Obituary: Eddie Squires

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The Independent Online
Eddie Squires, textile designer: born Grimsby 15 March 1940; died London 25 February 1995.

Eddie Squires entered the history of 20th-century design with ``Lunar Rocket'', a screen-printed furnishing fabric commemorating the moon landing in 1969. Created for Warner & Sons Ltd (now Warner Fabrics) when the designer was in his late twenties, it was selected as the poster image for the company's 100th anniversary exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1970, and has since become the image most requested from the company's archive. The fabric itself hardly sold a metre, a fact which, far from detracting from the significance of this design, underscores the success of the partnership which was to develop between Squires and Warners, one based on a commitment to innovation within the context of tradition.

Squires trained at Grimsby School of Art from 1956 to 1959 and then at the Central School, London, graduating in 1962. Having joined Warners' design studio in December 1963, he became chief designer of printed textiles in 1971, an associate director in 1980 and a full director from 1984 to 1993 (and was a consultant for a further year). For much of these 30 years it fell to him to preserve and develop the company's reputation for combining high-quality traditional fabrics with a small selection of free-spirited new designs. This was a demanding task, attacked with relish.

Despite his outspoken commitment to modern design, he demonstrated a sensitivity to traditional patterns that eschewed pastiche in favour of integrity. He could spot wit and elegance in a design created 100 years ago as readily as in one of his own day. A superb eye for colour, an appreciation of excellence in drawing and an acute sense of developing design trends were reflected not only in the Warner range, but in the exclusive designs developed under Squires's direction for international fabric companies and decorators.

A natural facilitator, he took equal trouble to understand what a customer might mean by "difficult" colours for a traditional chintz as he did great pleasure in ensuring the exact replication of the effects wanted by Howard Hodgkin for the fabrics that formed part of the artist's contribution to the Arts Council "Four Rooms" Exhibition in 1984. In the same year the V&A accessioned the award-winning Designers' Choice Collection, which included two of his own designs. Although in fact Squires did much more for other designers than he ever did for himself, orchestrating donations of works by other designers to British, Canadian and American museums. He also promoted involvement, debate and appreciation for the creative process through his rapid-fire "bulletins" - ideas, assessments of exhibitions and reports of stimulating conversations scrawled over photographs or postcards and shot off to kindred spirits world-wide.

An involved Fellow of the Chartered Society of Designers, he was also an active member of the Design Council's Design Centre Selection Committee (Textiles) from 1983 to 1988, chairing the committee in its last year. He campaigned for the naming of studio designers, and for designs that were modern, yet practical and desirable. He believed that modern British textile design was under threat because designers too litist in their graphic expressions did not help the retailer to develop a warmth towards contemporary design. And he both espoused and practised the view that those creating modern designs could learn from the popularity of traditional designs and colours, stressing that repeat patterns should neither look like psychological expressions, or paintings. He could be wonderfully irascible when it came to his principles of design, and was certainly aware of the delicate line between being heard and protesting too much.

As Squires's career progressed, he occasionally regretted that fewer of his own designs were produced, but this occurred because when the opportunity to create a modern collection arose, he elected to commission designs from others. So it was in 1988 that the last two of his own designs were produced, but in 1993 that he placed his last commissions (from Neil Bottle and Alistair McAuley); just one of the many ways in which he encouraged younger designers, whether freelance or working in his own studio.

Often his purchases of designs from degree shows were not for production, but as a gesture of approval and support. Such support was evident in his work on the Furniture and Textile jury for the Royal Society of Arts Student Design Awards (1988-94), and will live on in his legacy, a student travel bursary to be administered by the RSA.

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