History was made on 20 July 1969 when the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) successfully landed twelve men on the moon. At the height of geopolitical tensions between the Soviet Union and the United States of America, an estimated 600 million people tuned into televisions globally to observe the definitive moment of a generation. As Neil Armstrong took his first steps from Apollo 11, his words ‘one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind’ resonated throughout the world. Taking place at the height of the Cold War, NASA’s accomplishments were widely considered the culmination of the ‘Space Race’. During a short period of thawing international relations between the East and West, Armstrong’s words came to represent unity in a world deeply divided by politics.
The spirit of revolution and innovation was in the air in Braintree. Warner & Sons commissioned the creation of two bold and experimental prints to commemorate the first humans to walk on the moon. The two designers selected were Eddie Squires and Sue Thatcher, who both produced screen prints that anticipated an era of innovation for Warner & Sons. ‘Lunar Rocket’ by Squires and ‘Space Walk’ by Thatcher marked a dramatic point of departure in the artistic vision of Warner & Sons, underpinned by Squires’ vision as director of Warner & Sons. Squires and Thatcher had bold visions as designers, producing eye catching prints that were influenced by popular culture.
Grimsby-born Eddie Squires graduated from Central School of Art, London and was snapped up by Warner & Sons in 1963. A contemporary of visionaries such as Ossie Clark and Zandra Rhodes, Squires became Warner & Sons’ resident enfant terrible, known for his bold eye for colour. ‘Lunar Rocket’ quickly became Warner & Sons party piece. Sue Thatcher took a more psychedelic approach, referencing contemporary fine art of the 1960s. ‘Space Walk’ is a kaleidoscopic interpretation of the moon landing using repetition and ben-day dots, prominent in the work of American Pop Artist Roy Lichtenstein. Despite both prints being commercially unsuccessful, they featured heavily in exhibitions of contemporary textiles including Warner & Sons 100th anniversary exhibition at the V&A Museum in 1970.
Squires and Thatcher both had keen eye for detail and their fingers to the pulse of the modern age. Throughout his time as director, Squires created daring designs inspired by a multitude of different reference points. These ranged from Leonardo di Vinci’s masterpiece ‘The Last Supper’ to microchips. Thatcher worked at the intersection between art and design, incorporating bold colours and isometric patterns, with subtle nods to contemporary art movements. ‘Lunar Rocket’ and ‘Space Walk’ marked a point where Warner & Sons embraced post-modernism. In Squire’s obituary, the prominent textile historian Mary Schoester acknowledged this shift observing his tenure as director as a partnership ‘based on a commitment to innovation within the context of tradition.’
Both ‘Lunar Rocket’ and ‘Space Walk’ are on display in the Archive Gallery. We are open every Wednesday and the first Saturday of the month, 10 am – 4 pm.