George Wood: The story behind our Looms

8 Jun 2021

Heritage is in our DNA; we are proud to tell stories through our textiles whilst creating treasured heirlooms that are passed down through generations. As such, we are delighted to be able to tell the tale of the unique heritage of our own heirlooms, our looms. 

 

Our two vintage looms were handcrafted by the exceptional British engineer and Craftsman; George Wood. 

 

 A creative boy, George could read before he started school and was enjoying Dickens novels by the age of 9! He took leading roles in the Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society; he played violin and cello in a quartet and orchestra, as well as learning to play the harp. At the age of six, his father encouraged his practical skills by providing him with a converted table as a workbench which proved to be the catalyst to a lifetime of craftsmanship for George; he put his exceptional craftsmanship and woodwork skills to good use in his spare time, crafting violins and pieces of fine furniture.

 

At the tender age of thirteen, George began his career as a textile engineer when he was apprenticed to the Shepshed Lace Manufacturing Company in Leicestershire. 

 When war broke out George remained employed in engineering, working on aircraft production in Hucknall and Chesterfield and having met his wife in 1943, they were married within 6 weeks, living at a new home in Loughborough. 

 

His entry into weaving began when he turned to books and studied weaving in order to produce a new hearth rug for his home due to wartime shortages; using technical books he built his first loom and was soon producing cloth. After further studying production and design, with a course at Loughborough College, his big break came in January 1949 when he was invited to join the staff of the School of Art, Loughborough College, as a full-time teacher of weaving. 

 

Soon realising the inadequacies of their existing handlooms George set about designing, and making, new looms using modern engineering techniques and (luckily for us!) unlocking the next chapter of his career as a craftsman of looms.

 

In the early 50s, George’s loom-making business thrived, first attracting the attention of HM Inspectors of Education and then attracting visits and orders from Educational Authorities for their art colleges. His customer base quickly grew from colleges of art up and down the country to include textile companies, independent designers, and private individuals weaving from home. George always took great care to listen to his customer's needs and was happy to make personal visits to customers to solve technical problems and give advice. 

 

A family affair, looms were constructed in a workshop next to the family home whilst George’s wife Frances did all of the bookkeeping and correspondence. Alongside this Frances was also making calico loom cloths on her old Singer hand sewing machine as their two daughters helped to write out labels for the parcels and crates sent out to customers. Working alone on the looms themselves, George only ever employed one assistant, a former student, very briefly.

 

Growing in demand and requiring more space, George and his family moved to a new home where a larger workshop and power tools helped production in 1955.  Once again demand increased and the family moved again in 1965 to a country property where he converted old cowsheds into a spacious workshop and timber store. 

 

He retired from Loughborough College of Art in 1969, taking more time for his other interests in furniture making, gardening, and travel, but he was always happy to show visiting customers around his estate. His last loom was built in 1988, number 307 for Derby, and was built to accommodate a computer. 

 

George Wood’s extraordinary contribution to woven textiles was recognised in 1995 when he was awarded an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Design DDES, at Loughborough College of Art and Design. He died in 1996 aged 92.

 

The demand for a George Wood dobby loom far outstripped his ability to craft them. His looms are rare, sought-after items of beauty, and, just like our Signature pieces, each is a hand-crafted, one-of-a-kind treasure to be loved throughout a lifetime and cherished as an heirloom.

 

We are currently on the lookout for a third George Wood loom, so please do get in touch if you own one as we would love to give it a new lease of life and ensure these beautiful looms remain in use for future generations. 

 

We are thrilled to have shared the story of our looms and we would like to thank George Wood’s daughter, Mary Wortley for taking the time to contact us and reveal a full picture of the life of this incredible man, whose timeless pieces of engineering, quality, and beauty endure at the heart of our brand.