Althea Mcnish
Althea Mcnish
Althea Mcnish

In 1951, Althea McNish, a 27-year-old artist from Trinidad embarked on a new journey in London, enrolling for a BSC degree in architecture. For a year, the aspiring young artist lived in the smog-filled capital unsure that she had made the right decision. Eventually, she chose to pivot from architecture to the world of printing and graphics, a move that would lead to her significant contribution to the textile printing industry in the UK and beyond.
During her postgraduate studies at the Royal College of Art, Althea's vibrant and colourful Caribbean-inspired prints began to garner national attention. Her designs, a stark contrast to the post-war textile industry's preference for greys, browns, and beiges, injected a much-needed burst of colour and dynamism.
After graduating, Althea McNish was immediately commissioned by Liberty. London’s iconic department store to design and produce a series of Liberty prints with which she later became synonymous; at the same time, she was awarded a contract to create a collection for Dior, which led to even more commissions from prestigious clients, including designing the fabrics for the official wardrobe of Queen Elizabeth II’s visit to Trinidad in 1966.
By now, McNish had become one of the most prominent women producing prints for the textile and fabric industry. Her exhibitions became legendary, and she became an integral part of the Caribbean Arts Movement in the UK, which included writers, artists, poets, dramatists, filmmakers, actors and musicians.
During this time, Althea met and married her lifelong partner, architect and Jeweler John Weiss. Together, they set up a home at 142 West Green Road, which would double as Althea’s studio for the next half a century. In April 2020, following the death of her husband two years earlier, Althea McNish passed away. She was 95.
On Monday, 15th May 2023, a blue plaque was placed on the home where Althea resided for 53 years to commemorate her contribution to the fabric and textile industry. It was unveiled on the 99th anniversary of her birth.
In 2022, a retrospective of her work, entitled Althea McNish: Colour is Mine, was mounted at the William Morris Gallery in Walthamstow, east London, sponsored by Liberty Fabrics.
The installation of the blue plaque at 142 West Green Road, made possible by the Nubian Jak Foundation, London Unseen, and supported by Haringey Council, is a significant step in recognizing Althea McNish's contributions to the fabric and textile industry and marks the beginning of a more extensive exploration of her work, leading up to a grand celebration of her centenary in 2024.
Location: 142 West Green Road, Tottenham, N15 5AD