Friday, 30 March 2012

Magnificent magnolia

I've recently found a new route from the station to work, down a street which has some really amazing magnolia trees. They look really spectacular at the moment, although their beauty is sadly short-lived.

Here's a design from the Silver Studio Collection which features magnolia blossoms. It's a design for a printed textile from 1927. The colours along the bottom indicate the number of rollers that would have been required to print it.

Design for a printed textile, by the Silver Studio, 1927
Museum of Domestic Design & Architecture (SD6086)

Personally I'm not sure that the little blue birds add much - their colour is a little too vibrant - what do you think?

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

What does this wallpaper sound like?

There are some people in life who have the ability to make you stop and really think about things differently. For me, FelicityFord is one of those people, so it is both a privilege and a delight to be working with her on the Sonic Wallpapers project. I first met Felicity when she came to MoDA a few years ago to do some of the research for her PhD. So when I was thinking about how to develop an exhibition idea that would fit with our new way of working (Online, On Tour and On Request), I commissioned her to work with us again. My hunch was that she would bring an exciting and fresh perspective to our collections, and also to the means by which we exhibit them (for example by taking advantage of social media), and she is proving me right on both counts.

Felicity Ford, sound artist extraordinaire

MoDA's exhibitions have always been interested in the place of wallpaper as part of our shared memories of home; of spaces both remembered and imagined. So this project is in a sense a continuation of that same approach, combined with the fact that we are increasingly talking about the collections as a starting point for creative practice. The Sonic Wallpapers project is picking up this theme brilliantly, asking "What does this wallpaper sound like to you?". Felicity is now at the stage of collecting field recordings to accompany the interviews she did with participants, and documenting the whole process on her blog. She writes really well and her posts are both thoughtful and thought provoking. It's also great to see the interesting comments that readers are leaving in response. Visit the blog yourself and tell us what you think.

Museum of Domestic Design & Architecture

For me, working with Felicity is enormously inspiring because she reminds me what a richness of thought can be associated with even the most apparently ordinary things. As curator of these collections I sometimes get bogged down in all the practical and administrative aspects of my job. In the past year, especially, I have been concerned with solving problems to do with moving and storing boxes of stuff, rather than with the potential of the objects to inspire creativity, or to prompt memory or day dreams So I'm really pleased to see Felicity engaging with our collections in such an inspiring way: it's a reminder that - after all- our role as a university museum is to provide inspiration for creative practice, and to offer opportunities for public engagement that are both innovative and founded on excellent research. It's what we're really here for.

Museum of Domestic Design & Architecture

Why not tell us about the sounds you associate with wallpapers you remember, or that you have seen here?

What have our recent visitors to the MoDA Study Room been looking at?

Its been a few months since we last shared with you more examples of the fascinating research taking place in the MoDA Study Room. So here is an overview of what our recent visitors have been looking at:

Academic Hilary Hinds is based in the English Department at Lancaster University, and is currently researching the history of twin beds during the late nineteenth century, through to the 1940s. Hilary has already published a fascinating article based on her research for the Design History Society Journal, and wanted to visit MoDA as part of the continuation of the project. In particular she chose to focus on trade catalogues produced by furniture manufacturers and retailers, and household guides and manuals. These included 'Pearsons Home Management' (1904) , 'From Kitchen to Garrett' (1889), 'The Complete Household Adviser', 'The Happy House', 'Harmswell House Encyclopaedia' , and 'The Homeowner's Handbook' (1930s) - what collectively could be described as advice literature. Hilary was hoping that this material would give her an insight into the extent to which manufacturers and retailers were selling and marketing twin beds, and how a married couple's sleeping arrangements were being discussed in the advice literature of the day.

Another frequent visitor to MoDA is Guilia Ricci, artist-in-residence based within Middlesex University's Fine Art department. After previously looking at abstract and geometric designs produced by the Silver Studio from the 1930s, Guilia has transferred her attention to bold geometric wallpaper patterns from the 50s & 60s, including the Palladio series, initiated by the Lightbown Aspinall branch of the WPM in the 1950s.

First time visitor, Diti Vora, MA Textile Design student at the University of the Arts, has been looking at trade catalogues as part of her research into the importance of lighting for interiors and textile design, and the history of the living room.

Harriet Atkinson, Phd student at the University of Brighton, has been looking at the Charles Hasler Collection. We're really excited that Harriet has been able to make use of this collection, as its probably the least known about or used collection we hold. Harriet is looking at a number of graphic designers and typographers, many of whom would have moved in the same circles as Hasler. We look forward to finding out how her research progresses.

Hollie Price, Film Studies PHd student at Queen Mary, University of London, has been looking at some the lifestyle/interiors magazines that we hold including House & Garden, as part of her research into representations of the 1940s home.

It's great to see visitors exploring all areas of our collections. We look forward to receiving more visitors to the Study Room, and will of course keep you posted as to who comes in. In the meantime it is Maggie's last day at MoDA before she goes on maternity leave and I am sure you will join with me in wishing her best wishes. Whilst Maggie is away, Louisa Knight will be supervising all Study Room visits. More on Louisa to follow.

Welcome the Spring

We have been promising the launch of our new website for months now, and it's still not quite ready. The clever tech-guys are still working away behind the scenes to make sure it all functions properly. It shouldn't be long now, so please bear with us!
Meanwhile, nature doesn't have to worry about delays with web developers, and it's hard to believe that today is the first day of spring already! I found this charming pamphlet in our collections, which seemed to encapsulate the optimism of the season. Trees coming into leaf, new life bursting forth, and an excuse for a wardrobe revamp. What more could a woman want?
I would like a "Pringle cashmere snugcoat
in shades of medici blue and champagne " please.
Marshall & Snelgrove catalogue, around 1940
Museum of Domestic Design & Architecture, BADDA73

Finding this cheered me up about our delayed website; itwas a reminder that MoDA's collections contain some really great stuff, and the new website will enable us to share it with you much more easily. (Keep watching this space!)
What do you think? Has the arrival of spring cheered you up too?

Friday, 16 March 2012

Ideal Homes

Today sees the beginning of the Ideal Home Show at Earls Court, and this year I'm hoping to get along to see it. It's been a regular feature of the British calendar for over a century, and it has always reflected the way people live in their homes, including mass market trends as well as aspirational ideas and new technologies. MoDA's collections include a number of related things, including this catalogue from 1935, featuring a great quote from King George V: "The foundations of the national glory are set in the homes of the people"

Museum of Domestic Design & Architecture,

The long history of the Ideal Home Show was detailed by Deborah Ryan, in her book Ideal Home through the Twentieth Century, which is a fascinating read for anyone interested in the histories of shopping, consumerism and advances in domestic technologies.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Katagami Style - MoDA goes international

This week we have sent ten items from MoDA's collections to an exhibition in Japan,entitled 'Katagami Style - Paper Stencils and Japonisme'.

We have a large number of these Japanese stencils (or 'katagami') which are part of the Silver Studio collection. They date from the late nineteenth century, and were probably acquired by Arthur Silver as sources of inspiration for his designs for wallpapers and textiles. They are approximately A4 in size, and were used in the process of printing Japanese kimonos. They are amazingly intricate, with very fine detail which would of course have all been cut by hand.

Other collections of katagami exist in museums across Europe, many of which are also lending to this exhibition. The exhibition in Japan will look at the ways that these examples of Japanese craft had an influence on European art and design (including Art Nouveau and Art Deco) during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

We're really pleased that some of our items will be seen on an international stage. If you happen to be in Japan this year, you will be able to see the exhibition at the Mitsubishi Ichikogan Museum, Tokyo, the National Museumof Modern Art, Kyoto, and the Mie Prefectural Art Museum. It has been curated by three professors from the Japan Women's University, the Bunka Gakuen University, and the Kyoritsu Women’s University. We’re delighted to be sending some of our Japanese stencils to this show, as it is a small but important contribution to international scholarship.If you are able to see the exhibition then post a comment to let us know what you think of it.

This design inspired by Katagami will be accompanying the stencils to Japan

See our conservator, Emma, preparing one of the objects, ready to travel in its new frame:

Friday, 9 March 2012

What the Dickens!

We've recently been looking at some of the children's wallpapers in our collections which are based on book illustrations. This week, in honour of the 200th birthday of Charles Dickens, it seems a good time to feature this one, produced in 1926:

Museum of Domestic Design & Architecture (SW1376)

Our small-ish fragment does not show the whole repeat, giving us only a corner of the Old Curiosity Shop, Mrs Gamp (a character from Martin Chuzzlewit), and the Bull Inn, Holborn (featured in the Pickwick Papers), and Mr Pickwick and his friends.

As far as I can tell, this wallpaper seems quite rare: neither the V&A nor the Whitworth Art Gallery seem to have anything similar in their collections. Do you know of any other examples?

This is an example of one of our 'sanitary wallpapers'. More on these in a future post...

Sunday, 4 March 2012

A 'diverting history'

We've recently been looking again at some of the wallpapers in our collections that were based on children's book illustrations. And we've been looking at some of the many books in our collections which contain brilliant illustrations - it's really interesting to see the common threads between book illustrations and wallpapers, both in terms of style and in terms of technique and production. We think that more students studying things like graphics and illustration would use our collections, if only they knew what we've got. So, we're embarking on a project to make some of this into an online exhibition (once our new website is finally launched!) If you, or anyone else you know would be interested in applying, please email Zoe Hendon for more details. (NB closing date 1st April 2012).

More posts on this theme will follow over the next few weeks, but we thought we would start with a wallpaper based on John Cowper's poem The Diverting History of John Gilpin, first published in 1782. It was featured on the recent edition of Radio 4's Poetry Please programme, or you can hear it on Youtube.

The poem (said to be based on a real-life incident), tells the story of a wealthy London draper, who borrows a horse from a friend. He plans to ride from London to 'The Bell', at Edmonton, to celebrate his wedding anniversary - but the horse has other ideas!

Museum of Domestic Design & Architecture (SW1375)

The wallpaper dates from around 1910, and shows different scenes from the poem, with horses galloping in all directions: it would have been an exciting decoration for a child's bedroom. The poem was first published in the Public Advertiser on 14th November 1782 and became famous within a few years. The poem's popularity was increased by the quality of the illustrations which accompanied the text. George Cruikshank, "Phiz" Hablot Brown and Randolph Caldecott all illustrated various versions of the poem. The designer of this wallpaper was probably influenced by some of these earlier illustrations. I really like the poem, and I think the wallpaper gives a good sense of the frantic gallop and all the chaos that ensues.

Look out for more posts on a similar theme, coming soon...