Portraits: Women Designers


Shirley Craven

Black and white portrait of Shirley Craven in front of her fabric designsTextile Designer (1934-)

Born in Hull in 1934, Shirley Craven studied art at Hull College of Art and then printed textiles at the Royal College of Art, 1955-58.

In 1959, aged 25, she started work at Hull Traders, a textiles firm founded two years earlier in Willesden, London, by entrepreneur Tristam Hull, who had ‘ambitious artistic aspirations’, (Jackson, 2007, p.104). In 1963, she became Chief Designer and a Director of the firm, where she worked for nearly two decades. In 1960 Design magazine described the company as having a ‘high reputation for producing adventurous and exciting designs’, which they attributed to the tight control of Craven, who displayed a ‘dramatic and original handling of colour and pattern’ (Design, 1960, p.185) During this time Althea McNish and sculptor Eduardo Paolozzi also produced designs for Hull Traders. According to the Textile Society, Craven ‘pioneered an aesthetic more akin to painting than textiles’, breaking ‘all the rules’ and ‘revolutionising post-war furnishings with her dramatic, unconventional large-scale designs’. Her bold patterns and colours were commercially successful, capturing the style of the swinging sixties and received critical acclaim. She won the Design Centre awards three times: 1960, for ‘Le Bosquet’; 1964, for ‘Shape’, ‘Division’ and ‘Sixty-Three’; and 1968 for ‘Five’ and ‘Simple Solar’. Craven was a member of the Society of Industrial Artists and Designers (now CSD) and married to the designer Bernard Holdoway, (1934-2009).

Further reading:

  • Lesley Jackson, Shirley Craven and Hull Traders, 2009.
  • Jackson also curated an exhibition entitled, Shirley Craven and Hull Traders at the Ferens Gallery, Hull, in 2009-2010.


Original image reference: GB-1837-DES-DCA-30-1-POR-C-77-1. Design Council Archive, University of Brighton Design Archives.

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Sirpa Kutilainen • November 10, 2015

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  1. Sarah Holdaway March 3, 2022 - 6:04 pm Reply

    Hi, I’m not sure where you got your information from, but to let you know Shirley craven is very much alive and well. Please could you rectify the dates on your blog.
    Thank you – Shirley’s granddaughter

    • Sirpa Kutilainen October 3, 2022 - 8:56 am Reply

      Many apologies for the oversight – the dates have been amended. Many thanks for bringing this to our attention!

    • Vicki Redpath-Watson November 5, 2022 - 11:17 am Reply

      Hi Sarah,

      I apologise for contacting you this way, but I was wondering if your grandmother created three of the artworks I inherited from my father thirty years ago. I know nothing about them, but have loved them since I was a small child. Even the artist’s first name is unknown to me. Two are signed Craven 68 and one has two signatures and two dates: Craven 68 and J Trevor Craven 1965, as you can imagine these only serve to add to my confusion

      After stumbling across a blog about Shirley and looking at more images it seems to me that there are some design similarities with some of Craven’s work. I wonder if they could be preliminary designs.

      If you think there might be a possible connection I could send you images. However, if you think I am mistaken and wasting your time feel free to ignore this message.

      Vicki Redpath-Watson

  2. Shirley Craven (b.1934) British Textile Designer
  3. Shirley Craven: Influential British Textile Designer - Encyclopedia of Design

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