Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures

School of Design

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1 & 75

Image of Mary Barker, 1900s

Can you imagine being the only woman or man on your university course?

Come and explore the life and work of Mary Barker, the first woman to be accepted into the textile industries course at the University of Leeds. Enrolled into the school in 1926, she was the only woman amongst the seventy-five men on her course!

Mary Barker’s story begins with her love of art and creativity; from an early age she describes herself as being ‘bitten by the art bug.’ Barker was born in 1907 and spent her early years in Somerset surrounded by nature — throughout her career, this strongly influenced her designs. She grew up with a background in sciences and a passion for art, and combined these two talents on her course at the University of Leeds and Leeds College of Art. This gave her the opportunity to mix technical weaving skills and creative elements of design.

As her career progressed, her work became increasingly abstract and experimental. Upon completing her course, Barker began a successful career in industry and design and became a highly respected teacher. She taught at Brighton School of Art and lectured  around the world, receiving an MBE for her services to her craft in 1992.

1 & 75 will showcase a selection of Barker’s works as well as explore her experiences at the university. Being the only woman on her  course presented many challenges, and these will be revealed by a closer look at photos and her autobiography, Tangled Threads. While she was undoubtedly treated differently for being a woman, this did not stop her from becoming a leading craftswoman and teacher.

Location: ULITA – An Archive of International Textiles
Opening hours: Tuesdays to Thursdays 09:30 – 16:30

This exhibition is curated by MA Art Gallery and Museum Studies students from the University of Leeds.

© Copyright Leeds 2017