Friday, 19 December 2014

Hasler Happy Christmas

Curator of the Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture, Sim Panaser, finds some unusual Christmas cards in the museum's Charles Hasler Collection:

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

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:

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:

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

“The Re-Issue: A look at Yesterday’s Future” Artist’s Talk in North Finchley's Grand Arcade

This week sees the launch of an exciting exhibition in the Hasler Gallery, North Finchley.   

For two weeks only, from 18th October to 5th November, glassmaker Charlotte Smith, jewellery designer Loveness Li, fine artist Nusha Purdy, interior designer Lucy Manksi, glass artist Lyndsey Gates and illustrator Robbie Shepherd will be exhibiting their work at the HaslerGallery, an exciting new space in Barnet’s Grand Arcade.

The five exhibitors are recent graduates from the fields of Art & Design.  Their exhibition is part of an exciting collaborative project commissioned by the North Finchley Town Team in a joint venture with the Museum of Domestic Design & Architecture (MoDA), Middlesex University.

These graduates, selected from an open call, have each been paired with a mid-career designer/maker, on a mentorship basis. Together they are currently working on a commissioned piece, which takes inspiration from the Silver Studio collection at MoDA (a rich historic archive which provides fantastic visual inspiration for today’s designer-makers.). These pieces will be on display later on in the calendar year.

Find out how they are getting on by coming along to the Artists' Talk, in the Haslery Gallery on Saturday 25th October from 6pm-9pm.

Gallery Opening times:
Thursday - Friday 12-6pm

Saturday 12-4pm

Or by appointment:

Address: The Hasler Gallery, Grand Arcade, North Finchley, N12 0EH

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Historic Magazines given new lease of life

MoDA’s Preventive Conservation Officer, Emma Shaw, explains how the magazine collection has become much more accessible to users.

The collections of the Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture include some fantastic magazines dating from the early twentieth century.  They are frequently requested by students and researchers because they are interesting from a variety of angles, including both their content and their typography and design. 

However, until recently it was difficult to allow people handle many of these magazines because they were simply too fragile.  After all, they were printed cheaply on thin paper and never intended to be read nearly a hundred years later.  In many cases the paper was discoloured, many had small tears, and the covers were frequently torn, creased and dog-eared.  

Some of the staples holding the magazines together were severely rusted, broken, or missing. The rust had stained and corroded the paper, causing holes and increased brittleness at the centre folds. As a result many cover pages had detached.

MoDA's policy is to try to make all of the items in our collections available for use in our Study Room by students, researchers and members of the public who visit by appointment.  So we were keen to see what could be done to improve the condition of these magazines, and we made it a priority in the last academic year.  We’re delighted to report that twelve boxes containing over two hundred magazines were returned to MoDA this week after a labour-intensive program of conservation by expert paper conservator Sonja Schwoll and her team.

Sonia and her team used some innovative conservation techniques
which involved gelatin and Japanese paper to repair the damaged magazine covers

This work makes the magazine much more accessible to users both now and in the future.  They are all now robust enough to allow for handling in our Study Room according to our conservation guidelines, and available to students and researchers alike.   We're very pleased with the work Sonja has done and we'll be aiming to get another batch of magazines from MoDA's collections conserved in the coming year.  

And as it turned out, some of the magazines were immediately in demand the day after they returned from the conservator. Author Lynn Knight came to MoDA to carry out research for a forthcoming novel. Among the things she wanted to see were copies of Woman's Life and Housewife magazine from the 1920s and 1930s, two of the recently conserved titles. Thanks to the work undertaken, it was straightforward for Lynn to access this material, and she was thrilled to be the first MoDA researcher to benefit from the work undertaken.

If you are interested in the techniques of paper conservation and want to know more about how Sonja and her team transformed these magazines from their previous dog-eared state, you can read the full report here.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

"Inspiration Examined" at the Chelsea degree show

MoDA's Head of Collections, Zoe Hendon, finds out how MA Textile Design students from Chelsea School of Arts used inspiration from MoDA to inform their degree show work.

It's always a pleasure to see how creative people use the collections of the Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture  (MoDA) for inspiration.   It's something we're really interested in, because it's clearly something we want to encourage to happen more.  I've recently been working with Linda Sandino from Chelsea School of Arts on a project funded by Share Academy in which we interviewed seven MA Textile Design students from Chelsea.  We videoed them talking about their approach to objects from MoDA's collections and the different ways in which they were able to use the objects they chose to inform the development of their creative practice.

We're still working on our findings, and we'll put some of the video clips up online soon.  But in the meantime, it was great to see some of those same students at their degree show last Friday night.

Alex Beattie

Alex Beattie was particularly inspired by some of MoDA's 1920s wallpapers.  His textile designs, featuring acid-bright colours and dream-like landscapes show a clear progression from some of the things he looked at when he visited.  But for Alex, his inspiration wasn't just in the emulation of motifs and colours - in his video interview he talked in a really interesting way about looking to MoDA's wallpapers to help him resolve technical issues to do with the creation of the illusion of depth and perspective in his designs.

Linda Sandino (left) and Darshini Sundar 

Darshini Sundar came to MoDA in search of block printed textiles and geometric motifs; her work involves developing traditional block printing techniques with workers in the south of India.  I was really impressed by the way her textile designs used natural dyes and simple shapes to create deceptively complex patterns. 

textiles designed by Darshini Sundar 

For many studio-based students, the history behind the objects in museum collections are not their primary interest - they are often more concerned with techniques of making, with colour and with motif.  Jaswant Flora was unusual in that her interest was in the history of cotton as a commodity, and in the physicality of objects.  She was also interested in the idea that textiles can tell a story, and the idea of mark-making and narrative.  She commented in her interview: "...MoDA helped me a lot because it did make me understand how I could apply it [my textile design] into a narrative as well"

Jawant Flora

It was great to catch up with all of the students at the degree show, to see their final work and to hear a bit more about their visits to the Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture influenced the development of their ideas.  We wish them all the best for their future careers, and hopefully we'll see them at MoDA sometime again.