Thanks to the folks at Elizabeth Bradley Designs for the permission to reprint their lovely article about Elizabeth Bradley.
Liz Bradley had been collecting and restoring original Victorian needlework patterns and pieces for many years before deciding to pursue needlework as a business venture. After leaving university in 1969, she ventured into business as an antiques dealer, operating from her house in West End, Beaumaris. As her business gained momentum, she discovered a gap in the market for trading in samplers and hand-painted charts, and in 1979 she became a specialist needlework dealer. Although there was a growing fashion for collecting Victorian animal wool work pieces in the 1980s, there was a scarcity of good quality original pieces of needlework. A collector planted the idea that she could produce her own Victorian animal kits in March 1986, and in October of the same year Liz established Elizabeth Bradley Designs and launched her first kit, the King Charles Spaniel. The Spotted Dog followed soon afterwards, and they were joined by 10 other animals to make the collection of 12 Victorian Animals designs we know today.
It was while out hunting for samplers in Bermondsey Market that Liz discovered her first Berlin wool work charts. First produced in Berlin in the early 19th century, on first glance the charts look like brightly coloured mosaics. The designs were printed in black on to cream paper, before all the individual squares were coloured in by hand. Liz modelled the charts for her kits on these nineteenth century charts, doubling the size of them to make the charts easier to follow.
As the business grew, so did the need for more space. Liz bought and converted an old chapel near her house to use as headquarters, and the little stone garage in between the Chapel and the West End house became her studio. A shop devoted to Liz’s designs opened in Beaumaris in 1990. Over the next 20 years the company moved from strength to strength. Drawing on her experience and knowledge of Victorian needlework traditions, Liz continued to create new designs and to compile a series of three needlework books. In 2001 she took the decision to retire and focus on her artwork, the shop was sold and the entire company moved to a new home at Plas Bodfa, Llangoed, with the addition of a brand new tea room.
In 2006 the company relocated to Hungerford, before finally moving to its current location in Oxford in 2008. In spite of this, the company has kept its strong ties with Wales. Pieces of Elizabeth Bradley needlework can be found in some of the reception rooms and bedrooms of the Old Bulls Head Inn, Beaumaris. The production of the kits and wool continues to be carried out in Anglesey, and three of our team members at the production facility have been with Elizabeth Bradley Designs since its early days in the little Chapel in Beaumaris.