Towel, terry towelling, red and white, with a design featuring the Olympic rings, the Olympic torch and Australian flora and fauna, created by Shirley de Vocht for Dri-Glo Towels Pty Ltd as the official towel for the Australian team at the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne, Shirley de Vocht, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 1956
Shirley de Vocht (nee Martin)'s personal archive demonstrates how a young Australian woman found work as a designer in industry. De Vocht worked in a range of post-WWII Australian design and manufacturing industries after entering the art course offered by East Sydney Technical College.
Her first job was as a textile designer with Silk and Textile Printers Pty Ltd (STP), Darlinghurst between 1944 and 1946, during which time the founder, Claudio Alcorso (1913-2000) was involved in Australia's war effort.
Shirley then left Silk & Textile Printers to work as a ceramic designer with Modern Ceramic Products (MCP), Redfern (1947-1948), returning to textile design when she joined Tennyson Textile Mills Pty Ltd, Gladesville (1949 - 1950), Coverings & Co Pty Ltd, Mascot (1949 - 1951) and Dri-Glo Towels Pty Ltd, Five Dock (1951-1959). There are two lengths of complex furnishing fabric designed by Shirley for Coverings and Co in this colelction - a woven 'Roses' and a 'Poppy' design.
At Dri-Glo de Vocht was responsible for designing the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games towel which also later went into production without the Olympic motifs.
During her career, Shirley also worked as a freelance textile designer creating textile designs of Australian flora including native heath, flannel flowers, wattle and other Australian flora. Several of these were forwarded to FW Grafton & Co Ltd in England in 1952 where one was purchased for production and another exhibited. Nine of these textile designs in poster colour are included in the archive - flannel flowers, bottle brush, waratah, flowering gum, native heath and others, dating from 1948 to 1952.
Shirley also entered local textile design competitions such as the Leroy-Alcorso design competition in 1954 where the 100 best entries received were exhibited. The winning textile, a design by Douglas Annand, is represented in the collection of the Powerhouse Museum.
In her retirement, Shirley de Vocht continued to work as an artist, painting endangered species such as the native cat, the quoll and the snowy numbat onto mass-produced blank ceramic plates.
Anne-Marie Van de Ven, Curator, 2002 (updated by the curator after the family of Shirley de Vocht visited the Museum to view the archive on 14/11/2008).
Shirley de Vocht (nee Martin), textile and ceramic designer (b. Carlingford, Sydney 1929, d. 30 June 2003)
From 1951 to 1959, Shirley worked as a designer with Dri-Glo Towels Pty Ltd, 213-253 Parramatta Road, Five Dock where she designed a towel for the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games, among other towel designs, including a daffodil design and a complex merging colour design with vertical stripes.
Compiled by Anne-Marie Van de Ven, Curator, 2002 with the assistance of Shirley and John de Vocht, updated by the curator after the family of Shirley de Vocht visited the Museum to view the archive on 14/11/2008.
Used and collected by donor.
Personal collection of Mrs Shirley de Vocht
"After the Olympics Shirley's towel design was adapted. The central emblem was replaced with a surfer motif." 1 A Dri-Glo advertisement in the Australian Women's Weekly, 18 December 1957 p.86 includes an image of the surfer towel in red and white.
1. From Anne-Marie's Van de Ven's interview notes with Shirley de Vocht (June 2002).