Peter Collingwood was the outstanding British weaver. His many textiles, rugs, and ‘macrogauzes’ are accompanied by numerous books on weaving, notably ‘The Techniques of Rug Weaving’ that have become handbooks of the industry. Born in Marylebone to a classicist and a doctor, Collingwood was training as a doctor before discovering the loom. Always talented with his hands, he literally stumbled across a loom in an occupational therapy department of a hospital, and set about trying to unpick its technical secrets. Two years in the army at a young age also gave him lots of time to weave, as he built a portable loom and would travel in an army ambulance weaving scarves. On his return to London after another stint with the Red Cross, Collingwood was put in touch with Ethel Mairet, then the most recognised weaver in the country. His stay with her was important not only because it gave him his first insight into proper shuttle looms, but also because Mairet was uniquely engaged in the aesthetics of weaving, and it was of course the art of weaving that Collingwood would later bring out over his long career.
But Collingwood always let the technical side of weaving guide the aesthetic result: ‘I try to exploit what a technique will give me rather than impose a design on a technique’. When Collingwood penned his knowledge on weaving rugs, he had sought to clarify everything that previously he had to teach, so that he could stop teaching. Ironically, it was this book more than his weaving that catalyzed his recognition, resulting in endless teaching jobs and workshops all over the world. Collingwood’s material inventions are epitomised in his ‘Macrogauze’ hangings, where twisted and crossed threads are mapped in intricate artistic designs, enabled by a warp-dominant loom that he made himself. Collingwood died in 2008 as the most important British weaver of the twentieth century.