Shirley Craven would create a series of drawings, paintings or collages from which a pattern would evolve. She experimented with a wide range of media, including pencil, crayon, pastel, gouache, ink, even household emulsion. Her designs were on the same scale as the finished textile, created on wide rolls of paper hung up on the wall or laid on the floor.
Although Shirley Craven’s textile designs were mostly abstract, they were informed by acute observations of the natural world. The precision of her observational drawings reveal the keenness of her perceptions and her instinctive ability to compose and structure a design.
Her designs sometimes referenced Op Art and patterns within patterns. In At Home (1970), for example, the parquetry design is an abstraction of a domestic interior with different objects hidden in the jigsaw of herringbone and zigzag patterns.
Other designs, such as Bix (1968), are influenced by Jazz music, creating an analogy between improvisation in music and the patterns, rhythms and movement in design.
The small-scale hands-on way of working at Hull Traders suited Craven perfectly as it meant she could control all aspects of design and manufacturing. Colour was very important in Craven’s designs. The three colourways of Compass (1962), for example, were inspired by the changing weather during a day on the North Yorkshire Moors.
‘Colour fascinates me,’ said Craven. ‘I’m interested in the reaction of one colour to another. I could never just use form’