Friday, 19 December 2014

Hasler Happy Christmas

Have you sent your Christmas cards?  I must admit I haven't and it appears I am not alone, with a recent article in the The Guardian asking if, 2014 is the year that the Christmas card died.  Below are a selection of fantastic Christmas cards from MoDA's collections that will inspire you to keep the tradition alive.

One of the things I enjoy most about working with MoDA collections is seeing everyday objects that are often overlooked afresh.  
This was the case when I opened a small and unassuming box of Christmas and New Year cards that were sent to the graphic designer Charles Hasler (1908-1992) during the 1950s. I was struck by the graphic design of each card, the carefully considered illustrations, typography and colourways, all designed to delight, entertain and surprise - truly capturing the spirit of the festive season.  Kept by Hasler for over thirty years these cards must have had a similar effect on him too. 

The next thing I noticed were the people who had sent the cards and who in some cases had designed them too.  These individuals were key figures in post-war design, a roll call of eminent designers and taste-makers of the day.  Not only reflecting Hasler's connection to them but positioning him among them.  Hasler worked as graphic designer for central government departments between 1942 and 1951, including the Ministry of Information and Festival of Britain, for which he was the Chairman of the Typography Panel.  He then went on to be a freelance designer and typographer and his impressive client list included British Rail and Architectural Review.  

Don't over-reach yourself during 1956  

I think this card may have been sent to Hasler from the designers Ronald Sandiford and Clifford Hatts, both of whom worked on the Festival of Britain displays.  Note the different names on this card, Ronald Sandidown instead of Sandiford and Clifford Upsiffats instead of Clifford Hatts.  The replacement suffix and prefix to their surnames create the word 'upsidown', mirroring the design of the card itself and perhaps an indication of the perils of over-reaching yourself.  

Greetings from Mr and Mrs Fishenden, 1954

R.B. Fishenden (1880-1956) was the eminent print consultant and editor of the Penrose Annual, a London based review of the graphic arts.  Hasler designed the 1957 volume of the annual which can be viewed here at MoDA.  More cards sent by Fishenden featuring fishy motifs can be seen in the Guildford School of Art archive at the UCA. Further information about the archive and both Mr and Mrs Fishenden can be found here.

Hoping you will be as well stuffed this Christmas, 1953

This Christmas card features a photograph of architect-designer and founder of the Design Research Unit, Misha Black (1910-1977).  Hasler worked with Black on the Ministry of Information's Greater London Plan exhibition in 1944 as well as the 1951 Festival of Britain. 
The portrait of Black, together with the message inside reflects Black's sense of humour and the hot pink interior adds to the irreverence.  

Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, 1954

This wonderful card in which the year 1954 literally disappears before your eyes was sent to Hasler by the Henrions.  Frederick Henri Kay Henrion (1914-1990) was an emigre graphic designer who worked for the Ministry of Information in 1942 and produced some of its most well known work including the 'Dig for Victory' poster.  Henrion's archive is located at the University of Brighton and contains references to Hasler indicating their connection.

If you would like to view any items from the Charles Hasler collection please contact us to make an appointment.   In the meantime wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.  See you in 2015. 

Friday, 12 December 2014

"In Conversation" afternoons at MoDA in 2015

During 2014 we have run a series of collection sessions at the Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture (MoDA).  We can now announce new sessions for 2015. 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. 

The next three sessions will be on 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 January 28th the "In Conversation" afternoon is on Japanese Katagami Stencils, which were hand-crafted in Japan in the mid-late nineteenth century and were used to print beautiful and intricate designs on to fabric. Curator Maggie Wood will bring out a range of different designs from the collection which you can see and handle ‘up close’.  We’ll explore how the stencils were traditionally used in Japan, as well as their significance for Western artists and designers as ‘exotic’ artefacts from the East. 
Reserve your ticket now for the January date

Example of Katagami at MoDA, c.1870 (K1.20)

On February 25th Curator, Sim Panaser, will lead a session 'The Fabric of Modernity' which will take an in-depth look at the distinctive and bold furnishing fabrics made in Britain, from the height of the modern movement to the emergence of the ‘contemporary’ style of the 1950s. We will be exploring the production and consumption of these textiles, from the designers and studios that created them to how they were marketed and used both in the home and public spaces.  A range of textiles from MoDA’s collection will be available for you to see up-close and handle.  Highlights will include designs by Enid Marx, Edinburgh Weavers and Lucienne Day.  
Reserve your ticket now for the February date

Fabric designed by Jacqueline Groag, David Whitehead Ltd, 1952 (BADDA4629)

On March 25th the focus turns to conversation and preservation of the collections. 'Designs on Tracing Paper' will look at the many designs from MoDA's Silver Studio collection which are on tracing paper. These nineteenth and early twentieth century papers are very delicate and present a challenge to conservators.  Emma Shaw, MoDA's Preservation and Conservation Officer, will lead this session showing a range of designs on tracing paper and will explain the challenges and some of the solutions to preserving these designs. 
Reserve your ticket now for the March date

Design for textile on tracing paper, Silver Studio, 1916 (SD21205)

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 the MoDA Study Room to discuss your interests in the collection and to arrange a time to visit.  

Last chance to see "Two Worlds in the Footsteps of the Silver Studio"

There is one more week to view "Two Worlds in the Footsteps of the Silver Studio" at the Hasler Gallery.

The work of designer Jo Angell and artist Katie Horwich brings together imagery from the Silver Studio of the 1890s, with current imagery found within the streets of North Finchley, to create an enchanting new world which transforms the familiar, and highlights the exotic.

Designer Jo Angell

Artist Kate Horwich
MoDA staff visited the gallery during the busy and successful Christmas Fayre. The Hasler Gallery is in the Grand Arcade in North Finchley - a  1930s shopping arcade which has been revamped with the help of a grant by the North Finchley Town Team

Come along and visit the installation for yourself before it closes next week. We will keep you informed of new displays in 2015.

Where:    The Hasler Gallery, Grand Arcade, North Finchley, London N12 0EH
When:     22nd November – 20th December 2014
The Hasler Gallery is open Thursdays and Fridays 12-6pm and Saturdays 12-4pm 
Or you can visit by appointment:

Liberty Style

Here at the  Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture we're pleased to have contributed in a small way to a new book about the iconic shop, Liberty Style, written by Martin Wood.

Promotional image for Liberty Style

The core collection of the Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture (MoDA) is that of the Silver Studio, an independent design studio who supplied designs for wallpapers and textiles to a large number of clients from the late 1800s to the mid 1960s.  Liberty was one of the Silver Studio's best customers throughout this whole period, and hence the histories of the two firms are closely related.

This latest book provides a fantastic overview of Liberty, tracing the story of this influential shop, with many excellent illustrations.  It would be a great Christmas present for anyone interested in the histories of design, textiles, interiors, fashion or shopping - a real treat!

Friday, 5 December 2014

Tangled Yarns

MoDA's Curator, Maggie Wood, visits a thought-provoking exhibition of textiles.

I love my children dearly, but visiting  an exhibition with a five and two-year old rarely allows for much in the way of quiet contemplation. So my child-free trip to the William Morris Gallery in Walthamstow at the weekend was a rare treat. Having thoroughly enjoyed the first half of the permanent exhibition downstairs, I began making my way up the beautiful, wide central staircase to the first floor, where I discovered one of two temporary exhibitions currently on display.

Tangled Yarns consists of new work by Alke Schmidt, in which the artist explores the political and moral dimensions of the textile industry, in particular the cotton trade, from the 1700s to the present day. Schmidt brings together paint and print with fabric and stitch, to produce work which is tactile, vibrant and often hard-hitting.

It's hard to imagine a more appropriate venue than the William Morris Gallery:  Morris's involvement in the mid-late nineteenth century textile trade, as both a designer and manufacturer, meant he was acutely aware that the mass production of fabric inevitably involved the exploitation of those employed to produce it. Yet as a relatively small player in a vast, international trade, Morris lacked the necessary power and influence to bring about change. He therefore had no choice but to source unbleached cloth for his printed cotton designs from the cotton mills of Lancashire, where the working conditions were particularly shocking.

'Morris's Dilemma', Alke Schmidt
'The Spectre', Alke Schmidt

The first two pieces you encounter as you climb the stairs deal directly with the situation in which Morris found himself; 'Morris's Dilemma' and 'The Spectre' are two large wall hangings, where the artist has transposed images of nineteenth century mill machinary taken from a contemporary trade journal, over modern reproductions of classic Morris textiles. Both pieces remind the viewer that however noble Morris's intentions, his hand block-printed cotton designs were arguably just as tainted by the effects of industrial mass production as the mass produced fabric he hated.

As the exhibition continues, Schmidt reminds us that in many parts of the world, working conditions in the textile industry are no less exploitative than in Morris's day. Western appetites for cheap, disposable fashion are such that most of us rarely stop to think about where these items of clothing have come from, or the conditions in which they were produced. But the shocking events at the Rana Plaza garment factory in Bangladesh in April 2013 forced western consumers to confront these issues. Two of the works Schmidt has produced deal directly with this terrible event. One in particular is particularly poignant: 'Memorial 1138 and Counting' commemorates the workers who died, each of whom is represented by a single sewing pin. The fact that there is room left for additional pins to be added as workers continue to die from their injuries is a shocking reminder that the effects of this tragedy are far from over.

Detail of 'Memorial 1138 and Counting', Alke Schmidt
Detail of 'Aftermath', Alke Schmidt

'Aftermath' deals with destruction and devastation left by the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory. It is made from samples shalwar kameez, the traditional dress worn by the garment workers themselves, as well as clothing manufactured in Bangladesh for the western market.These include brightly coloured children's clothes, with brands and labels I recognised from my own children's wardrobes. I'm sure many other viewers also experienced a rather chilling sense of recognition looking at this work, which forces us to deal with the fact that as consumers of these types of goods, we are inevitably implicated in a trade which for many remains a deadly business.

Tangled Yarns is open until 25th January 2015. For more information please see the William Morris Gallery website. supports garment workers around the world.

Friday, 28 November 2014

Foraging For Inspiration

MoDA's Curator, Maggie Wood, finds a student with an unusual interest in the museum's collections.

I spend a lot of time thinking and talking about how students use the collections at the Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture (MoDA). When you consider that we are a university museum, that probably shouldn't come as much of a shock. But I often wonder to what extent other people really understand what students using museum collections really means? You could be forgiven for thinking that this is a fairly one dimensional process, particularly where Art & Design students are concerned, as simple as textile students looking at textile samples Interior Design students looking at images of interiors in books and magazines.

Leah Orford

The reality is rarely so straightforward or predictable. Leah Orford is a Final Year student on what was previously the BA Jewellery course at Middlesex University, now known as BA Design Crafts. She contacted me recently asking if she could book an appointment  to carry out research for her final year project.....on mushrooms? Luckily she went on to tell me a bit more about what this entailed:

"After developing an interest in mushrooms and fungus in my second year, I decided to carry on with the theme and conduct my own research by growing my own mushrooms and documenting their development. Further research lead me to discover that the fungal root system, known as mycelium, can be used as a building material that can be grown into any shape desired under the correct conditions.  I wondered if it would be possible to grow the mycelium into a thin, paper like material that could be manipulated into wearable forms."

Oyster mushroom (Pleurotus ostreatus) mycelium on coffee grounds
(Tobi Kellner,, via Wikimedia Commons)

Well that made things a bit clearer, but what did we have within the collections at MoDA which might inform this type of work? I wondered whether looking at different types of paper might be a useful starting point, and thought of our collection of Japanese katagami stencils. It seemed I was thinking along the right lines:

"I have looked into other ways that organic materials have been used to create thin, paper-like structures, so was intrigued to discover the Japanese katagami stencils when I came to MoDA.  The stencils are made from three thin layers of mulberry tree fibre papers (washi) that have been glued together using persimmon juice (kakishibu) , and then dyed.  The paper is then cut into fragile, intricate designs in order to create the stencils. One in particular caught my attention as it followed the style of the mycelium roots that I had been looking at. This led me to want to explore the idea of layering, transparency, lamination and cutting using the thin mycelium as a potential material and visual inspiration."

One of the katagami stencils Leah looked at as part of her research (K1.20)

After hearing a few stories recently about how toxic some fungi can be, I couldn't help wondering what impact this might have on Leah's plans, particularly as she hoped to create mycelium forms designed to be worn next to the skin. Luckily she was already aware of these considerations:

"The mushrooms I'm using are completely safe and non-toxic, as they are normally grown for consumption. The mycelium, once grown, is left to air dry and then baked at a high temperature to kill any potential allergens. Each sample is completely pasturised before use, along with all the equipment I use and the substrate, so it's completely safe!"

Leah's research is a great example of what can happen when Art & Design students have the opportunity to explore rich and diverse material held in museum collections.  The process of engaging with the katagami stencils revealed connections with her own creative practice, and provided fresh inspiration to move the work forward in new and exciting ways. It's a process which happens repeatedly when people engage with our collections creatively, but which is sometimes difficult to articulate. I'm hoping to get back in touch with Leah next year to see how her work is progressing.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Two Worlds – In the Footsteps of the Silver Studio

Jo Angell and Katie Horwich present the site specific installation “Two Worlds – In the Footsteps of the Silver Studio” at the Hasler Gallery in North Finchley, starting this Saturday, 22nd November.

Designer Jo Angell and artist Katie Horwich were two of the five practitioners who won the Hasler Gallery commission to develop new work inspired by the Silver Studio and Hasler collections housed at the Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture (MoDA).  This is part of a collaborative project initiated by the North Finchley Town Team in a joint venture with MoDA, funded by the London Borough of Barnet and the Mayor’s Office Outer London Fund.

The work of Jo and Katie brings together imagery from the Silver Studio of the 1890s, with current imagery found within the streets of North Finchley, to create an enchanting new world which transforms the familiar, and highlights the exotic.

Come along and see the installation for yourself!

Where:    The Hasler Gallery, Grand Arcade, North Finchley, London N12 0EH
When:     22nd November – 20th December 2014

The Hasler Gallery is open Thursdays and Fridays 12-6pm and Saturdays 12-4pm

Or you can visit by appointment: