Textile designer and art therapist, Elisabeth Tomalin (née Wallach) to a wealthy Jewish family in Dresden, Germany on 4 October 1912, the youngest of four children. Tomalin enrolled in Berlin's progressive, Jewish-owned Reimann Schule, where she was influenced in her distinctive approach to colour, and the design potential of mandalas and batiks. Under the Hitler regime, the School was forced to close, and Tomalin left without formal qualifications. Fleeing Germany alone in 1936, she arrived in London without a visa, unable to find suitable employment. Taking temporary refuge in Paris, she took on enough 'black market' work to create a portfolio and was then readmitted to Britain as a fully-fledged designer, securing work with Barlow & Company in Manchester, who manufactured printed silks, before the war affected the production of luxury goods.
During the war, Elisabeth, living in Primrose Hill, worked in the practice of modernist architect Ernő Goldfinger, and at the Exhibitions department of the Ministry of Information. Several portraits of Tomalin and her daughter were taken by émigrée photographer and spy, Edith Tudor-Hart one of which is now in the Ben Uri Collection. By May 1948, Tomalin was employed by Alexander Felgate in his silk printing business, who then introduced her to Marks and Spencer, where she was appointed head of the new textile print department from 1949, designing fabrics for colourful 'New Look' dresses for the masses. During the 1960s, having left M&S Elisabeth variously worked as a furnishing colour consultant at Heal & Son; a freelance designer of wrapping paper for J. Royle and for Slumberland; as well as a textile designer for Ram Son & Crocker.
Her interest in psychology remained, so in her sixties, she retrained as an art therapist in New York. In the early 1970s, she returned regularly to Germany to work with patients and trainees, eventually publishing on her methods, and assisting in establishing the first accredited post-graduate qualification for art therapists in Munich. She taught until the age of 94, holding seminars in Germany, Switzerland and Austria. Elisabeth Tomalin died in London, England on 8 March 2012. Her work is represented in UK collections including the Victoria & Albert Museum.