Exhibition: Tibor Reich


4) Tibor infront of Clifford Mill (his mill) 1950This year celebrates the centenary of pioneering designer Tibor Reich, who brought modernity into British textiles. A major retrospective at the Whitworth, Manchester opens 29th January – August 2016, accompanied by a publication ‘The Art of Colour and Texture’ available from March 2016.

His revolutionary designs for fabrics, transformed the appearance of both public buildings and domestic interiors in post-war Britain. Born in Budapest, Hungary in 1916, Reich studied architecture and textiles in Vienna before coming to Britain to study textiles at Leeds University. By the time he graduated in 1941 he was designing for London’s top couturiers including Hardy Amies and Edward Molyenux

In 1946 he set up Tibor Ltd, introducing bright new colours, unusual textures and innovative pottery into the drab interiors of post-war Britain. Based in Stratford-upon-Avon, the firm rapidly gained an international reputation, working on prestigious commissions including the 1951 Festival of Britain, the Royal Yacht Britannia (1954) and Concorde (1966).

His fabrics could also be found on post-war furniture including Ercol, Ernest Race and Gordon Russell.

17)Woven Textile Sample Cards 1950s_2

In 2015 Tibor Reich’s Grandson, Sam Reich, began the huge task of reviving his Grandfathers company, Tibor Ltd. The Weave Shed website played a vital role in this, helping Sam to establish contacts within the industry both yarn and manufacturing and in connecting with future employees.

Head of woven textiles and graduate of the Royal College of Art, Hannah Auerbach George, describes her role, exploring and resurrecting Tibor’s vast archive of designs.

“Before joining Tibor Ltd. I studied woven textiles for five years, however, my time at Tibor could constitute another degree. My job means I have a unique chance to delve into the mind of one of the 20th century’s most original designers and try to unpick his thought process.

My role includes coordinating the production and manufacture of a selection Tibor’s most iconic designs. The majority of the technical notes are absent so a large part of my work has been to deconstruct each textile to decipher how it was made.

Between Tibor’s notebooks and the original fabric samples I can extract what I believe is the original weave pattern for each design. I will often then test these on the handloom to check my workings are correct. The next stage is to work with our producers in the UK to put the fabrics back in to production”.

From his early experiences working with leading fashion houses, Tibor created the concept of ‘Couture for the home’. In the 1950s he brought a luxury and richness to the home environment that apparently had not been seen before.

He achieved this through the use of fancy yarns including wool loops, slubs and gimp yarns. Tibor believed the key to a successful textile started with the choice of yarn, which led him to develop his own yarns. This custom development is still key to their business today, as these yarns are what give Tibor fabrics their distinctive character.

a15)Madison Colourblanket Weave 1958

















His technical background working methods could be comparable to that of a scientist –  he would use colour, structure and yarn varieties as elemental building blocks, working methodically through every possible combination before deciding which design he felt was most harmonious.

His ingenuity came from the way he combined structure with multiple yarn weights and qualities to create unexpected rhythm and texture within his cloth. As a result of his fanatical experimentation and record keeping the Tibor Ltd. archive today contains over 20,000 design variants, making it an invaluable education resource and record of design in the 20th century.”

Visitors to the exhibition at the Whitworth, which opens on  29th of January, will have their own chance to see into the mind of Tibor Reich. The exhibition follows Reich’s complex and multifaceted career as a designer that spanned over four decades. A wide range of his designs, sketchbooks and artworks will be on display.

Images and text copyright: Tibor Ltd.

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