Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Peggy Angus: Designer, Teacher, Painter

The exhibition about the artist and designer Peggy Angus at the Towner Gallery in Eastbourne finishes  on the 21st September, but you can still catch it if you hurry.  It's worth a trip to the seaside to see it.

wallpaper designed by Peggy Angus, around 1965
Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture, BADDA4726

Despite being a contemporary of Edward Bawden and Eric Ravilious, Peggy Angus was less well known as an artist and designer until a few years ago.  We held an exhibition of her work at the Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture, back in 2003, focusing on the designs for tiles and wallpapers that she developed after the Second World War.  The current exhibition takes a look at these as well, but shows how they the were the logical extension of her ideas about art, and creativity, and their centrality to everyday life.

An excellent and well illustrated book to accompany the current exhibition is available now.
And we still have a few copies of the publication which accompanied our own exhibition, Patterns for Postwar Britain - the Tile Designs of Peggy Angus, by Katie Arber, which is referenced in the current book, and can be ordered from the Middlesex University online shop.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

"Inspiration Examined" at the Chelsea degree show

MoDA's Head of Collections, Zoe Hendon, finds out how MA Textile Design students from Chelsea School of Arts used inspiration from MoDA to inform their degree show work.

It's always a pleasure to see how creative people use the collections of the Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture  (MoDA) for inspiration.   It's something we're really interested in, because it's clearly something we want to encourage to happen more.  I've recently been working with Linda Sandino from Chelsea School of Arts on a project funded by Share Academy in which we interviewed seven MA Textile Design students from Chelsea.  We videoed them talking about their approach to objects from MoDA's collections and the different ways in which they were able to use the objects they chose to inform the development of their creative practice.

We're still working on our findings, and we'll put some of the video clips up online soon.  But in the meantime, it was great to see some of those same students at their degree show last Friday night.

Alex Beattie

Alex Beattie was particularly inspired by some of MoDA's 1920s wallpapers.  His textile designs, featuring acid-bright colours and dream-like landscapes show a clear progression from some of the things he looked at when he visited.  But for Alex, his inspiration wasn't just in the emulation of motifs and colours - in his video interview he talked in a really interesting way about looking to MoDA's wallpapers to help him resolve technical issues to do with the creation of the illusion of depth and perspective in his designs.

Linda Sandino (left) and Darshini Sundar 

Darshini Sundar came to MoDA in search of block printed textiles and geometric motifs; her work involves developing traditional block printing techniques with workers in the south of India.  I was really impressed by the way her textile designs used natural dyes and simple shapes to create deceptively complex patterns. 

textiles designed by Darshini Sundar 

For many studio-based students, the history behind the objects in museum collections are not their primary interest - they are often more concerned with techniques of making, with colour and with motif.  Jaswant Flora was unusual in that her interest was in the history of cotton as a commodity, and in the physicality of objects.  She was also interested in the idea that textiles can tell a story, and the idea of mark-making and narrative.  She commented in her interview: "...MoDA helped me a lot because it did make me understand how I could apply it [my textile design] into a narrative as well"

Jawant Flora

It was great to catch up with all of the students at the degree show, to see their final work and to hear a bit more about their visits to the Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture influenced the development of their ideas.  We wish them all the best for their future careers, and hopefully we'll see them at MoDA sometime again.

Monday, 1 September 2014

More "In Conversation" afternoons at MoDA

Over the past few months we've been running a new series of events at the Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture (MoDA).  These are informal talks lasting about an hour and a half, which offer an opportunity to see a selection of objects from the museum's collections, and discuss them with a member of staff.  We're aiming to provide an overview of the collections and provide a bit of background to what the museum holds.

These events will be running about once a month, and we're now pleased to announce some more dates for the Autumn.  This time we've chosen a number of specific themes, so that each event will have a particular focus.  Places are free, but limited, so please sign up for the ones that interest you:

On September 24th the "In Conversation" afternoon will be a look at some of the wonderful examples of wallpapers from the museum's collections, with MoDA's Assistant Curator Maggie Wood.
Reserve your ticket now for the September date

'Sahara' wallpaper designed by Edward  Bawden, 1928,
Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture (SW 2236)

On October 30th Maggie will be turning her attention to the development of suburbia in the interwar period, with a look at some of the museum's estate agent brochures.
Reserve your ticket now for the October date

Image taken from a poster advertising Halifax Building Society, 1930s
Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture (BADDA4719)

On Friday 21st November, MoDA's Head of Collections, Zoe Hendon, will be looking at the way in which designers who worked for the Silver Studio were influenced by the art of Japan.
Reserve your ticket now for the November date

Japanese katagami stencil depicting chrysanthemums and bamboo stems,
Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture, K2.28

We hope these events will give a flavour of the wide variety of objects and themes we cover at the Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture.  Places are limited, but don't worry if you can't make it this time - we'll be running similar events again in the future.

These events are aimed at people who have a general interest in MoDA's collections, but who don't have a specific research question in mind.  If you would like to see the collections for your own research or personal interest you are welcome to make an appointment.  You don't need to be formally associated with an educational institution, but you will need to give us an idea of what you want to see.  Please contact Maggie Wood to discuss your interests in the collection and to arrange a time to visit.  

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Hasler Gallery - project underway!

Zoe Hendon, MoDA's Head of Collections, introduces the five creative practitioners who have been selected to take part in the Hasler Gallery project:

The Hasler Gallery, part of North Finchley's 10 Grand Arcade project is now open, and the project is well underway.  We're delighted to have found five excellent designers/artists who will be making work inspired by the collections of the Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture over the next few months.  

I thought I'd tell you a bit about each of them here, and I will introduce the five graduates who'll be joining them in next week's blogpost. 

Aviva Leeman
Aviva will be drawing on the designer Charles Hasler’s interests in typography and print processes, with a specific interest in his collection of everyday printed ephemera.  Aviva's practice is typically site-responsive and she is conscious of the location of the gallery in a shopping arcade at the heart of a town centre – a place teeming with public lettering, visual communication, and material detritus of people going about their domestic, business and leisure pursuits.

Aviva's work uses different material forms and contexts, combining installation, public art and participatory strategies, and design methodologies. She has shown work at and developed commissions for Hatfield House, Pump House Gallery, County Hall, the Southbank Centre and Norwich Castle Museum. 

Jo Angel
Jo Angell is proposing to create a multi-layered wall or ceiling suspended art piece. Panels will be designed using two materials and processes – digitally printed fabrics and laser cut fine wooden veneers.  The inspiration for the piece has come from two facets of the Silver Studio’s collections at MoDA: Japanese Katagami stencils and Art Deco period drawings.

After an initial career as a graphic designer, Jo returned to Central St Martins to follow a lifelong passion in textiles and studied for an MA in ‘Textile Futures’ from 2006-8.  Jo’s varied design work has included award-winning wallpaper designs for Graham & Brown, a prototype window display for Louis Vuitton and an innovative shade canopy for the Chelsea Flower Show which won a gold medal.  Jo also creates and sells her own digitally printed textile designs which are made into scarves and other accessories. www.joangell.com

Katie Horwich
Incorporating elements of the architecture of the gallery, its surroundings and local flora and fauna, Katie’s starting point is the creation of a new series of katagami stencils inspired by the ones in MoDA’s collection, introducing an element of exotic chinoiserie to the Grand Arcade.

Katie grew up near the Museum of Design & Domestic Architecture and is inspired by the local landscape. She often works on location, sketching, writing and photographing.

Yemi Awosile
Yemi’s project will draw on the MoDA collection to create engineered textiles which echo graphic elements found within this historical archive.
Yemi is a Designer living and working in London producing materials for objects and spaces. Her practice is driven by industry led research, special commissions and collaboration across a range of disciplines within manufacturing, design and the arts.  Since graduating from Textiles Design at the Royal College of Art in 2008 she has established herself as an independent designer specialising in textiles and material finishes.

Leigh Cameron
Leigh’s work explores concrete and the possibility of radically changing our perception of this material. He works with this age-old material in an innovatory manner to develop and explore the proletariat tacit information hidden in a 2000-year history. This includes developing a new context and aesthetic dialogue, considering concrete as a material; investigating its diversity, structural strengths and limitations; its weight, adaptability and content. 

For this project, Leigh intends to explore texture, colour, shape and ultimately the relationship of concrete to other materials, investigating colour, structure and light through patterns inspired by the collections at the Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture

I think you'll agree this is a diverse and talented bunch of people, and I'm really looking forward to seeing their work as it progresses.  

Friday, 8 August 2014

Exhibitions, Elephants and Empire

Temporary Assistant Curator Hilary Davidson has been impressed by the wide variety of publications which draw on research using the collections of the Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture (MoDA).  Last month she gave a quick round up; here’s a further selection of some recent highlights

Objects from MoDA’s collections have been loaned to a number of exhibitions over the last few years, and in many cases have been illustrated in the catalogues too.  We loaned objects to the V&A’s major exhibition The Cult of Beauty: The Aesthetic Movement 1860-1900  which feature in the catalogue. The show – and MoDA objects – toured to Paris and San Francisco.

Art for Art's Sake: the Aesthetic Movement 1860-1900  was a version of The Cult of Beauty which toured to Japan. The beautifully produced catalogue is only available in Japanese, in Japan – unless you’d like to consult MoDA’s reference copy. More objects from our collection featured in the dual English and Japanese language catalogues for another Japan-based show, the 2012 exhibition Katagami Style: Paper Stencils and Japonisme in Tokyo and Kyoto.

Dr Dianne Lawrence turned her Lancaster University PhD thesis into a book: Genteel Women. Empire and domestic material culture, 1840-1910, exploring ways in which ‘women's values, as expressed through their personal and household possessions, specifically their … living rooms, gardens and food, were instrumental in constructing various forms of genteel society’ across the British Empire. MoDA objects helped her to formulate her arguments.

Finally, we’re looking forward to reading the results of regular MoDA researcher Dr Deborah Sugg-Ryan’s  work when she publishes The Inter-War Home and Suburban Modernity:  The Architecture, Design and Decoration of the Semi-Detached House in England  later this year. Deborah has been giving glimpses of her work on Twitter. Her current conference paper ‘The elephant on the mantelpiece: The interwar suburban home & the detritus of Empire’ uses a 1937 fireplace catalogue to think about the material culture of empire within the suburban home. 

If this has inspired you to do your own research using MoDA's collections please email Maggie Wood to arrange an appointment.

Friday, 1 August 2014

And it's goodbye from me

Hilary Davidson, MoDA's temporary Assistant Curator, is leaving us today at the end of her contract. We asked her to write a farewell blog post:

Somehow, three months at MoDA have flown by and I find myself at my last day here. It’s been a wonderful way to spend a summer.  I’ve come across many new and interesting things while updating and improving the collection’s documentation.

It can be hard to come into a new collection and try to get a sense not only of its object strengths, but also of its history and that of the institution. So often exhibitions, publications and past major projects are an oral or memorial history. At MoDA, I’ve been fortunate to be working on digitising large amounts of this historic information and capturing it in the electronic catalogue for all future colleagues and researchers to access. I’ve got a much fuller idea of past exhibitions such as Japantastic and Petal Power than might have been possible otherwise, a sort of crash course in MoDA’s evolution.

I’ve always liked Art Nouveau design of the style that epitomises the Silver Studio’s work in their turn of the century heyday. It’s been a pleasure exploring the astonishing, inventive, seemingly endless wealth of designs these talented men – and women – produced. Seeing the designs themselves, rather than reproductions, really brings them to life and has a much more immediate impact. Every delicate, controlled pencil stroke conveys the skilled hand of the designer. The velvety gouache colours used to infill the sketches show how quickly a dynamic and assured palette was built up and a design brought into being. 

SD760, textile design, circa. 1905

Even the individual printing qualities of mass-produced wallpapers and friezes have a verve and luminosity in the physical object that is impossible to convey in a photograph. There is more design inspiration here than one could hope to tap in a lifetime.

The Orchard Frieze, 
 influenced by the work of CFA Voysey, cicra. 1905. SW733
Wallpaper frieze, ca. 1900. SW1161

I’ve also enjoyed absorbing the kind of optimism that shines through such early twentieth century applied arts: better living through design, and a sense of its transformative powers in the vein of William Morris (a personal hero). The attention paid to the design of, for example, embossed bookcovers, turns a useful object into a beautiful one, something to grace the domestic library or store-room shelves.

A design for a book cover by the Silver Studio, early 20th century. SD464b
Design for a book cover, 1904, 'Adventures in Field & Flood'. Silver Studio, SD1103 

As in most museums, one of the continual working pleasures is being able to absorb knowledge from colleagues and researchers. Before I came I had never heard of katagami stencils. Watching Dr. Alice Humphrey catalogue the collection unfolded a fascinating world of textile printing techniques and Japanese cultural symbols around me. Now when I’m back in the more familiar world of dress history and come across printed kimono and yukata, I have a new appreciation of the intricacies of their production.

Katagami stencil (K2.33) depicting chrysanthemums and Taoist precious objects against a  background of seigaiha  (waves from the Blue Ocean) which are symbolic of calm days.  The auspicious objects include vases or wine jars, a wine cup, hagoromo  (the cloak of  feathers which allows flight) and censers (egoro ).  

Finally – and I hope my colleagues aren’t too tired of hearing me bang on about this – it’s been energising working with a small team. It’s so easy to get things done! The larger an organisation is, the more bureaucracy is involved. MoDA is a great size for working across ‘departments’ without associated reams of paperwork, delay and confusing communiques. I’m impressed at how much MoDA punches above its weight for the size of museum it is and think this is one of the reasons.

Thank you Zoe, Richard, Maggie, Claire, Emma and Justin for being so welcoming and helpful , and for all your support. MoDA’s collection is full of quirks, depths, delights and possibilities. While I won’t miss the daily journey to Colindale, it’s one I really encourage people to make at least once to explore this wonderful Museum.

If you would like to visit MoDA and explore its collections please email Maggie Wood to arrange an appointment.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Protecting the Protectors

Freelance paper conservator, Michal Sofer, has been working on MoDA's book collections for the past few months.  The project has raised some interesting questions; when does a wrapper designed to protect something acquire the status of something that itself needs to be protected?

Over the past few months I've been working at the Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture (MoDA) on a major project aimed at improving the condition and housing of thousands of books in the museum's collections.  This will mean that they can safely be handled by students, researchers and other users for more years to come.

Michal removing rusty staples from one of the
publications in MoDA's collections

One of the measures we are taking most frequently to safeguard the books' condition, is covering them with a Melinex*  wrapper.  This is most often to ensure the longevity of the numerous damaged dust jackets, which were originally manufactured to protect the books’ primary covering.

The Domestic Design Collection and JM Richards Library book collections in MoDA's stores date mostly from the nineteenth and twentieth-centuries. Many of them are cloth-covered hard backs with an additional dust jacket, often printed with quite intricate and beautiful designs, very evocative of a book's subject matter or the period during which it was published. 

Dust jackets have a long history: After a first appearance and brief period of use in the fifteenth century, the protective paper covering of books fell into disuse until reappearing nearly 400 years later - the single most important development favouring production and use of dust-jackets was the advent of publishers’ cloth bindings in the 1820's.

The Happy Glutton, by Alin Laubreaux  (1931)
Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture, BADDA2356

Two Englishmen, William Pickering and Archibald Leighton, are usually associated with the early manufacture of book cloth around 1825-1830. Case bindings had replaced hand-bound volumes. Cloth in a wide variety of colors, finishes and textures, lent itself to being deeply embossed and colorfully decorated, and stamped with plates that completely covered the boards with designs. The need to protect these delicate cloth covers was ensured by the use of dust-jackets. The efficacy of such a cover is much evident in the collection, where pristine cloth covers are found under soiled and damaged dust jackets.

Some books from MoDA’s collection once belonged to the Silver Studio.  They were probably stored in the Studio itself, and appear to have been referred to frequently for practical purposes, leading to the loss of the original dust jackets. A significant number of these books were provided with protective brown paper wrappers during that time. This was an excellent way to preserving the primary covering materials, and to support book structures, since brown wrapping paper is relatively inert, is quite durable, and the book titles can be written onto the wrapping which is opaque and therefore hides any bibliographic information. These contemporary wrappers are now in various states of disrepair, having undergone up to 100 years worth of handling. Again, we have frequently provided these volumes with a secondary protective wrapping of Melinex over the brown paper dust jackets, so preserving evidence of the ‘provenance’ of the books (ie, proof that they were used in the Silver Studio).

A small but notable number of books  from the JM Richards collection have had their dust jackets laminated by well-meaning librarians, possibly between 1960 to 1980, when the they were housed by libraries in various learning institutions (library, college and school stamps have been found in the front covers). Rather than preserving the dust jackets as intended, this has ultimately lead to an accelerated degradation of them – as the heat-activated adhesive discolours and embrittles the paper cover. This damage is irreversible.
Some libraries have used poor quality polyester to create a wrapping for books which has welded itself to paper covers over time, discolouring, embrittling and cracking the paper, and adhering unevenly to printed surfaces. This often results in a more permanent disfigurement of the paper dust jackets, and can only rarely be successfully repaired, generally taking a lot of time, and the use of solvents. Sadly, the books that have been damaged in this way in the MoDA collection will remain as they are, for now. Thankfully, they are relatively few and far between.  

Hence, we now find ourselves taking measures to preserve protective covers designed to protect the primary book covers where we can with simple inert materials and methods. Who knows what measures conservators may take to preserve our melinex wrappers in the future?...

*Melinex is a tradenamed inert, archival standard polyester commonly used for the preservation storage of museum and archive materials. Our book wrappers are made individually to size, and to various templates for the protection of each individual book's requirements and without the need for adhesives.

If you have questions about the conservation of MoDA's collections please contact Emma Shaw
If you would like to use the collections for your own research, please contact Maggie Wood to arrange an appointment.