Friday, 20 February 2015

Seven Days of Creation

MoDA’s new Collections Manager, Sam Smith, discusses his first month in post and a selection of designs by Arthur Silver for a gesso panel entitled ‘Days of Creation’.

Getting to grips with new policies and procedures, dealing with data-backlogs and tying up historic loose ends has proved to be a great way of exploring the collections at the Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture (MoDA) at Middlesex University.

Of the items I've been working with, some of the most interesting are designs relating to a gesso chimney panel that was influenced by William Blake and Japanese art.

One of the preparatory sketches for the gesso panel, Silver Studio design
SD3374 Museum of Design and Domestic Architecture

The panel, which was designed by Harry Silver and executed by Harry Napper, was exhibited at the Arts and Society exhibition at the New Gallery, London in 1893. For the exhibition, Silver described the panel as:
"of Hungarian ash which possesses a weird grain and is stained green. The work is in Gesso and the subject is a decorative suggestion of the 7 days symbolised by seven discs on a winged spiral implying infinite progression…the order of the discs which commence at the right hand bottom corner and proceed in a spiral progression to centre is thus - 1st Light. 2. Division of Waters. 3. Dry Land & vegetation. 4. Sun. Moon. Stars. 5. Fowls & Fish (animal kingdom). 6. Man 7. Rest."
The design reflects Silver's interest in the work of William Blake, Burne-Jones and Baroque Art, with his draughtsmanship anticipating the Continental Art Nouveau of the late 1890s.

A reproduction of the gesso panel that appeared in the Builder magazine in 1893. MoDA holds unbound editions of the Builder spanning the period 1912 to 1956. The Builder was a weekly publication containing a mine of information on domestic and foreign building developments from the perspective of the architect, engineer, constructor and art historian.

There are 19 preparatory sketches for the design of the panel at the museum, all at various stages of completion. The sketches are in pencil and charcoal, and some – those which are on copy paper – are extremely fragile. They are currently being catalogued in readiness for conservation students from Camberwell College of Arts, who will produce a report on them as part of their coursework.

There is also a design for the panel held in the collections at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Photograph of the gesso panel, now in a private collection, taken in 2012

As well as the designs, MoDA holds a photograph showing the panel in situ at the Silver family home at 84 Brook Green, Hammersmith, London in 1900. The photograph shows the panel as part of the fireplace, and is one of several in the museum’s possession which help to provide a social and design context to the Silver Studio Collection that is housed at the museum.

The gesso panel in situ in the Silver’s drawing room. Photograph BADDA 4602.1 Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture

The photographs show that Silver, like many of his contemporaries, was strongly influenced by Japanese art. As well as his collection of Japanese prints, which are displayed along the top of each wall, the photographs of the Silvers' drawing room show a Japanese-inspired cane chair and a vase of chrysanthemums positioned on top of a piano.

As well as illuminating the design process, the sketches for the gesso panel also impart something of the significance of the collection – both in terms of the uniqueness of its constituent parts, but also how comprehensive and interrelated the collection is when examined as a whole.

Part of my role as Collections Manager is adding value to the collection by making those connections, documenting how the collections are used  for example by the students at Camberwell College of Arts  and eventually helping to build up a community of interest and specialist knowledge around them.

I am looking forward to getting to know the collections better and making many more such discoveries in the stores!

Friday, 13 February 2015

"A Second Look" at the Hasler Gallery, North Finchley

MoDA's Head of Collections, Zoe Hendon, looks forward to the private view of "A Second Look" at the Hasler Gallery this evening.  The exhibition continues until 28th February.

Designers Leigh Cameron and Yemi Awosile used colour charts and examples of printed paper as the starting point for their work at the Hasler Gallery.  Their brief was to develop a piece or body of work inspired by the Silver Studio and Hasler collections, both of which are housed at the Museum of Domestic Design & Architecture (MoDA), Middlesex University.

Leigh Cameron’s work explores concrete, & the idea of challenging our perceptions of this ancient material. His work straddles the artistic, industrial & commercial, through a variety of different scales & forms from public art & furniture to smaller, more domestic pieces including jewellery.

Yemi Awosile presents “The Packaging Series” a new range of textiles accessories designed to celebrate print and process in everyday materials. It is inspired by paper-based ephemera collected by graphic designer Charles Hasler during the 1960s. This new body of work plays of the juxtaposition of form and function and the interactive nature of packaging.

On first appearance, the sources they used as inspiration - colour charts and examples of printed paper - seem like quite a mundane choice, the kind of everyday design which is often overlooked or thrown away. But it was in this area that Charles Hasler sought inspiration.   He was an avid collector of everyday objects, some of which he incorporated and transposed into his own work as a graphic designer. Leigh and Yemi follow his path, showing that taking a second look at seemingly insignificant things can take you on a productive and at times unexpected journey.   Their process of exploration contains a kind of alchemy, making the familiar no longer feel familiar.

This commission is a collaborative project initiated by the North Finchley Town Team in a joint venture with the Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture (MoDA), part of Middlesex University; funded by the Mayor’s Office Outer London Fund and the London Borough of Barnet.


The Hasler Gallery has been established to support creative practice in Barnet through the exhibition of work made by individuals and institutions based in the area. It is part of a wider regeneration programme, “Ten Grand Arcade,” which has seen the North Finchley Town Team take over 3 units in the local 1930’s Grand Arcade. In the process the Town Team has worked with the London Borough of Barnet to restore the building to its former glory, making it easier to identify its rich historical character; the original tiling and art deco shop shops are a few of its charms. By placing the arts within the wider regeneration project for North Finchley, the NFTT hopes to support and build on the growing creative industries sector within the Borough.

Project Partners
The programme and gallery is funded through the Mayors Office Outer London Fund and the generous support of the London Borough of Barnet. The North Finchley Town Team comprises a group of interested and active local practitioners, business owners and residents seeking to make a positive impact on their local community (  

Gallery Opening times:
Friday 12-5pm
Saturday 12-5pm
Or by appointment:

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

Friday, 6 February 2015

Paris is Always a Good Idea: Parisian Chic at MoDA

MoDA's Curator, Sim Panaser, is transported to the couture houses of 1920s Paris...

This week in the Museum of Design and Architecture collections store I came across the most luxurious fashion magazines I had ever seen.  I was searching for something else entirely but these three magazines dating from the mid 1920s stopped me in my tracks and I thought they needed sharing! 

Front Covers of Art, Goût, Beauté, BADDA 4297-4298 Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture 

Art, Goût, Beauté (Art, Good Taste and Beauty) is was published from 1920-1933 in Paris. It was circulated in over 35 countries and published in French, Spanish and English. Its spectacular hand-coloured illustrations together with its detailed commentary on fashions by Parisian couture designers including Paul Poiret, Jeanne Lanvin and Jean Patou, ensured its readers were kept up to date with the must-have styles from the fashion capital of the world.  As the catalogue for the 1925 Paris Exhibition stated, ‘there is not a woman who does not dream of being dressed in Paris’.

The magazine was not only an advertisement for French couture, it was founded by the French textile manufacturers Albert Godde Bedin et Cie and provided worldwide publicity for the company.  Art, Goût, Beauté regularly featured couture dresses made using Albert Godde Bedin et Cie fabrics, this aligned the company with high fashion and the Paris elite giving it a commercial advantage over other textile manufacturers.  

Dresses for Dancing, Art, Goût, BeautéBADDA 4298, Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture 

The Art Deco illustrations found inside the Art, Goût, Beauté are superb and are what the magazine is best known for.  Although the magazine is litho printed the illustrations are hand-coloured using a technique known as pochoir, which is a stencil-based technique used to apply colour to pre-existing prints. Little is known about the individual illustrators who sometimes signed their colour plates in Art, Goût, Beauté.

The illustrations focus on the details of the clothing and use stylised models to ensure the focus remains on the dresses.  Although the pochoir technique gives clean and flat areas of colour, in the illustration above the movement of the dress is captured by using two tones of the same colour. 

                                    Art, Goût, Beauté, BADDA 4299, Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture 
'At first sight, the summer creations look very much like those of winter.  The difference is in the cut, biases, panels, flounces and pleats'. 

Designer Jean Patou favoured angular and straight cuts in the early 1930s, seen here in the illustration on the left.  He designed understated clothing that was worn by youthful socialites.  In contrast Paul Poiret's design, show here on the right reflect historical influences with its pagoda sleeves. Poiret like many artists of the period was fascinated by the lure of the 'Orient'. 

There are so many fabulous illustrations in Art, Goût, Beauté  it was difficult to select which ones to post.  Below is a selection of my favourite images.  I highly recommend coming to the Museum of Design and Architecture to see these for yourself.  You can view our collections by making an appointment.  Appointments are open to all and available Monday to Friday.  As well as magazines and ephemera we have extensive collections of wallpapers, textiles and designs. Please contact us to book an appointment or if you would like further information.     

We also have over 20 dress fabric sample books from the Parisian textile company J Claude Freres et Cie dating from the 1950s should you wish to linger in Paris a little longer too!  

Art, Goût, Beauté, BADDA 4297, Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture