Tibor Reich’s textile Age of Kings, as is one of my ongoing projects to research and examine, is one of many of this prolific designer and manufacturer’s textiles. Not only does the Age of Kings (1964) design (actually designed by Pamela Kay, as mentioned before) come in several different colour schemes, but he designed textiles in 1969 for the bicentenary of the Garrick Jubilee and his designs for the then (1964) new Shakespeare Centre include the carpet called “The Forest of Arden” which was made using a technique of Reich’s own invention. He called it “fotexur” (a portmanteau of the words ‘photograph’ and ‘texture’).

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Tibor Reich. Image from Aesthetica Magazine.

Like Hans Schwarz, Tibor Reich argued that nature was the best designer. To create his designs, he took photographs of different parts of the landscape, from close-ups of mud or bark to aerial photographs of the landscape. These photographs would then be used in ways to enhance the rhythmic and geometric qualities contained in them, creating a pattern based on nature but far removed from a simple classification of for example floral or organic visuals. The fotexur technique was regarded as groundbreaking for textile design in post-war Britain.

Thus the carpet “The Forest of Arden” is not only named for the forest in the Shakespeare play As You Like It, but is actually based on an aerial photograph of woodland. When you tread the carpet you are, in a way, literally walking in (on?) the forest.

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The conference room at the Shakespeare Centre, with the “Forest of Arden” carpet. Image from Finding Shakespeare.

While the Age of Kings does not use this technique, it is important to understand the ways in which Tibor Reich worked and how innovative his designs and manufacturing were considered at the time. You can also tell from his work that he was interested in Shakespeare, not only creating textiles for places like the Shakespeare Centre, but also naming other designs for characters or places in Shakespeare’s plays or life.

So in what ways did this Hungarian born 20th century textile designer see fit to celebrate Shakespeare?

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