beckford’s Vathek, 1929


Back in the 1980s I was working on my PhD on the American textile designer Marion Dorn and was in New York where I interviewed Yvonne McHarg, a food stylist, who had known Dorn back in the 1930s through her sister Madge Garland. Garland was a fashion journalist and the founder of the first fashion course at the Royal College of Art, she and Dorn were good friends. On that trip Yvonne gave me her copy of Vathek. The book was a re-print of William Beckford’s 1782 gothic novel – which tells the story of Vathek, a caliph, who builds five palaces, each devoted to the enjoyment of one of the five senses. The book was published by the Nonesuch Press in 1929 with illustrations by Marion Dorn. In this article I would like to draw attention to the relationship between Dorn’s  textile design and these illustrations.

Dorn’s eight full-page illustrations and two vignettes were printed by the Curwen Press. There was a limited print run for the volume with 1050 copies produced in the UK and 500 in the US. The printing process used was lithography and each illustration has a pastel-like quality. At the time she produced these designs she was starting to become a very successful textile designer and was gaining a reputation for her batiks which she had been designing since she settled in London in 1923 with her partner and fellow American, graphic designer, Edward McKnight Kauffer.

When Dorn arrived in London she continued to develop the batik work which she had begun when she lived in New City, New York with her then husband the ceramic artist Henry Varnum Poor. The fabrics she produced in England in the 1920s ranged from  large-scale bespoke pieces, to smaller items such as scarves and handkerchiefs and occasionally dresses.

Dorn’s pattern-making skills are evident in both the illustrations to Vathek, in her batik patterns and the increasing number of carpet designs she was starting to produce by the late 1920s. In her  first illustration for the book (see image shown next to book’s binding, above) one can clearly see the geometric composition of the floor of the palace that derives from her batik work and was developing in her rug designs, especially the important commission she received for the 1932 extension and redecoration of Claridges Hotel, London by Oswald P Milne.

The second full-page image in the book illustrates the area described in the text where ‘a hundred groves of sweetly scented shrubs’ were situated and where Vathek went to breath fresh air and drink the pure water. Dorn’s treatment of the trees intended to represent the range of different species found there, she intersects them with a flowing stream. The way she handles the depiction of the various leaf forms relates to her skilled rendering of leaf and plant forms in both her rug and fabric designs.

Vathek builds an observation tower with 1,500 steps on the top of which a fire is built in and a sacrifice made. In a further episode in the story tigers attack a group of travellers. In both these illustrations Dorn’s drawing is accomplished and her composition and pattern-making skills obvious.

In some of the illustrations we see motifs that recur again and again in Dorn’s textile work, particularly leaves and birds.

Dorn’s abstracted treatment of birds was developed in several textile designs in the 1930s. The surreal treatment of the disembodied hand and heart was adapted for a design she did for a screen print ‘Hand & Poppy for Warner & Sons in 1935.


Vathek is the only book that Dorn illustrated, probably because her career as a textile designer really took off in the 1930s. Her name appeared regularly in the art and design press and in 1934 she set up her own limited company – unusual for a designer at the time.

She did occasionally produce works on paper, these included cards, wallpapers and embroidery transfers – but her real talent was working with fabric and fibre, whether that be for printed textiles or more textural weaves and rugs. Writing in 1939,  the writer and interior designer H.G.Hayes Marshall described Dorn ‘ as one of the most prominent and successful designers of our time’. (1)

(1) Marshal, H.G. Hayes (1939) British Textile Designers Today, F Lewis.


Boydell, C (1996) The Architect of Floors: modernism, art and Marion Dorn designs, Schoeser

Boydell, C (1996) ‘Batik in America and Britain 1920-1930: The Early Career of Marion Dorn’, Text, 24: 4-8

Boydell, C (1996) ‘The Decorative Imperative: Marion Dorn’s Textiles and Modernism’, Journal of the Decorative Arts Society, 19: 31-40



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Antique Textile Fair, Manchester Sunday 30th April, 2017


I am getting ready for the 25th Textile Society’s Antique Textile Fair. I think I must have been to most of them and sold for the first time last year. It’s a fantastic event. I have some gorgeous vintage clothing and fabrics for sale. So here’s a preview of what you will see. Come and say hello, my stand is #48 on the first row on the right near the entrance.

I specialise in mid-century fabrics and clothing – but I have a few older pieces this year. The 1920s brocade coat is a real gem and I have a couple of beautiful embroidered silk shawls and a fine woven wool example.

I love these two little linen aprons. The one on the left is by Liberty’s.

In terms of vintage clothing, there will be a few Horrockses’ pieces (of course!) as well as some dead stock 1950s hats.

And a huge range of high quality mid-century furnishing fabrics, from manufacturers such as David Whitehead, Edinburgh Weavers, Bernard Wardle and Heals.

I will also have a good selection of magazines from the 1950s through to the 1970s.

In addition to original vintage pieces there will also be a selection of coasters and key rings made from vintage fabric available.

Hope to see you there!



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Robert Stewart designs for Liberty

One of my favourite fabric designers of the 1950s is the Scot, Robert Stewart (1924-1995). Born in Glasgow, Stewart studied at Glasgow School of Art and taught there from 1949, becoming the Head of Printed Textiles. Stewart had a distinguished career as a designer of ceramics, tapestries, fabrics and graphics. [1] And I have one of his textiles ‘Fruit Cup’ (1951) for sale at the moment in my Etsy shop.

Robert Stewart’s designs often incorporate stylised human forms and abstracted fruit and vegetables. His designs were manufactured by some of the best known textiles companies of the period: Donald Brothers, Edinburgh Weavers, the Edinburgh Tapestry Company and possibly David Whitehead. His relationship with Liberty of London was particularly fruitful.

He visited Liberty in 1950 taking a portfolio of designs which were felt to be too abstract for the retailer who at the time were best known for more traditional products. But later when Liberty had realised the possibilities of embracing more modern approaches to design they approached him to design souvenir products for the Festival of Britain, 1951.

During the ’50s he produced many designs for Liberty and his work was displayed prominently in its mail order catalogues. He played an important role in Liberty’s strategy of modernising its output. Stewart was in good company for Liberty also bought fabric designs from Lucienne Day, Jacqueline Groag and Hilda Durkin. Modern designs were first introduced through the ‘Young Liberty’ department (founded in July 1949) – before being sold through the  main fabric ranges.

Stewart supplied Liberty with at least fifteen designs between 1950 and 1954 , these included fabrics, cushions, boxes and waste paper baskets. [2]

In 1992 Liberty reprinted his 1951 design ‘Fruit Delight’. The enduring popularity of Stewart’s work is evidenced in the continued availability of his designs, a number of  which have been digitally reproduced by Classic Textiles.

Classic Textiles


[1] Arthur, Liz (2003) Robert Stewart Design 1946-95, A&C Black, London

[2] Arthur, ibid

Further Reading

Arthur, Liz (2003) Robert Stewart Design 1946-95, A&C Black, London

Buruma, A (2009) Liberty and Co. in the Fifties and Sixties, ACC Editions, Woodbridge, Suffolk

Classic Textiles https://www.classictextiles.com/robert-stewart/

V&A Pattern (2012) Liberty & Co. V&A Publishing, London

Victoria & Albert Museum http://collections.vam.ac.uk/search/?limit=15&q=Robert+Stewart&commit=Search&after-adbc=AD&before-adbc=AD&collection%5B%5D=THES48601&narrow=1&offset=0&slug=0





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New items for sale

I have been adding items to my Etsy shop over the last week – so please take a look. Most of the fabrics I am selling are items from M’s collection (you can read about this here). They came from Horrockses Fashions headquarters in Mayfair, London in the 1950s. You can read her story here: https://festivalofpattern.wordpress.com/2016/06/18/kid-in-a-sweet-shop-part-one/

I will be listing more vintage fabric over the next few days so please have a look in my shop.

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Alastair Morton : designing for Horrockses Fashions

Over the years that I have been researching Horrockses Fashions I have collected examples of the company’s output and probably top of my list of favourites are dresses made from the glorious designs of Alastair Morton who was a key figure in the company’s early success. I thought I should record them here, as soon most of them will be winging their way to the Harris Museum & Art Gallery, Preston.

'Cotton Concerto' (scrapbook)

Horrockses Fashions’ first collection (pre Morton) [The Drapers’ Record, April 1946]

Like all fashionable clothing concerns, Horrockses Fashions realised early on that acquiring good fabric designs was crucial. It is clear from its business records and interviews with its employees that the acquisition of good designs was considered a priority. When asked to comment on what he felt were the main elements in a successful fashion business, the firm’s design director, James Cleveland Belle replied ‘that there was no doubt that the following factors in the order stated were vitally important. 1. Colour and design. 2. The cut of the dress. 3. The quality’, he went on to comment ‘that if we could get the right colours (i.e. bright colours) we could get away with “murder” in regard to the making of the dresses’.[1] And colour is at the heart of Alastair Morton’s designs.

New ImageThis was my first Alastair Morton purchase – it’s a day dress from 1948 – and is an excellent example of one of his early floral designs. Like many of the designs included here you can see sketches and samples of his Horrockses’ work in the collections of Abbott Hall Art Gallery in Kendal. This wonderful collection shows the different colourways he had for each design, many are just in sketch form (so presumably these didn’t make it onto fabric). There are also a number of drawings which show Morton’s observational skills and his talent for translating these into repeating patterns.

Those who know me are aware I am a fan of the housecoat (I have many and will be writing about them here soon). This one is in a beautiful lilac Morton print. The curving bands of delicate flowers are arranged on a background of stars.

Horrockses purchased designs from a variety of sources including Parisian design studios and freelancers as well as from its own designers. But the engagement of Alastair Morton in April 1947, on a monthly retainer, was an inspired move. Morton had many years’ experience of textile design, being closely involved in his family’s furnishing fabric firm, Morton Sundour, and specifically a branch of the firm, Edinburgh Weavers, described by Nikolaus Pevsner in 1937 as ‘the most adventurous firm in the country’. [2] After the Second World War, Morton worked for Edinburgh Weavers on a half-time basis, allowing him to pursue other activities such as handloom weaving and designing fashion fabrics for Horrockses.

In return for his monthly retainer of  £62.10s, he was expected to provide at least 40 designs each year, which he supplied in repeat and in several colourways. [3] At first he dealt directly with Olive O’Neill who had been brought in by Horrockses as fashion adviser. These early designs were characterized by their bright colours and loosely drawn flowers, often arranged in horizontal coloured stripes, which were to be widely imitated by Horrockses’ rivals. These early designs were reviewed favourably by The Ambassador in April 1948 who commented on their ‘rich clear colours’. [4]

This yellow dress with designs of roses shows how occasionally Morton’s designs were adapted in the company’s design studio. In this case a grid pattern has been added to the ground.

This design below is an interesting example, it shows how the fabric was cut to create a horizontal arrangement of the pattern. This ‘bayadere’ stripe became the signature of Horrockses Fashions and was widely imitated.

The management of Horrockses Fashions agreed that Morton had played a crucial role in the company’s initial success and ‘undoubtedly set a fashion in Great Britain’.[5]

The firm continued to use him into the 1950s, although in 1949 some concern was expressed that its customers had ‘seen too much of the Alastair Morton designs’ and that it was striving to find a new designer with a ‘definite handwriting’.[6] In spite of this comment, the contract with Morton continued until 1955 when, due to increasing commitments at Edinburgh Weavers, he decided to end the arrangement.


Where to see Alastair Morton designs for Horrockses:

Harris Museum & Art Gallery, Preston (the Museum has many Morton examples in storage that can be viewed by appointment)

Abbott Hall Art Gallery, Kendal (collection can be accessed by appointment)


[1] Horrockses Fashions Limited. Extract from Verbatim Report of the Management Meeting. 29 March 1950 (LRO: DDVC Acc 7340 Box 12/3)

[2] Pevsner, N. An Enquiry into Industrial Art in England, Cambridge University Press, 1937, p.48.

[3] Agreement re. payments to Alastair Morton (LRO: DDVC Acc. Box 12/4)

[4] The Ambassador, April 1948

[5] Horrockses Fashions Limited. Extract from Verbatim Report of the Management Meeting. 27 July 1949 (LRO: DDVC Acc 7340 Box 12/3)

[6] Letter from Alastair Morton to Mr Leadbetter, 29 May 1955 (LRP: DDVC Acc. Box 12/4)

Further Reading

Boydell, C. Horrockses Fashions: Off the Peg Style in the ’40s and ’50s, V&A Publishing, 2010

Jackson, L. Alastair Morton and Edinburgh Weavers: visionary textiles and modern art, V&A Publishing, 20

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