Anna Maria Garthwaite – a remarkable woman

Anna Maria Garthwaite, a remarkable story about a remarkable woman

In 1728, Anna Maria Garthwaite came to London to become one of the most prodigious and talented silk designers ever. She produced over a thousand designs in a thirty five year period and showed great business skills as well prodigious creative talent.

Name plate on house of Anna Garthwaite
Name plate on the house of Anna Maria Garthwaite Spitalfields

 

Anna Maria came to Spitalfields with the express intention of using her artistic talents in the silk industry. She settled in an area where almost every building was related to the production of silk. She purchased a house on the corner of Wilkes St and Princelet St where she would receive clients and create her intricate floral designs. The house today looks much as it would have done when Anna Maria Garthwaite purchased it.

Anna Maria Garthwaite

It is not known how she learnt the art of design but perhaps more interestingly she understood the concepts of scaling in design and the use of repeated patterns. Many of her patterns are still in existence and carry details of the design, the date and sometimes the name of the weaver employed to create the material.

Her designs were very popular in America. The American gentry were prevented from trading with France by the English Navigation Acts and so were quick to grasp the new designs out of England. The French silk industry was experiencing troubles of it’s own with resentment from silk workers towards the introduction of new looms.

There is a freshness and familiarity about her designs, her influence can be seen in the Art Nouveau period and later, in William Morris’s designs.

Anna Maria Garthwaite
Watercolour by Anna Maria Garthwaite

Find out more about Anna Maria Garthwaite

The best place to see Anna’s work is the Victoria and Albert Museum in London or read the novel ‘Figures in Silk’ by Vanora Bennett, for a colourful insight into the early silk industry in London and the part women played.