Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Notgeld in the Charles Hasler collection

MoDA's conservation and documentation project work on the Charles Hasler collection is drawing to an end. We have finished re-ordering and re-housing this rich assortment of illustrated books, ephemera and packaging material. Now the focus turns to data entry and making some of the information and images about objects in this collection available online.

Over the last few months, we have highlighted some of the interesting finds in this collection which was used by Hasler as reference for his work as a graphic designer. We told you about 1851 exhibition ephemera and also drew your attention to some interesting books. Today some currency takes the stage: introducing Hasler's collection of 60 unusual, highly decorative and historically significant 'Notgeld' (emergency money).

Notgeld means money issued by an unauthorized source (ie., not a bank). The German term is used because the most famous notgeld were those produced by German towns, villages and municipalities from the end of the First World War until the mid 1920s, when the state bank (the Reichsbank), struggled with wartime metal shortages and post-war hyperinflation.

Aside from some metal and fabric notgeld, the majority produced were paper notes. The highly decorative notes soon became collectors items - and still remain to this day. They are double-sided and printed with their monetary value, information about the village, town or province of issue and some wonderful, colourful illustration. Here are examples of the front and back of 1/2 mark, 1 mark and 2 mark notes released by the town of Strausberg in 1921. These are examples of notgeld from sets: 'serienscheine', which were produced mainly to respond to the growing collectors' market for these notes and were often illustrated with scenes which made light of the dire economic situation.

Three Strausberg notgeld, 1921, from the Charles Hasler collection (Museum of Domestic Design & Architecture, CH5/4/2/5/4)

Here are a few others...
Three notgeld in the Charles Hasler Collection (Museum of Domestic Design & Architecture, CH/5/4/2/5/4)

MoDA staff are not experts in numismatic collections, and nor was Hasler himself, since his reasons for collecting them were to do with his interest in paper ephemera and printed design.  (If you want to find out more about the historic value of these items, contact the British Museum as they have a vast array of Notgeld in their collection). Like Hasler, staff at the Museum of Domestic Design & Architecture (MoDA) are aware of the great value of these items as design work and hope that designers might find them as good reference material and a source of inspiration. If you want to book an appointment to view these or other items in our collections, there is further information about this on our website.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

preparations for Knox anniversary

Next year sees the 150th anniversary of the birth of the designer Archibald Knox.  Knox was born in 1864 on the Isle of Man, and became an acclaimed designer of silver and pewterware for Liberty & Co, around the beginning of the twentieth century.

Knox is known for his Celtic-inspired Art Nouveau patterns, and it seems likely that he worked for the Silver Studio around that time - although the records are a little unclear.

textile design by Archibald Knox, ST417, Museum of Domestic Design & Architecture
textile design by Archibald Knox,
Museum of Domestic Design & Architecture, ST417
The exact nature of the relationship between the Silver Studio, its employees (including Knox) and its customers (such as Liberty & Co) is difficult to determine, particularly for that period, as some of the crucial records have not survived; it will probably be the subject of debate by scholars for many years to come. Either way MoDA's  Silver Studio collection contains a number of designs for wallpapers and textiles which are thought to be by Knox, and you can see these on our website.  (We also have a number of designs for metalwork, attributed to Knox, but these are not yet available online).  It's likely we'll be lending some of them to an exhibition at the Manx Museum next year - watch this space for further details!

Friday, 19 July 2013

Past winners of the Arthur Silver Award - How are they getting on?

Regular readers of this blog will know that last month we presented this year's Arthur Silver Award to Kremena Dimitrova, Final Year BA. Illustration student at Middlesex University.  Kremena was thrilled to win the award and intends to start her own business as a freelance illustrator and animator, using the £1000 prize to set up her own website and purchase materials for her own practice.  As we wish Kremena lots of success with her new venture, we thought you might be interested to know how our previous winners  are getting on. In this post we feature our two most recent past winners from 2012 and 2011:

Our 2012 winner was Elsa Sandy, BA Design, Interior & Applied Arts graduate.  Like Kremena she chose to invest her prize money into her own practice, purchasing materials and renting a studio space. In January Elsa was delighted to exhibit her Arthur Silver Award-winning Love Lace light (pictured below) and her Laceum table at Interiors UK following her selection as a New Design Britain Finalist. As a result several merchandisers expressed interest including Mulberry and River Island.  Elsa has also had interest from John Lewis in her table designs, and so she is busy preparing new samples prior to a meeting to discuss how this might progress.  She also has a large garden design commission, with construction due to commence in August, and looking further ahead there is interest in her award winning lighting design being used in a north London high street.

Elsa with her award winning Love Lace light

According to Elsa, 'finding paid employment within the design world is proving impossible without CAD (computer aided design) skills, so in order to gain these I have been volunteering at a Homebase Kitchen, Bathroom and Bedroom showroom'.

Kerry Howley, BA Jewellery graduate, was our 2011 winner.  Kerry was inspired by wallpapers in the collection to create an amazing series of  necklaces made from human hair.  Her necklaces were featured in the national press, helping to generate a massive wave of interest in her work which resulted in further press activity, commissions and exhibitions. Kerry was also chosen by Craft magazine as one of their six favourite graduates for 2011.The necklaces are still in demand and have been to a couple of places in the last year, including a return trip to the Netherlands for their second Dutch design week, this time as part of the Droog Design show. This was particularly exciting for Kerry as she commented 'Droog are consistently at the boundaries of product/craft/interior design, blurring all the lines'. The necklaces also went back to Milan Design week at Castillo Sforzesco. 

Arguably the most recent stand out event for Kerry was appearing in person alongside one of her necklaces on Channel 4's 'Four Rooms'. She was approached last year by researchers from Boundless TV looking for unusual items. Filming was in January, the programme aired last month, and is still available to see for a while on 4od. Kerry commented, 'I agreed to the show as they confirmed that I did not have to sell (I did not want to) and I thought it might be a fun and interesting day out - which it was!'

One of Kerry's award winning hair necklaces featured on Channel 4's 'Four Rooms' 
In terms of employment it hasn't all been plain sailing for Kerry.  Following redundancy from a local goldsmiths, she has now decided to go self employed. Kerry has bought her first jewellers bench and hopes to launch a collection of jewellery inspired by her hair jewellery this year - in silver!   Kerry suggested she may be popping back to MoDA once this project is more established, to seek our further inspiration from the collections.

So as you can see, both our most recent Arthur Silver Award winners have managed to build on their initial success. But like the vast majority of recent graduates, particularly those in Art & Design, they are also facing tough challenges in terms of gaining employment. Elsa has chosen to tackle this by improving her CAD skills, and by putting her design skills to good use in a number of different areas  including both product and garden design. Like many who are made redundant, Kerry has chosen to become self-employed and become master of her own destiny. Both have shown considerable determination and tenacity to get where they are now, on top of their obvious design talent. We'd like to wish them both well as they move forward in their chosen fields, and look forward to sharing their future successes with you over the coming months and years.

Monday, 15 July 2013

Justin: Lights, Camera, Action! Photography at MoDA

It's been over four months since Justin Piperger took on the post of Photographer at MoDA and so it's high time he was introduced. Justin only works part time on Mondays and Tuesdays but I managed to catch up with him for a chat earlier this week. 

What does the job of MoDA Photographer entail?
The job involves photographing elements of the collections which are required for exhibitions, publications and other requests. Once photographed the files are uploaded to the Museum’s database and thereby made more easily accessible to the public via MoDA’s website.

What have you been working on recently?
I have been working on the touring Petal Power exhibition and photographing various items from the collection for image reproduction and licensing.  I also photograph new and recent acquisitions which have included books from the reference library of Charles Hasler and a collection of war time Woman’s Weekly periodicals.  As well as offering interesting knit patterns for funky pullovers, there’s a nice section where troubled young ladies can get advice about love. 

What do you make of the collections so far?
 I’m finding the collections very interesting. I didn't know the collection too well beforehand so I have been quite thrilled to wander through the racks in the store and make discoveries. I've been documenting many of the Silver Studio designs, mainly pencil with watercolour or gouache. I'm particularly drawn to the designs featuring people and landscapes including those of snowy scenes with sheep and farmers, and of children walking along a country lane. Although most of these designs are anonymous, as was the policy of the Studio, one can sense the designers presence with these pictures. I look for marks of angst within the works, such as angry ink splodges and spiky trees  - but they are seldom there. My favourite design so far is a Harem type scene with Hookah and an androgynous couple lounging in loose fitting clothes. The servant offers some choice dish and through the window beyond dhows sail the Arabian Sea.

I'm also enjoying working on the Katagami stencils. These are beautiful, fragile pieces structurally held by lengths of hair, and satisfyingly drenched in persimmon juice. The subjects that I like most are the animal scenes. Carp frolicking in bubbling streams, skinny birds on trees, even frogs waiting in damp patches. The stencils themselves have a brownish tinge so one wonders at the riot of colours on the Kimono silks that the stencils were used to print on. I've experimented with colouring in a couple of the digital files using Photoshop, it's a kind of background doodling and have found a happy bonding with Roy Lichtenstein and Patrick Caulfield.

What do you do the rest of the week?
 The rest of the week I have my own photographic practice, Justin Piperger Photography. I photograph for galleries, artists and collectors (Saatchi Gallery, West End Galleries, the Barbican and others). I also undertake architectural photography, events, people and do anything else that comes along. I am also an artist and have a studio in Shoreditch. I have regular small shows of my paintings around London, and occasionally show in group exhibitions with various organisations including the Stuckists.

For more information about photography at MoDA please contact Justin.