Susan Bosence archive

Scope and Content

The archive consists of:

  • Personal documents
  • Correspondence
  • Technical material, including dye notes and recipes
  • Documents and photographs relating to exhibitions of Bosence's work, 1961-1991
  • Order books & accounts
  • Photographs & slides of work by Bosence
  • Miscellaneous photographs & slides
  • Written works by Susan Bosence, including manuscripts & lecture notes
  • Press cuttings and articles
  • Miscellaneous documents

Administrative / Biographical History

Susan Bosence was born in Luton, Bedfordshire in 1913 . She worked at the New Education Fellowship in London, moving to the post of secretary to W. B. Curry, the headmaster of Dartington Hall School, Devon in 1939 . She married Wilfred Bosence, a teacher at Dartington, in 1942. Whilst raising a family at Dartington she began, without formal training, to produce printed and dyed fabrics for domestic use.

Bosence's introduction to block printed textiles was through the Elmhirsts, who owned the Dartington estate and who had examples of Phyllis Barron and Dorothy Larcher's work from the 1920's and 1930's. She visited Barron and Larcher's home in 1951 and Barron encouraged and advised her when she first started working with textiles, becoming Barron's only 'student'. Block printing developed gradually using lino-printed patterns. Her designs were developed from close observation of landscape and nature or were purely abstract, often incorporating spots or stripes. Many early experiments focused on resist-dyeing, combining wax and stitch-resists on cotton. Her favourite dyes included indigo and rust.

In the 1960's  Bosence planned and opened a dyehouse and classroom for teaching at the Adult Education Centre, Shinner's Bridge, Dartington. Here she ran classes and also carried out her own work in collaboration with Annette Morel. In 1966  she moved to a converted barn in Devon where she continued to develop experiments with natural and synthetic dyes. An exhibition at the Ceylon Tea Centre, in 1961, of dyed and patterned cottons, linens and silks brought numerous private commissions and part-time teaching jobs at art colleges, including the new Diploma AD course in Textiles at Camberwell School of Art, London and West Surrey Institute of Art and Design in Farnham.

This pattern of life continued for fifteen years, until the late 1970's when she began to work alone, except preparing for exhibitions when she would have assistance from Heather Williams and others.

In 1992  a fire caused by a collision with the van carrying back her work from an exhibition organised by Plymouth Arts Centre tragically destroyed much of her life's work. However, with her assistance, Anne Hinkins, she was able to reassemble many examples of her work to form the handbook housed today at the Crafts Study Centre. She continued working and exhibiting until the early 1990's .

In 1985Hand Block Printing and Resist Dyeing was published by David & Charles. She was awarded an MBE. She died in Sigford, Devon in 1996 .


The archive material is arranged in the original order in which it was deposited at the CSC.

Access Information

The archival material may be viewed by appointment only.


This entry was compiled by Becky Lyle, Submissions Officer for the project and by Jean Vacher, Collections Manager at the Crafts Study Centre. The biography was written by Frances Lord.

Other Finding Aids

A catalogue is available onsite.

Conditions Governing Use

The photocopying of archival material is not allowed. Written permission must be sought before any archival material is published.

Appraisal Information

None timetabled


None expected

Related Material

The Crafts Study Centre holds other material relating to the Susan Bosence archive in the

  • Susan Bosence textile archive archive
  • Phyllis Barron and Dorothy Larcher archive
  • Phyllis Barron and Dorothy Larcher textile archive
  • Bernard Leach archive
  • Katherine Pleydell-Bouverie archive
  • Muriel Rose archive

Also see access points


Selected bibliography

Colour into Cloth exhibition catalogue, Crafts Council, 1984

Obituary by Deryn O'Connor, Crafts magazine, May/June 1996 , issue no 140

Powers, Alan Sources of Inspiration, Crafts magazine, March/April 1993, issue no 121