Terence Conran was still a student at Central St Martins when he designed this fabric in 1949 for David Whitehead Ltd, who exhibited it at The Festival of Britain. The Festival promoted the most progressive of British design at a large exhibition on the South Bank of the Thames. A large number of David Whitehead's fabrics were chosen for the festival. Whiteheads was founded in 1815 by three brothers and David Whiteheads founded in 1927 as a subsidary company. Orignally they produced awnings dyed Alizarine red, largely for the fairground market. Fabrics were conservative in character and the slump of the 30's and the WW2 curtailed production. In 1945 the chairman, made two important decisions which increased the production of the company. He decided to equip the mills with the most modern machinery they could buy, which gave the company the capacity to produce contemporary fabrics in volume. The second was the appointment in 1948 of John Murray, an architect with no previous textile training. Murray transformed the company's image by employing young artist designers to produce exciting and contemporary designs under the new trade name of David Whitehead Fabrics. Jacqueline Groag, Marian Mahler, John Piper, Roger Nicholson and Mitzi Cunliffe were all well known designers who worked for the company Conran produced designs for Whiteheads for a number of years and went on to set up Conran Fabrics with his wife Shirley. The Chequers design was later used in 1957 by Conran for his range of ceramics manufactured by W R Midwinter Ltd of Burslem. 2011 was the 60th anniversary of the Festival of Britain.
Chequers designed for the Festival of Britain, screen printed rayon by Rawtenstal, the white ground divided into an irregular graph with squares of red and grey, others empty and some with black repeat designs of lines and squiggles,
Length 5ft 2 in; 1.58 m
Width 3ft 4 in; 1.02 m
Left hand side at top has a small area of machine darning. Very top 1 1/2 rows have some imperfections. Left hand side in the first vertical row there are some yellowish marks. Right hand side 2 vertical rows in it is as if a warp thread is missing. Bopth selvedges are machine stitches, which could of course be removed. Some of the red rectangles have a little colour removed. A darn in the centre.
The fabric could always be hung vertically instead of horizontally. You could remove the outer edges all the way round. Or it could be cut up so you only have perfect pieces. For instance it would be great for cushions.
Peat, Alan David Whitehead Ltd. Artist Designed Textiles 1952-1969 p 13.
All images and text © meg-andrews.com 2019