Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



Textile Society of America 9th Biennial Symposium, (2004).


Presented at “Appropriation • Acculturation • Transformation,” Textile Society of America 9th Biennial Symposium, Oakland, California, October 7-9, 2004. Copyright 2004 Textile Society of America.


Whenever she taught, Lillian Elliott (1930-1994) arrived for class carrying bags bulging with historic world textiles–to illustrate a technique, a crazy, unexpected juxtaposition of color, a thread gone wild–all to suggest new possibilities. Abundance and generosity dominated; they fed her visual ideas and those of her students. Elliott valued most her teaching in the Department of Design at UC Berkeley, as a colleague of Ed Rossbach’s. Her curious mind led her in multiple directions simultaneously, as did his. Those of us lucky enough to study with both of them, entered the field as artists and teachers, changed. Their influence spread as former students scattered far beyond California, some becoming teachers and passing on the vision of mentors inspired by textile history.

Elliott received her BA from Wayne State in 1952 and her MFA from Cranbrook in 1955. She was hired as the token woman designer in the Styling Division at Ford Motor Company, where she worked until 1958. Despite never having a tenured academic position, she taught part time for many years. In addition to Cal, she taught at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, California College of Arts and Crafts, University of California Davis, Pacific Basin School of Textile Arts, Fiberworks /John F. Kennedy School, and San Francisco State University.

This paper will present Elliott’s contribution to 20th-century fiber, demonstrating the innovative work that earned her recognition in the Archives of American Art, part of the Smithsonian Institution.