Friday, 25 July 2014

Candlesticks, Castles and Crochet

Temporary Assistant Curator Hilary Davidson has been impressed by the wide variety of publications which draw on research undertaken using the collections of the Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture (MoDA).  Here she gives a quick round up on some recent highlights – more next month.

The team at MoDA deal with all kinds of people wanting to know about the museum’s collections from a wide variety of angles, and for a number of reasons.   Some are researching for undergraduate or postgraduate dissertations or theses; others are intending to publish their research via more formal channels.

In addition, MoDA’s collections are frequently used for research by people who have a great enthusiasm for and an enormous knowledge of a particular area, but who don’t consider themselves to be ‘academics’.  Much of the work around silver designer Archibald Knox comes into this category: 2014 is the 150th anniversary of Knox’s birth, so it has been a big year for the Archibald Knox Society.  They organised a celebratory exhibition at the Olympia Antiques Fair in June. Their catalogue featured an article by Knox-specialist Anthony Bernbaum and reproduced original pencil designs for silverware from MoDA’s collection.

The Archibald Knox Society Journal special 150th Anniversary Edition (April 2014) featured two articles using MoDA resources, one by Anthony on 'The Origins of the Liberty ‘Cymric’ Silver Range’, and one by Society chairman Liam O’Neill - 'Archibald Knox: A 'Ghost' Designer'.

We’ve recently enjoyed reading Philippa Lewis’ new book Everyman’s Castle which uses an image from a 1935 brochure for ‘Roger Malcolm of Edgware’s new houses’ as the cover. There are more MoDA pictures inside this lovely book. AN Wilson gave it 5 stars in the Telegraph and our Head of Collections, Zoe Hendon, also reviewed the book on our blog. Philippa has also written a delightful article on ‘The English Fear of the Flat’ which can currently be read online in the summer issue of the London Library magazine

Everyman's Castle by Philippa Lewis

In terms of magazine articles, MoDA was featured in the BBC Antiques Roadshow magazine of June 2014, focusing on the wallpaper collections. And Jane Pettigrew used images of embroidered tea set covers and a crocheted doily from MoDA’s collection of early twentieth century needlecraft journals for her article 'A Flutter of Snow White Linen' in the June issue of specialist US tea magazine TeaTime.

Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture, Badda 3285

There'll be another update on recent research using MoDA's collections next month.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Joseph Farrow - Arthur Silver Award 2014 winner

This year the judges decided to share the Arthur Silver Award between two Final Year students at Middlesex University, Paresha Amin (BA Fine Art) and Joseph Farrow (BA Jewellery & Accessories). In a previous post we featured the award winning work of Paresha and so here we are featuring Joseph's entry.  

Entrants to the award are required to use the MoDA collections as inspiration in the development of a piece of studio work. Up until this point, most students entering the Award have interpreted this brief in a fairly conventional way, choosing to submit work inspired by particular museum objects they have encountered, or related to historical styles represented in the collections.  Joseph's work takes a different approach, inspired by the structure of the MoDA archive itself, and the way we categorise and house our collections.  His starting point was a series of found objects which he dismantled, and separated into component parts. Each part was then catalogued and stored to create a library- or archive-style selection of objects, from which he created a jewellery collection for men. 

All entrants must submit three A3 sized boards showing inspiration, development and finished work.  Here are Joseph's entry boards:

Entry board 1: Joseph put forward his initial idea to create jewellery from deconstructed found objects. Taking inspiration from MoDA, he decided to create his own library, giving each individual component a new identity in the form of an accession number (the unique record number used to identify objects in a collection).

Joseph's first entry board

Entry board 2: Having built a library containing all the different component parts of the found objects he'd previously dismantled, Joseph  utilised his knowledge of computer-aided design to create jewellery pieces inspired by this new library, which were machine cut and hand finished, using the traditional technique of heat tempering.

Joseph's second entry board

Entry board 3: With the jewellery collection consisting of over 50 items and the assembled library continuing to expand, Joseph took inspiration from the catalogues Fleetway: The Greatest Value in the Kitchen (Badda287)  and  Art & Utility in Gas (Badda2072) to write and illustrate a catalogue explaining his work and the processes involved.

Joseph's third entry board

MoDA's Learning Officer Richard Lumb commented,'Rather than being inspired by a particular design or style, Joseph has taken inspiration from the structure of the MoDA archive itself, and the way that we categorise and house our collections. We feel this approach represents an exciting interpretation of the Award brief, and opens up the possibility for creative work which looks beyond the subjects and themes associated with the content of our collections.'

The judges shared this view, adding that Joseph's 'unusual use of archival systems was well thought-out and realised.' 

Joseph receiving his award certificate from Hilary Robinson, Dean of the School of Art & Design at Middlesex University and Richard Lumb, MoDA's Learning Officer

After jointly winning this year's award, Joseph said: “For me this feels great. I would like to put the money towards getting studio space, I’d like to set up my own business.”

Joseph with part of his final jewellery collection

Since winning, Joseph has entered work for the New Designers exhibition which has resulted in a lot of interest. He sold a few pieces of his jewellery collection at the show and there was interest from other buyers as well. Responding to this interest Joseph said, 'It's a great feeling knowing people are are actually interested in my work and want to wear it'.

Joseph has been asked to enter the 'Cultivated' graduate program which runs at Unit Twelve Gallery, based in Staffordshire.  If chosen he will be offered six months free studio space, shop window and exhibition space and a bursary.  He has been asked to stock a selection of jewellery at Gallery 25 in Hereford, which he is currently putting together ready to send off within the next two weeks. Joseph has also been invited to exhibit at Lovers Light Gallery in south-west London, for a two month stint from September as part of a 'new designers' exhibition.

'The next few months are going to be great', said Joseph. 'I just hope that I can find a full time job in the meantime'.  For more information about Joseph and his work please visit his new website.

We very much hope that other Middlesex University Art & Design students will be inspired by Joseph and Paresha's success, and come and explore MoDA's rich and varied archive for themselves.  You can find out about the work of previous Arthur Silver Award entrants in past MoDA blog posts, as well as looking at MoDA's website for more information about the application process.

Friday, 18 July 2014

Research on MoDA's Japanese stencils

Over the past few weeks MoDA staff were joined by Dr Alice Humphrey, from Leeds University.  
Zoe Hendon, the Head of Museum Collections at the Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture, finds out more:

We've mentioned MoDA's collection of Japanese stencils or katagami on this blog several times before. These are delicate stencils which would have been used for printing kimono fabric at the end of the nineteenth century in Japan.  They were acquired by the designers who worked for the Silver Studio to use as design reference. Several of the examples from MoDA's collections have been loaned to recent exhibitions in Japan, and I also looked at their influence on the Silver Studio's design output in my book The Silver Studio and the Art of Japan (2014).

The Silver Studio and the Art of Japan
available online from MoDA via the Middlesex University online shop
But until earlier this year it was still clear that we didn't know too much about katagami  in general, or about the significance of the examples in MoDA's collections in particular.  I was therefore really delighted to be able to invite Dr Alice Humphrey from Leeds University to spend a few weeks with us, to share her knowledge on this fascinating subject.  Alice has recently completed her PhD on the different uses of geometric motifs between cultures.  She has spent some time studying the katagami held by the University of Leeds International Textiles Archive (ULITA), and was therefore well placed to be able to compare and contrast the two collections.  

MoDA’s collection consists of about four hundred stencils, making it one of the largest held in public collections in the UK.  The V&A has a similar number, and ULITA holds about two hundred. 

katagami stencil depicting chrysanthemums and bamboo stems,
Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture, K2.28
As a result of Alice’s careful study of MoDA’s stencil collection, we now know that a high proportion (that is, a higher proportion than in other collections), feature floral designs.  This probably reflects the interests of the Silver Studio which acquired them as inspiration for wallpaper and textile design.  The stencils mostly date from the Meiji period (1868-1912).  Several show similar themes (such as chrysanthemums on scrolling stems) in diverse styles (including imitation of tie dye and of ikat weaving) and cutting techniques, providing interesting comparative material.  Of the non-floral designs, most are either geometric patterns or representations of Japanese auspicious objects.  

katagami stencil depicting chrysanthemums and Taoist precious objects
Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture, K2.33

Some of the katagami have complex or multi-coloured designs, produced by overlaying stencils; in several cases, quite unusually, MoDA’s collection includes the full set of stencils so the full finished design can be visualised. 

Interestingly, about half of MoDA's collection consists of stencils featuring naturalistic scenes of plants with birds or insects, possibly made for the Western market.  These stencils provide detailed images of Japanese flora which are useful as a key to identifying more stylised flowers and, in their own right, are interesting as a reflection of variations introduced into designs for the export market.  These are not typical of traditional Japanese katagami stencils and do not appear to be widely represented in museum collections in the West.  They might therefore provide a fruitful avenue for further research, perhaps looking at cross-cultural influences between Japan and the West.

We're really grateful to Alice for all her hard work, and for sharing her expertise with MoDA staff so generously.  We'll be making more of the updated catalogue records available on our website over the coming weeks.  The katagami are some of my favourite objects in MoDA’s collections, and I’m looking forward to finding more ways to develop Alice’s research in the future.

The stencil collection is popular with both students and creative practitioners who come to MoDA for design inspiration: Paresha  Amin, one of this year’s Arthur Silver Award winners used katagami as the starting point for her work, and some of the artists taking part in MoDA’s current partnership project with North Finchley ( will be using them in their projects also.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Paresha Amin - Arthur Silver Award 2014 winner

As regular readers of this blog will know, this year the judges decided to share the Arthur Silver Award between two final year students at Middlesex University, Paresha Amin (BA Fine Art) and Joseph Farrow (BA Jewellery & Accessories).  Entrants to the award are required to use the MoDA collections as inspiration in the development of a piece of studio work, and both students did this in very different but equally successful ways. 

We thought we would take this opportunity to showcase both award winning entries and to share some of the reasons why they were successful. We thought we would start first with Paresha's entry to be followed in our next post with an in-depth look at Joseph's winning entry . 

Paresha created a series of collage paintings, the result of combining existing work and being inspired by seeing katagami stencils at the Museum of Domestic Design & Architecture.

One of Paresha's four award winning collage paintings
One of a number of Katagami stencils that inspired Paresha.  Museum of Domestic Design & Architecture (K1. xx)

All entrants must submit three A3 sized boards showing inspiration, development and finished work.  Here are Paresha's entry boards:

Entry board 1: Paresha was initially attracted to the katagami stencils because, like her own nature prints, they are made out of plant matter.  Further examination revealed that various katagami are based on geometric patterns and stylised images of plants which linked to Paresha's own interest in mathematical pattern design. Seeing the stencils led Paresha to consider other Japanese art forms including wood block prints in the collections at the British Museum.

Entry board 2: Inspired by the variety of pattern depicted in the katagami and the work of contemporary artist Jennifer Linsson, Paresha cut up photocopies of her own prints, and photos of katagami, before rearranging and assembling them to make new images.

Entry boards 3: Finally, Paresha created a series of collage paintings, combining her new pictures with paintings which were inspired by the knife-cutting strokes and subtle hues of the katagami mulberry-paper material.

The judges felt that Paresha’s entry 'represented a genuine engagement with and investigation into her subject matter, and that her translation of the material was both thoughtful and inventive'. 

Paresha receiving her certificate from Hilary Robinson, Dean of the School of Art & Design at Middlesex University
and Richard Lumb, MoDA's Learning Officer

MoDA's Learning Officer, Richard Lumb said, 'We appreciated the open-ended and explorative approach taken by Paresha, whose work demonstrated a real engagement not only with MoDA’s collection of katagami stencils, but with Japanese art and design more broadly. This resulted in her creating an exciting and innovative body of work, presented in a thoughtful and considered way.'

'I am thrilled to jointly win the Arthur Silver Award', commented Paresha.  'It was a very interesting and exciting exercise to use MoDA's collections as a starting point to arrive at the paintings.'

She intends to put the money towards the MA in Fine Art that she will be starting at the Slade School of Fine Art, University of London in September  2014.  In the meantime, Paresha will be exhibiting work at Parallax Art Fair in Chelsea at the end of July.  If you can't wait that long then you can see more of Paresha's work on her website.

For more information about the Arthur Silver Award please see previous blog posts.

Friday, 11 July 2014

Judging this year's Arthur Silver Award

MoDA's Learning Officer, Richard Lumb, talks to Graeme Brooker, Head judge of MoDA's Arthur Silver Award and Head of Fashion and Interiors at Middlesex University,  about this year's award....

RL: Graeme, in order to help our readers, could you describe your role at Middlesex University and say how you are best placed to be Head judge of the Award judging panel?

GB: I am the head of the department of fashion and interiors, a role that encompasses a variety of jobs including representing the department and school/institution, developing and implementing strategy, working with and for people, such as staff and students, undertaking teaching (I don’t want to give that up), research, finances and so on. Its a great challenge of a job. I have always enjoyed working with students and still teach, so to be able to judge this competition and the students project work gives me great pleasure. With regards to ‘best placed’, to be head judge,  I just hope that my fellow judges can see that I am a fair person and I like and am happy to listen to opinion and then form consensus.

RL:  This year the judges decided to share the award by choosing two winning students – Paresha Amin and Joseph Farrow.  What were the reasons for this decision?

GB: Through review the panel established a small group of ‘finalists’. After much debate the panel felt that from this group there were two outstanding pieces of work. Much debate ensued. The two outstanding projects represented quite different ways of approaching the competition brief and yet both had achieved a very high-standard of resolution albeit through quite different means. Therefore we decided to award both the first prize. We wanted to demonstrate the different ways through which the competition brief could be achieved.

RL: As part of the judging process you got to look at six shortlisted entries.  What were your thoughts about the overall quality of this year's entries?

GB: The standard of work was very high this year with a real variety of processes, ranging from students adapting their own already established practices to the brief and others really trying something new. It was a pleasure to look at the work.

RL: Paresha and Joseph looked very please to have won this year's award.  Why do you think competitions like the Arthur Silver Award are so important to students at Middlesex University?

GB: Competitions like this are very important because the crediting of work and its recognition by colleagues and peers is crucial and helps students to not only validate their work but also to distinguish themselves when outside of the institution. No doubt The money comes in handy too!

We would like to thank Graeme for taking the time to chat about the Arthur Silver Award and for his continued support in the role of Head judge. For more information about the award and this year's winning students please see previous blog posts.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Hasler Gallery: opportunity for recent graduates

Are you a recent graduate (graduating within the last three years) in the field of product design, fashion, graphics, accessories or textiles (or something similar)?  Are you looking for ways to further develop your practice, and get some real-life guidance on how to make it all work?

The Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture is working with the North Finchley Town Team on a project aimed at the regeneration of the Ten Grand Arcade in Finchley.   The Hasler Gallery within the Grand Arcade has been established to support creative practice in Barnet by exhibiting work made by individuals and institutions within the local area.

As part of this project we've already recruited five fantastic creative practitioners who will be commissioned to make work inspired by the Hasler and Silver Studio collections at MoDA.  We're now looking for recent graduates to work alongside them on a mentorship basis to help with the realisation of their projects.

The resulting collaborative work will be exhibited in the Hasler Gallery in North Finchley's Grand Arcade in November 2014.

We're looking for enthusiastic recent graduates who are willing to learn from others in a collaborative environment.  Five successful applicants will each be paired with one of our chosen creative practitioners on a mentorship basis.  If you would like to be considered for the project please take a look at the details on the Hasler Gallery website.

Please send a CV and a statement of not more than 300 words to telling us which artist/practitioner you would like to work with, along with two recent images of your work.

The closing date for applications is Thursday 24th July.  If you are successful you will be invited to a 'meet and greet' with the artist/practitioners on Tuesday 29th July

We're really excited about this project already -we look forward to receiving your applications!

Friday, 4 July 2014

Petal Power - now online!

Assistant Curator Hilary Davidson announces a new online exhibition for MoDA

Petal Power is one of the Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture's best-toured exhibitions, and this week we have made it available online as part of MoDA's website.

The physical exhibition appeared first at the Knitting and Stitching Show at Alexandra Palace in 2011. It was a great place to debut a show featuring the work of women employed by the Silver Studio in London between 1910 and 1940, and recognising their roles within the firm and in the development of fashionable dress prints of the interwar period. We have talked about it previously on this blog many times.

chiffon dress, borrowed for Petal Power exhibition
from Middlesex University's Fashion Collection

Petal Power then toured to the Royal Albert Museum and Art Gallery in Exeter in 2012, and to Chepstow Museum then to Guildford House Gallery. Each venue had a slightly different version according to the space and loans available.

Textile historian Keren Protheroe was involved in Petal Power’s inception and realisation. Much of the research drew from her PhD thesis with Kingston University. We’re very happy to say she achieved her degree in 2012. The full work is called Bloom and Blotch: The Floral Print and Modernity in the Textile Designs of Winifred Mold and Minnie McLeish, 1910-1930

Keren wrote and MoDA published a book to accompany the exhibition which is available to buy from the Middlesex University online shop.

We hope you enjoy visiting – or revisiting – the floral delights of Petal Power in this gorgeous summer weather.  Do let us know what you think!

Silver Studio textile design
Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture, SD2749