Marianne Straub was a Swiss designer and weaver and designer she was born in Amriswil. But her career grew in Britain from the time she entered Bradford Technical College (in the middle of the Yorkshire wool industry) in 1932 to expand her knowledge of powerloom weaving. Straub’s mother vetoed Germany as a location for further training because her mother wasn’t sure she could rescue Straub from jail.

Queen inspecting Marianne Straub's designs for British Rail
Queen inspecting Marianne Straub’s designs for British Rail

Education

Marianne Straub began weaving as a child and later trained under Heinrich Otto Hรผrlimann Between 1928-31, at the Kunstgewerbeschule, Zรผrich. Between 1932-33, she was involved with machine production, at Bradford Technical College.

Biography

Marianne Straubby Geoffrey Irelandbromide print on card mount, 1950s

An experimenter, Straub used vegetable dyes in her fabrications of the 1920s and 1930s. She also explored materials such as bamboo, mica, metal and fibreglass, cellophane and paper yarns. She worked in a Swiss cotton mill and under weaver Ethel Mairet in Britain. Between 1934-37, she revitalised the Rural Industries Bureau’s flagging production for the 77 Welsh Woollen Mills, including upholstery fabrics used by Gordon Russell. 

Moquettes Sample by Marianne Straub
Moquettes Sample by Marianne Straub

She began weaving in her home, simultaneously working in industrial methods in a small cotton mill. Between 1937 and 1950, she was a designer at Helios, a division of Barlow and Jones, and, in the late 1940s, its managingยท director. At Helios, she worked on a dobby loom and was responsible for significant advances in the production of contemporary fabrics on power looms and set a precedent for hand weaves for mass production. 

If more designers tried out the things they were designing, fewer bad designs would result. It’s often apparent when a man has designed an object a woman uses every day.

Marianne Straub

1950-1970, she designed contemporary fabrics for Warner, the successor to Helios, ‘including the 1951 Festival Pattern Group, a program established by the Council of Industrial Design for materials for the 1951 ‘Festival of Britain’ exposition. Her 1951 Surrey curtain fabric for the program (initially installed in the Regatta Restaurant at the Festival) was printed under license by 26 manufacturers. “Helmsley” was designed for Warner and Sons, was a Jacquard weave based on the structure of nylon.

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Straub was a consultant designer to Tamesa Fabrics and Heal Fabrics. She taught widely, including at the Central School of Arts and Crafts and the Royal College of Art, both in London. Up to the 1980s, she wasยท active as designer and teacher. She published the book Hand Weaving and Cloth Design (1977). Her Tamesa range was used on oceanliners 1934 Queen Mary and 1965-68 Queen Elizabeth II. 

Sources

Byars, M., & Riley, T. (2004). The design encyclopedia. Laurence King Publishing.

Creating artwork to sit upon Marianne Straub has devoted much of her career to quietly designing fabric for public places. INTERVIEW: [all edition]. (1990, Aug 07). The Christian Science Monitor (Pre-1997 Fulltext)

Schoeser, M., & Phillips, B. (1991). Fabrics and wallpapers: design sources and inspiration. Ebury Press.

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