Monday, 30 January 2017

#Silver50 Object: 'Some Japanese Flowers' by Kazumasa Ogowa

As we continue to showcase the Silver Studio Collection held by MoDA, and its many uses over the last 50 years, this week's #Silver50 object is 'Some Japanese Flowers', one of three rare, intact, bound volumes of  Kazumasa Ogowa's collotypes stored in MoDA's Silver Studio Archive Collection.

Photograph of an Iris from Some Japanese Flowers
All of the Ogowa volumes were sewn in the Japanese style for the European market in the late nineteenth century, or meiji period. This was a time when trading with Japan became possible and had a significant impact on artistic production in that period. For more information on this, visit The Metropolitan Museum of Art's Timeline of Art History on Japonisme.

Ogowa was a pioneer of the collotype reprographic technique for mass produced photographic images. Our edition of Some Japanese Flowers contains monochrome collotypes, but the publisher also developed a colour collotype method which he used to produce a deluxe version of the volume. One edition of that is owned by the Getty Museum in the US. The Getty Conservation Institute has done an in depth study of the collotypes in its collection, and the museum also republished their own version of 'Some Japanese Flowers. Photographs by Kazumasa Ogowa' for sale commercially.

SD5653, peony design for printed textile next to Tree peony from Ogowa's Some Japanese Flowers

It is easy to see why this particular volume would have been desirable to have to hand for Silver Studio designers creating interior fabrics for a contemporary domestic market intrigued by Japanese style and exotic botanicals. In fact, the influence of these images seems to have stood the test of time in the work of current interior designers who still market fabrics using the iconic Ogawa illustrations from 'Some Japanese Flowers' commercially. Check out the V&A shop amongst others.

The appeal of Japanese botanical art has also endured in Europe and is currently being explored in the
‘Flora Japonica’ Exhibition at Kew Gardens, on until March 5, 2017. The role of photography in botanical illustration is also considered in an on-line video on the exhibition website.

Related publications that may be of interest:
Early Japanese images, Terry Bennett, 1996.
Encyclopaedia of 19th Century photography, John Hannavy, 2013.

MoDA's volumes are referenced in the following publications:
Decorative Arts Society Journal 36 - The Silver Studio Art Reference Collection,  Zoe Hendon, 2012.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

"I Am A Magazine"

Last week students from across Middlesex University's Faculty of Arts and Creative Industries came together to work on an innovative learning project in the Grove Atrium, entitled I Am A Magazine. 

Students from a range of subject areas including Fine Art, Graphics, Fashion Communication & Styling, Photography, Theatre Arts (and more) came together for this inter-disciplinary project.  Their brief was to critically examine magazines in Middlesex University’s magazine collections (drawn from MoDA and the Library). The magazines were a springboard to create new work: students were asked to respond to their content, iconography, discourse and materiality and to the wider context of magazines as communicative tools, as creators of communities and culture.  

Middlesex University Photography tutor, Alison Tanner, helps students get started on the project

Magazines from both MoDA and the Middlesex University Library have frequently used in learning and teaching by students, but this is the first time they were brought together in one large scale project, involving nearly a hundred students.  I Am A Magazine aimed to provide the space and opportunity for disciplines to collide, mix and interweave. 

deep in discussion about the project...

What students produced during the project was up to them: outcomes included a stop-frame animation, a period room-set and several photographic pieces.  But this was a project in which the process was as important as the product: students were learning skills of team work and negotiation, of working with students, equipment and techniques outside of their usual subject areas.

The Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture has an extensive collection of magazines relating to all aspects of home furnishing, DIY, homecrafts and womens' interest.  They are available to everyone, by appointment in our Study Room.  

Students and creative practitioners from Middlesex and elsewhere frequently use MoDA's collections for visual inspiration.  (One example was the Share Academy project we ran a few years ago).  If you are interested in seeing them yourself please email us to make an appointment (

Friday, 6 January 2017

Posters at MoDA

MoDA’s Collections Assistant, Dorian Knight, has recently been working on the museum’s collection of posters. These objects are currently undergoing documentation, conservation and rehousing and will shortly be available for display, loan and further study.

Ever since their birth in Paris in 1869, posters have offered a window into history. Following the Press Law of 1881 posters were given immunity from censorship, thereby documenting propaganda, pop culture, protest and revolution ever since. They also developed as an art form, posters plastered on streets came to be known as ‘the poor man’s gallery.’ Additionally they brought reading into the public domain ensuring literacy was no longer in the hands of a few private and wealthy individuals. Posters have also developed outside the West and are intertwined with histories as diverse as West African Vodoo practises and Palestinian martyrdom.  Perhaps most famously posters have been used as a powerful means of advertising. In the present digital age their materiality still maintains an enduring hold on us, allowing mute walls to continue speaking.

The posters in the collection of the Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture are mainly from   our Charles Hasler archive. Charles Hasler (1908 – 1992) was a Graphic Designer and Typographer. He worked as a Graphic Designer on several high profile campaigns such as the Festival of Britain, the British Transport Commisssion and the Ministry of Information and he also collected reference material voraciously. This includes works by many of the big names in mid-century graphic design, placing Hasler’s collection at the centre of London’s graphic design scene.  The posters below include some of my personal highlights from the Hasler poster archive, both works he designed and some he collected. 


This small poster is from a Ministry of Information display, collected by Hasler. The Ministry of Information was set up the day after World War II commenced and was the Government department responsible for publicity and propaganda. This poster is a chilling representation of what was going on in Nazi Germany, showing two young children holding swastika flags and giving the Nazi salute. Indeed during World War II poster art experienced a resurgence as governments circulated emotionally gripping posters to inform and recruit civilians to the war effort.


This poster, designed by Charles Hasler, advertises an exhibition at Euston Station on the history of transport. What is particularly interesting is that it depicts the Euston Arch, built in 1837 and inspired by Roman architecture. The Arch was removed in the 1960s, despite strong protests by prominent figures like the poet John Betjeman. This poster quietly documents a part of London that no longer exists.


This poster is for the British Transport Commission, designed by Hasler. It contains a list of charges for various items left on railways. Although this may seem to be a mundane topic it provides a fascinating insight into what people may have been carrying with them on trains at the time. Highlights include a ‘Tuck Box’, a ‘Gun Case’, a ‘Handcart’ and an ‘Ice –Cream Barrow’!

If you are interested in our poster collection then follow us on Facebook (@MuseumofDomesticDesignandArchitecture) and Twitter (@MoDAMuseum) to see more. 

Alternatively, book an appointment at MoDA by emailing and come and see these objects for yourselves. 

If you want to read more on the topic of posters, we recommend Elizabeth Guffey’s recently published ‘Posters: A Global History (London: Reaktion Books, 2015)