Mary Farmer

Mary Farmer

Woven Colours

'Colour is to me the single most powerful and emotive visual sensation.'
- Mary Farmer

Mary Farmer studied Fine Art at Beckenham School of Art (1958-1961) followed by a prestigious Digswell Arts Fellowship (1964). This was the visionary arts residency programme established by Henry Morris in 1957 and whose other early residents or ‘fellows’ included Michael Andrews, Peter Collingwood and Hans Coper.

Mary established her first studio in Guildford developing her ideas in both gouache and tapestry with the latter attracting early interest: the V & A Museum’s Circulation Department made an important acquisition of a monochrome rug and works were included in the significant US touring show of British design organised with the Smithsonian (1969-1971).


Mary Farmer's Float 1, 1982/3


Mary began teaching at Farnham Art School and further major awards from South East Arts (1979) and the Crafts Council (1980) cemented her position as a leading figure in innovative contemporary tapestry. In 1981 she and her husband, potter Terry Moores, acquired a wonderful early nineteenth-century wharf side building in Boston, Lincolnshire, which they converted into studios and living accommodation, and which remained her creative base throughout her life.

In 1983 she joined the Textile Department at the Royal College of Art, London as a tapestry tutor going on to establish and develop a newly independent Tapestry Course within the Fine Art Painting School until its closure in 1997. Her mastery of colour and inventive use of the language of abstraction in weave led to a growing number of invitations to exhibit both nationally and internationally with works acquired by the Government Art Collection; Sainsbury Centre; Crafts Council and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh. Important public commissions and acquisitions included the British Oxygen Company; Channel 4 Television and Lambeth Palace.

Her active career came to an end in the late 1990s following injury and illness which made it impossible for her to work. A modest memorial exhibition of extant material from her archive and studio is being organised in collaboration with her family this autumn in London.*

LOT 302 | § MARY FARMER (1940 - 2021)
FLOAT 1, 1982/1983 | £2,000 - £3,000 + fees


View Lot 302⇒


Ann Sutton’s acquisition of ‘Float One’ In 1983 coincided with another show organised by Ann herself for the John Hansard Gallery also in Southampton entitled ‘Attitudes to Tapestry’. Ann says about this work from her collection:

‘I knew Mary and was deeply interested in her work before I went to her exhibition 'Woven Colours' at Southampton City Art Gallery in 1983, where I fell in love with, and purchased, her red/blue masterpiece ‘Float 1’.

The thrusting red form angling into the blue ground beneath is breath-taking in its power and simplicity. The colour-depth of dyed wool, as opposed to paint, intensifies the image. Mary Farmer was a master of imagery and her chosen technique, tapestry weaving. The apparent simplicity of her images was probably responsible for her re-think of the traditional technique. She chose to weave on a traditional shaft loom, used usually for weaving cloth. This way she was able to insert different colours, linking them in the traditional tapestry way but ensuring perfect surfaces and clean juxtapositions.’



Mary went to considerable lengths to source fine wool (often from Sweden) and would dye wool herself if she could not find the exact tone or colour she needed for the work. She commented in an interview:

‘Colour is to me the single most powerful and emotive visual sensation. I use wool for its incomparable intensity and saturation of colour; tapestry for its richness and for the personal control possible over its construction and substance.’

Her work is included in several significant catalogues and publications including:

The Maker’s Eye

(Crafts Council, 1981)

Mary Farmer was one of 14 leading designers invited by the then (highly influential) Head of Exhibitions at the Crafts Council, Ralph Turner, to select objects that defined their personal experience and interests at the time. It proved a significant show which helped launch many careers and consolidate others.

British Craft Textiles

(Collins, 1985) organised and edited by Ann Sutton. This is a very comprehensive review of textiles in UK in the period.

Tapestry by Barty Phillips



We would like to thank Amanda Game for her assistance in cataloguing the current work.
Please email Philip Smith for further information -



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