Peter Collingwood Collection

Scope and Content

Collection of material about Peter Collingwood

Administrative / Biographical History

Peter Collingwood (1922-2008) studied medicine at St Mary's, London, qualifying in 1946. He was called up to the army and served as an officer in the Royal Army Medical Corps, and in 1949, after his military service had ended, he went to Transjordan to work for the Red Cross with Arab refugees. He had never been dedicated to the idea of a career in medicine, and after a year in Transjordan, he returned to England and wrote for advice to Ethel Mairet, whose pupil he became. At Gospels, PC learned much and met many weavers from both UK and Europe. He then worked with one, Barbara Sawyer, who had a loom in a garden shed in Putney.

In 1952 he was offered a position as assistant in Alastair Morton's workshop in Croftfoot, Hawkshead. After 12 months at Croftfoot, he set up his own workshop to make rugs, located at St Stephen's Workshops, behind a house in Elthorne Road, London N.19.
He started making small rugs using the wool from Morton Sundour Fabrics, and offering them for sale at £4 to shops or £5 to private buyers. Three London shops provided an outlet, but no shops outside the capital showed any interest. From 1954 onwards he also taught at a number of London art schools, and in 1962 he began annual teaching visits to the US.

PC moved to Digswell in 1958, and it was here that he met Elizabeth Brunston, whom he married in 1962. He also made the acquaintance there of the trust's first potter, Hans Coper, with whom he was later to exhibit. Benefitting from contacts with architects and planners, he received commissions for large works from Shell and BP. For his rugs, he began to experiment with a practice he called shaft switching, for which he adapted the loom to enable him to weave quickly designs that would normally use a slow tapestry method. Another innovation was weaving the weft at an angle; this he named anglefells.

From 1962 workshops in the US became a regular occurrence. He was able to buy an old school at Nayland, near Colchester in Essex, in 1964, which he converted into a home and studio, where his son, Jason Collingwood, was to join him as a weaver in the 1980s. By the time of the move, he was developing his Macrogauze wall hangings.

He expanded his weaving repertoire to include shaft switching (an invention for which he devised a time-saving lever platform) and the sprang technique, in which large hangings were produced in thick jute on special frames designed and made by him on a primitive jig.

He found that his teaching activities, as he contrived to keep fast-working students busy, sparked ideas for a series of definitive books, whose clarity was much admired. His first was The Techniques of Rug Weaving (1968), followed by The Techniques of Sprang (1974), The Techniques of Tablet Weaving (1982), The Maker's Hand: A Close Look at Textile Structures (1987), Rug Weaving Techniques: Beyond the Basics (1991), and The Techniques of Ply-split Braiding (1998).

He staged solo exhibitions in the UK, USA, Scandinavia, Australia, New Zealand and Japan, and joint shows in London with Hans Coper (in 1968 at the Victoria and Albert Museum and in 2002 at Galerie Besson). A 1998 retrospective toured the UK, Sweden and the US, and his work is in many permanent collections.
He was appointed OBE in 1974.

Arrangement

PCC/1 Letters to Susi Dunsmore from Peter Collingwood, 1992-2010

Access Information

Archive material may be viewed by appointment only.

Note

This entry was compiled in October 2021 by Shirley Dixon, Crafts Study Centre Archivist.

Other Finding Aids

Catalogue on Crafts Study Centre database. A pdf copy is available on request.

Conditions Governing Use

Written permission must be sought before any archival material is published.

Appraisal Information

None timetabled.

Accruals

It is likely that further Collingwood-related material will be offered to the CSC. Material of interest will be added to this collection.

Related Material

Peter Collingwood's papers are in the Crafts Study Centre (COL); and Susi Dunsmore's correspondence with Marianne Straub has been added to a Marianne Straub Collection (MSC)