Eileen Hunter set up Eileen Hunter Textiles in the 1930s. Her bold colourful designs were printed by Footprints in Hammersmith, a small block printing studio, and Warners, a larger textile manufacturer based out in Dartford.
She was inspired by Leon Bakst, William Morris and William De Morgan, whose curves and shapes you can see in her design work. Hunter was far more abstract, with a wish to bring colour into her textiles, fearing that much of 1930s design was very neutral with dull textures.
The Clothworker’s Study Centre, part of the Victoria and Albert Museum’s archive at Blythe House, have several of her fabric designs including a large swatch book which I presume she must have donated. Sadly the swatch book was unavailable when I went to visit but the wonderful team there were able to get out several of her fabric repeats. The colours are amazing! Teaming up bright apple greens with dirty pinks, sunshine yellow with splashes of red and lime and a rather sublime purple, red and yellow design which, if I understand correctly from the transcript of a talk she gave in the 1970s should have been marine blue, red and yellow but the printers got it wrong. Its great in purple but wow wee those are strong colours.
Warner’s printed her fabrics because, as a vivacious, ambitious woman, she had approached them in a bid to get them to commission her to design fashion fabrics for the company. Warners produced woven and printed interior fabrics and were not keen on the idea but were charmed by Hunter and the formidable Mr Pithers, Warner’s manager, had a good working relationship with her. It is not clear whether Warner’s printed fabrics for anyone else. Certainly Hester Bury, speaking at the same lecture series in the 1970s as Hunter, as the Warner’s archivist only mentioned Hunter’s fabrics as the only additional fabrics to be printed there.
Blythe House is a fantastic place to visit in its own rights. Its boxed off for various archives and the post office seems to occupy other parts of it. Last I’d heard it was to be sold with a brand new building being commissioned to house the various collections which I’m sure will be up to date and be a better warehouse for what must be some rather precious and precarious objects, documents and all sorts. But I’m sure it won’t feel as sacred to visit.