PhD student at King’s College London | writer, producer, and host of the Sew What? podcast | research associate at Witney Antiques
Isabella Rosner is an art historian who studies material culture from the seventeenth through nineteenth century. She is an expert in the study of early modern women’s needlework, especially British examples, and schoolgirl samplers across all time periods. Isabella is a 2023 BBC/AHRC New Generation Thinker and a final year PhD student at King’s College London, where she studies Quaker women’s needle, shell, and wax work before 1800. She is funded by KCL’s Centre for Doctoral Studies. The title of her thesis is ‘”Women Professing Godliness with Good Works”: British and American Quaker Women’s Decorative Arts Before Ackworth and Westtown, 1650-1800’. For her PhD, Isabella is focusing on seventeenth-century needlework made by Quaker girls in and around London and eighteenth-century wax and shellwork made by Quaker girls and women in Philadelphia.
Isabella is working towards becoming a textile curator after completing her PhD, a dream sparked by her internships and positions at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Fitzwilliam Museum, and Colonial Williamsburg. Her passion for making historic objects accessible to all led her to create Sew What?, a podcast about historic needlework and those who stitched it. Isabella writes, directs, produces, and hosts the podcast, which has thus far had 74 episodes including discussions about Gee’s bend quilts, mourning hairwork, Māori weaving, schoolgirl samplers, and interviews with textile historians, makers, researchers, and museum professionals. Sew What? has had three formal seasons and now is releasing one-off episodes on a less regular basis.
In addition to her PhD and podcast work, Isabella manages the social media presence of Witney Antiques, Britain’s leading antiques dealership of historic needlework and textiles. Isabella manages Witney’s Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, in addition to running a successful Twitter account dedicated to her research and objects of interest and an Instagram account celebrating embroidery from all regions and time periods. She is currently co-curating an exhibition and co-authoring a book with Rebecca Scott of Witney Antiques.
Isabella’s work appears in print often, having been published by Textile History, Journal of Early Modern Studies, Art Herstory, and the Costume Society’s blog among other publications. She has spoken virtually and in-person at venues including but not limited to the Royal School of Needlework, Decorative Arts Trust, Association for Art History, and Embroiderers’ Guild of America.
Isabella is a member of the Textile Society (UK), Textile Society of America, Costume Society of America, Historians of Eighteenth-Century Art and Architecture, and the Decorative Arts Trust.