Friday, 13 June 2014

The secret life of objects; or, the case of SD3

In the last couple of weeks, I’ve spent a lot of time adding contextual information to object records. This can be details of when it was loaned to an exhibition, if somebody used it as an illustration in an article or book, or it inspired a creative project.

In my previous post I mentioned that two loans had recently returned from an exhibition in Japan. One of these objects, with the accession number SD3, has come up again and again as I sort through records of how objects have been used. Slowly I realised that this design on paper by Arthur Silver for a Japanese-style room is probably the most used object in the MoDA collections.

SD3, Design for decoration of door and wall, 1885
Every museum has such a star object with a high request use. Sometimes it becomes almost an emblem of the museum, like Tipu’s Tiger in the V&A. These objects have a secret jetsetting life that beautifully represents how many diverse ways collections can be used, make an impact, and share information. Even as I started writing this post I found another two SD3 uses, bring the current number of Procedures, as the cataloguing system calls them, up to twenty-four.

So what has SD3 got up to at home and away?

Mostly recently, it’s been part of a touring exhibition to Japan organised by the V&A called Art for Art’s Sake. It’s a smaller version of their successful The Cult of Beauty: The Aesthetic Movement 1860-1900 exhibition – also featuring SD3 - which showed in London, Paris and San Francisco.  SD3 features in the English and Japanese language catalogues of both exhibitions

It was used with a close-up detail of the wallpaper decoration for an article exploring the aesthetics of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s eerie uses of wallpaper in her short stories ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ and ‘The Unexpected'.    Other academics have used it in a MA thesis with the Royal College of Art, and to illustrate and article for Bunka Women’s University journal in Japan.

The Geffrye museum featured the design on the front page of their website in 2008. But earlier in 2000, they borrowed it for their exhibition The House Beautiful: Oscar Wilde and the Aesthetic Interior.

The highly Japanese-inspired look made SD3 an important object in MoDA’s own exhibition Japantastic: Japanese Inspired Patterns for the British Home 1880-1930 in 2009, now available online. From this exhibition we produced a book of the same name, available in reprint as The Silver Studio and the Art of Japan.

More Japanese influence was explored via SD3 in the exhibition The Great Wave: The Japanese Influence on Western Design at the Cecil Higgins Art Gallery in Bedford in 2001

MoDA’s first-ever exhibition, called A London Design Studio 1880 - 1963,about the Silver Studio, included SD3 and was held at the Museum of London  

Of course SD3 features in the popular book Silver Studio of Design, co-written by Lesley Hoskins, MoDA’s ex-head curator.

The design has been licensed to greetings cards. If you keep your eyes peeled, MoDA’s visually striking objects get around a lot in this form, though we can’t tell you with whom!

And finally, SD3 and some of its interpretations have been the subject of earlier blog posts:
What a life!

Hilary Davidson

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Middlesex students share Arthur Silver Award 2014

The first night of Middlesex University's Art & Design show at the Truman Brewery in Brick Lane, East London is always a special occasion with the annual presentation of the Museum of Domestic Design & Architecture's (MoDA) Arthur Silver Award.  The award is open to all Middlesex University Art & Design & Media undergraduates, and to enter all students must demonstrate how they have used the museum's collections as part of their research and inspiration in the development of any piece of studio work.

This year the Arthur Silver Award was awarded to two Final Year Art & Design students......Paresha AminBA Fine Art, and Joseph Farrow, BA Jewellery & Accessories.  The students received their award certificates and prize money from Hilary Robinson, the Dean of the School of Art & Design at Middlesex University.  
Joseph Farrow and Paresha Amin, winners of the Arthur Silver Award 2014 

Paresha was inspired by Japanese Katagami stencils in the MoDA collections to create a series of collage paintings. The Award judges felt Paresha’s entry represented 'a genuine engagement with and investigation in to her subject matter, and that her translation of the material was both thoughtful and inventive'.
Paresha Amin receiving her award certificate from Hilary Robinson, Dean of the School of Art & Design,
Middlesex University
Rather than being inspired by a particular design or style, Joseph has taken inspiration from the structure of the MoDA archive itself, and the way that we categorise and house our collections.  His starting point was a series of found objects which he dismantled, and separated in to component parts. Each part was then catalogued and stored to create a library of objects, from which Joseph created a jewellery collection for men. The judges felt that Joseph's 'unusual use of archival systems was well thought-out and realised'. 
Joseph Farrow receiving his award certificate from Hilary Robinson

Commenting on both winning entries, the judges felt that, 'the entries once again represented a wonderful array of innovative and creative approaches to utilising the MoDA archive. The split of this year’s prize represents this diversity'. The judges all agreed it was important to reward these two very different but equally successful interpretations of the brief.

At MoDA are very excited about our two prize winners and as a result we will be sharing more information about their entries in future posts.  In the meantime for more information about the Arthur Silver Award please see previous blog posts.