Hull Traders: Revolutionary Fabrics

Who are Shirley Craven and Hull Traders?

Hull Traders was a unique textile and manufacturing enterprise, whose fabrics and furniture epitomise the creativity of Sixties’ art and design. Although Hull Traders takes its name from its founder Tristram Hull, rather than the city, Hull happens to be the birthplace of Shirley Craven who spearheaded the company for much of its heyday.


Shirley Craven was Colour and Design Consultant for Hull Traders from 1959, and for twenty years designed a third of their fabrics and personally selected all their other designs. Peter Neubert was the enlightened owner of Hull Traders, who left much of the creative direction to Shirley Craven. Her choice of designs were eclectic and visionary, ranging in style from Abstract Expressionism to Op Art and Pop Art. In total, forty artists and designers contributed to Hull Traders’ collections, including renowned painters and sculptors such as Eduardo Paolozzi, Ivon Hitchens and leading artist-textile designers such as Althea McNish.


In 1966 Hull Traders launched their revolutionary tomotom furniture range, made from giant cardboard tubes and designed by Shirley Craven’s husband, Bernard Holdaway. These were based entirely on circular forms – drums, cylinders and cloverleaf shapes and painted in bright colours. Cheap, stylish and fun, tomotom became an icon of the 60s pop era.


Hull Traders closed in 1980 but Shirley Craven’s designs and those of other artist-designers who worked for the company still look as fresh and original today.




Document icon Learning article provided by: Ferens Art Gallery, Hull | 

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