Saturday, 2 June 2012

A Royal Muse

The Jubilee weekend is finally upon us, evidenced in decorated high streets, TFL travel warnings and an abundance of  red, white and blue paraphernalia on shop shelves.

There is certainly a lot of Jubilee ‘stuff’ around for the consumer this summer. Any reputable British retailer worth their salt has dedicated a section of their store to products marking this year’s royal occasion. From Liberty to Harrods, shops are stocked up on collectables, souvenirs, party supplies and anything else that happens to be emblazoned with the Union Jack. In amongst the paper bunting and disposable cups, there is also a lot of well-made, ‘jubilee inspired’ products and ranges by reputable designers and studios.

If you were a designer given such a commission for 2012, how would you interpret the theme of 'jubilee'?

Around 1896 the Silver Studio worked up a wallpaper for the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria. The design is a busy mix of all the main symbols of the British monarchy. It is uncertain if this ever made it to the shop floor but if one had seen this design on a wall, there could be little confusion about it's subject. 

Wallpaper design for Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee, Silver Studios, 1895/6. [SD11265 Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture].

Fast forward to 2012, and national or royal symbols are still the obvious starting point for designers of products for the current monarch's anniversary. Take for example Emma Bridgewater's Street Party Commemorative pieces or Vivienne Westwood’s jubilee fashion range. In Westwood's dresses there is also a nod to the style of Elizabeth II's coronation year, similar to Marks & Spencer with their 1950s ‘jubilee’ underwear range.  Others have taken Elizabeth II as their muse, reflecting her personality and interests in playful products like Hannah Zakari’s Corgi necklace

Once you've found your royal inspiration, the other question to ask is: Will your design, be it a textile, jewellery or wallpaper, hold appeal beyond this weekend?

In 1953, Arthur Sanderson & Sons Ltd released a 'Coronation Decoration' wallpaper range in honour of Elizabeth II's accent to the throne. Some of the designs are more subtle than others, but the series still begs the questions: who would have purchased this paper, and was it still on walls in the 1960s?

Samples from the Coronation Decoration range wallpaper album , Arthur Sanderson & Sons Ltd, 1953 [SC4, MoDA]

This year to mark the occasion, Graham & Brown have released a wallpaper called 'Jubilee', designed by surface design and textile student Sophie Minal. The references are clear: 1950s, London and a female monarch. It's a clever piece of work which has won praise from the Guardian

'Jubilee' wallpaper designed by Sophie Minal for Graham & Brown, 2012. [Photo courtesy of Graham & Brown]

What do you think of these designs? Would you be decorating your home this weekend with jubilee inspired wallpaper, or will you be keeping it temporary with some paper bunting?


  1. I have some Coronation wallpaper, it is a frieze or pelmet. The label states ER 1953
    Coronation Pelmet 30 feet long & 7 inches wide British Made.
    I bought it on eBay and I have it on the wall in my bedroom and hall.
    If I could get some of the paper you have shown I would use it in my house.

  2. Sounds great - hope you are able to find something suitable!