In the last blog, we looked at a textile panel created by Tibor Reich for the Garrick Jubilee Bicentenary in 1969. At this point in time, Reich already had an established relationship with the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. The Trust had commissioned him in 1964 to decorate the new Shakespeare Centre on Henley Street. For this project, he designed and manufactured a variety of carpets, curtains, textile panels, and wall hangings. In this blog, we will take a look at how Tibor Reich brought the new 1964 Shakespeare Centre to life with his textile furnishings.
Why was Tibor Reich chosen by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust for the 1964 commission?
The Stratford connection
In 1946, Tibor Reich relocated to Stratford upon Avon and took over Clifford Mill, converting it into his own design and manufacturing company, Tibor Limited. The company provided employment for local people during the tough post-war period, and it quickly began to enjoy widespread success. During the 1950s and early 1960s, Tibor Ltd. designs and furnishings were commissioned by the Concorde airline, Piccadilly Hotel in Manchester, Coventry Cathedral, and Vauxhall motors to name a few. Some of his earliest designs had names inspired by the local area: ‘Stratford’ and ‘Henley’, after the street where Shakespeare’s birthplace is located.
Innovator and artist
In his approach to textiles, Reich was modern and innovative. His company was, at the time, a rare blend of design and manufacture under one roof. Having studied both of these aspects in the Department of Textile Industries at the University of Leeds, he was in tune with the production process and materials, and therefore able to create new ways of blending materials to achieve a unique product. Some of his innovative spirit may have also sprung from the period of wartime rationing in which he was developing his trade. This certainly pushed him to blend utility and make something special out of what was available.
He was a proponent of colour and geometric patterns, and he followed current trends and ideas in the art world. New technologies also captivated him, leading him to explore screenprinting and to mimic the repetitive look of photographic negatives in his work. This new technique he developed, he named ‘fotexur’.
The 1964 Shakespeare Centre
The image above shows the Conference Room in the Shakespeare Centre. You can clearly see the 'Forest of Arden' carpet that was designed in 1964 by Tibor Ltd. The carpet design was inspired by an aerial photograph of woodland with its harmony of greens, grey and black. The Conference Room remains largely unchanged, the furniture in the picture was designed by Gordon Russell and in the far corner you can just make out a statue of Lady Macbeth by John Skelton.
This is a tapestry wall hanging commissioned for the 1964 anniversary celebrations. It features scenes from Shakespeare's plays and currently hangs outside the Conference Room
The photograph above shows the Stratford Room, which is now an exhibition room. Many of the original features of this room are currently hidden, including the stage. The original stage curtains, a detail of which can be seen at the top of this blog, have been taken down and are being looked after by the Collections Department. They show the 'Age of Kings' pattern which was designed in 1964. The pattern represents the Kings of England from Shakespeare's histories. Eight different colour ways would have been available when the fabric was originally produced.
If you are interested in seeing more of Tibor Reich's designs, you can visit the Clothworkers Digital Archive hosted by the University of Leeds International Textile Archive.