Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Underfoot in the 1930s.

Bank Holiday weekends are always good for some museum-going. This weekend I found my way over to Eltham Palace in South East London.

Eltham Palace is an English Heritage house well worth a visit. It started out as a royal residency under Edward the II in the fourteenth century but was in ruins by the seventeenth century. In 1936 the place was leased to Stephen Courtauld and his wife Ginny.  They restored and added to the building then turned the interior into an Art Deco masterpiece. Eltham Palace is the perfect kind of heritage site to visit with a mix of interesting architecture, interiors and objects overlaid by fascinating stories of people and curious tales (such as that of Mah Jong, the Courtauld's pet lemur who was known to nip at the heels of disagreeable guests).

One of the first things you notice upon entering Etham is the incredible rug in the grand entrance hall.

Grand Entrance at Eltham Palace (Photo credit: English Heritage Photograph Library, Jonathan Bailey)
This geometric patterned rug in shades of brown was commissioned by the Courtaulds. It was designed by Marion Dorn, an American artist who found acclaim in the UK as a freelance textile designer. She also designed floor coverings for places like the Savoy and Claridges. The rug at Eltham is a replica and you can see the real one at the Victoria & Albert Museum. You can read more about it on the V&A's online object record and see some other Marion Dorm rugs in their collection.

Because of all the things we put on top of them, sometimes it's easy to overlook floor coverings. We can fail to value them as interesting examples of pattern design. The Eltham Palace audio guide (well worth listening to!) made a good deal of Dorn's rug and  as I walked through the rest of the house I was careful to pay more attention to what was under my feet.

At the same time as people like Dorn were working for high-end hotels and residences like Eltham Palace, the designers who worked for the Silver Studio were also making rug designs for the mass market. John Churton and Edwin Parker worked for the Studio in the 1930s and were known for their rug designs; producing bold, geometric patterns in the Art Deco style.

Design for a carpet, 1930s by John Churton for the Silver Studio, Museum of Domestic Design & Architecture (SD15544)

Design for a rug by Edwin Parker for the Silver Studio in 1934, Museum of Domestic Design & Architecture (SD455)
If you are starting to think more about pattern designs underfoot, or if it's a topic you are already interested in, you might also like to visit the Musee D'Art Moderne in Paris which is running an exhibition over the autumn on modern carpet design called Decorum: Carpets and Tapestries by Artists. 

Are floor covering designs catching your eye? Where have you seen a particularly good one?

Friday, 23 August 2013

MoDA Art Nouveau objects on Culture Grid

One of the best represented styles in MoDA's collection is Art Nouveau. A sometimes contested term used to define a turn of the century decorative art aesthetic, Art Nouveau is characterised by curvey and flowing lines, tall and thin elements within the design, stylised flowers and leaves. It is seen as one of the first truly modern styles of the twentieth century.

MoDA's Silver Studio collection holds many examples of Art Nouveau designs for wallpapers, textiles, metalwork and book jackets. It was a great pleasure to be invited by Culture Grid to take part in the Partage Project which is a European wide heritage initiative aiming to digitise Art Nouveau objects in collections across Europe. Their aim is to digitise more than 75,000 objects and make them accessible via the cultural portal

Culture Grid is the UK based partner for Partage. They are a part of Collections Trust, and their aim is to amplify the impact of UK collections by making them more accessible. Culture Grid comprises 3.2 million records of museum collections in the UK. This week we gave them some of our Art Nouveau objects to put up including the two below.

A design for a textile by the Silver Studio for Lebogne in 1897, Museum of Domestic Design & Architecture (SD9249)

Book cover for 'Our Little Nan' designed by the Silver Studio for Blackie & Sons Ltd in 1897, Museum of Domestic Design & Architecture (SD466)
You can now see some of MoDA's Art Nouveau objects on the Culture Grid website. Soon, you will be able to access them through Europeana and also other online resources like, which is linked with Culture Grid. If you are interested in this style of design, we encourage you to search on Europeana and also visit the V&A website which provides some interesting articles on the subject. If you would like to book in to see more Art Nouveau objects in MoDA's collection, please contact us.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Arthur Silver Award Winners - Where are they now? - Part 2

In a previous post about past winners of MoDA's Arthur Silver Award we concentrated on two recent winners. In this post we turn our attention to the winners from 2010 and 2009:

Annie Skipper (BA Applied Print) was our 2010 winner.  After graduating from Middlesex University in 2010, Annie spent a period of time travelling around South America, before returning  to the UK to work as a Buyers Assistant with Laura Ashley, a company she had worked for when studying at Middlesex.  After a year or so she left and joined Clinton's Cards again as Buying Assistant.  At Clinton's she looked after seasonal gifts but due to the company falling into administration she left to join John Lewis, which is where she currently works as a Buyers Assistant in the rugs department.

Talking about her work at John Lewis, Annie commented, "Over the last year I have also looked after the bed linens, children's ranges and and branded assortments.  It is a diverse company and I have the option to get involved with a multitude of tasks.  I work with an international supply base, develop product assortments for the forthcoming seasons from concept to reality, visit trade shows and exhibitions - all whilst working with various stakeholders in the company".

Annie pictured back in 2010, and the furniture
with which she won MoDA's Arthur Silver Award

As Annie is so busy at work she finds it difficult to spend time in the studio on her own practice. When she does have a moment she likes to make her own cards, stationery and small textile gifts - some of which she is hoping to exhibit in November in Theydon Bois.  Annie is also hoping to find time to create her own website where she can promote her artistic work

Our first award winner in 2009 was Elena Picone, BA Fashion Design.  After graduating Elena spent short spells interning for brands such as New Power Studio and Christopher Raeburn, before getting a job as a Design Assistant for a start-up menswear company called UVU.  The brand specialises in running wear for extreme environments for ultra long distance running, in places such as the Amazon jungle or the North Pole. After a year, Elena was promoted to the post of Junior Designer.  Unfortunately after two years with the company, the UK office was closed down.  Elena soon found employment as a Multi-Product Designer at a company called Rhythm, who design and manufacture womenswear for some of the high street's biggest brands such as Topshop and River Island. Elena has found the change to designing womenswear a refreshing challenge after concentrating on menswear since graduating.  Elena commented,"I have been designing for the high street for about six months now and whilst it is extremely fast paced I do enjoy the work and it certainly keeps me on my toes".

An example of Elena's menswear collection
with which she won MoDA's Arthur Silver Award back in 2009
Despite only graduating three and four years ago respectively, the difficult economic climate has had an inevitable impact on both Annie and Elena's early careers, as the companies they had been working  for were either forced to downsize, or (in the case of Clinton's Cards) close completely.  Moving forwards after these sorts of setbacks is never easy, and it is a testament to both of them that despite these problems, they have gone on to new roles which allow them to use the creative skills they developed while they were undergraduates.

Hopefully any art and design students reading this and the previous post will take heart from these positive stories. Trying to make a living hasn't been easy or straightforward for any of our previous Arthur Silver Award winners, and all have faced setbacks and challenges. But whether working for a company or trying to make it on their own, our winners are all working hard to succeed in their chosen fields. We'll be staying in touch with all of them, and who knows what exciting developments we'll be able to report over the coming months and years, as they all strive for further success.