Hull Ferens Art Gallery celebrates iconic 1960s textile and furniture design

By Natalie Hunt | 24 November 2009
a highly patterned red fabric

Althea McNish, Golden Harvest (1959)

Exhibition: Shirley Craven and Hull Traders – Revolutionary Post-War Fabrics and Furniture, Ferens Art Gallery, Hull, until January 3 2010

Revolutionary post-war fabrics and furniture have been brought out of obscurity to take centre stage at the Ferens Art Gallery in Hull.

The exhibition, funded by a £100,000 Arts Council grant, is centred on the work of Hull designer Shirley Craven and the Hull Traders.

It aims to show how the work of this influential group of artists was responsible for transforming perceptions of post-war design.

a bright red table and chairs

Bernard Holdaway, Cloverleaf table, tomotom furniture (1966)

Famous for big, bold abstracts in flamboyant colours, Shirley won a string of Design Centre Awards in the 1960s for works such as Le Bosquet, Shape, Division and Simple Solar.

Design historian and exhibition curator Lesley Jackson says the exhibition "puts Shirley back in the spotlight where she belongs."

The Gallery is showcasing more than 70 works from dozens of designers, alongside photographs, advertising and ephemera. It also features the iconic tomotom furniture.

two models sat on large cylindrical chairs

Models with tomotom furniture (1966)

Designed by Shirley's husband and fellow Hull Trader, Bernard Holdaway, tomotom consists of brightly coloured, disposable cardboard furniture based entirely on circular forms.

A favourite of George Best, it is often described as the Ikea of the 1960s, as it was low cost and could literally be thrown away if it got ruined.

Hull Traders was named after its founder, Tristram Hull, rather than the city, but Peter Neubert took over the company two years after it was set up (in 1957) and appointed Shirley Craven as Art Director.

a sketch of a trumpet and a train

Eduardo Paolozzi and Nigel Henderson, Big Drawings (circa 1957-58)

All of Hull Trader's designs were screenprinted by hand using pigment dyes up until their close in 1980.

Other influential members of the group included sculptor Eduardo Paolozzi, painter Ivon Hitchens and Althea McNish, Britain's first black textile designer.

"I am delighted to be back in my old stomping ground at Ferens Art Gallery," said Craven.

"I would like to congratulate the Ferens and the curators in having the vision to mount an ambitious textile exhibition of this kind."

The exhibition moves to Bankfield Museum, Halifax, March 13 – May 9; King's Lynn Arts Centre, King's Lynn, September 18 – October 30; Harris Museum and Art Gallery, Preston, January 15 – March 5 2011

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