Anthropologist Nancy Stanfield studied at the Royal College of Art from 1923 to 1928, the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Central School of Art and Design. She lived in Nigeria with her botanist husband Dennis, between 1948 until 1967. Stanfield was a lecturer in teacher training in Western Nigeria between 1954 to 1963 and wrote A Handbook of Art Teaching for Tropical Schools in 1958.
She became interested in Nigerian crafts, particularly weaving and dyeing, writing several articles on adire cloth. Nancy Stanfield was commissioned in 1966 by the Horniman Museum to make a collection of all the tools, materials and apparatus used in the crafts of Adire weaving, pottery, spinning and indigo dyeing, as practised today in the Western region of Nigeria. At the time she was working at the Department of Forest Research in Western Nigeria. Stanfield had been inspired by a visit to a Yoruba market in 1948. Her collection was exhibited at the Horniman Museum in 1967.