Philip Sanderson cutting off the black cat tapestry at West Dean Tapestry Studio


Commissioning a tapestry is a joint adventure, and you are encouraged from the initial enquiry stage to visit the Tapestry Studio and discuss your ideas with us. We maintain strong relationships with clients, artists and patrons and the collaborative approach ensures a successful project.

Student making a tapestry

Overview of main approaches

  • Working with established artists
  • Developing site specific designs
  • Recreating existing tapestries


Commissioning a Tapestry usually commences with a visit to the Studio and detailed discussion with the Head of Tapestry Studio and the Creative Director. You may already have a design, an idea, a favourite artist, or just the desire for a tapestry.

Creative dialogue develops a successful working environment. The artwork or designs are discussed, site visits are arranged, and budgets negotiated.

When working with an artist, it is often the case that you already have someone in mind and may have already contacted them. If this is not the case the Studio can undertake this on your behalf.

If it is a site specific design you are interested in we suggest a design brief is formed by you to offer the designer some guidelines. Both initial and final designs can then be made and at both stages you, as the client, will be presented with the work.

Once the artwork is approved a black and white line drawing called a cartoon is drawn. This becomes a guide from which the weavers translate the painting or design. The loom is then prepared to the appropriate warp setting, producing a fine or wider spacing as the design or painting dictates.

The Studio dyes all of its own yarn according to the colour palette. The weaving now begins. Depending on the size of the tapestry this can take months and sometimes years. Clients are welcome to visit the Studio during the project, by arrangement.

Once the weaving is complete, clients often attend the cutting off ceremony, where they are invited to cut the tapestry from the loom. The work will be finished to a high standard to prepare it for hanging.

Dye laboratory

The Tapestry Studio has its own specialised dyeing facilities and over 35 years' experience dyeing worsted yarns using the acid milling system. We can dye any colour. Prior to dyeing, the weavers begin a dialogue with the artist about the translation of colours.

Working from the original artwork a bespoke palette of colours and tones begins to emerge from the dye laboratory. From subtle tonal ranges to bright and bold colours, linear marks to transparent washes, the combination of colour and process work together to create an impressive translation of the image into woven tapestry.

The Worshipful Company of Dyers, who focus on the development and support of dyeing techniques, helped to refurbish the dye laboratory at West Dean in recent years.

Colourful thread used in the West Dean Tapestry Studio


For further details on commissioning a tapestry please contact Studio Leader, Philip Sanderson, who will be pleased to provide further information or arrange a visit to the Studio.

Tel: 01243 818233
Email: [email protected]

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