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Disrupting Ornamentation: Using Walter Crane’s historical design methodologies to influence contemporary craft practice

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posted on 09.03.2020 by Harriet Lawton

Using the Manchester School of Art collection of the MMU Special Collection Archive as influence, this abstract proposes an artwork display which will explore whether Walter Crane’s historical design methodology can be applied today to visually investigate a collection of historical objects and create a series of contemporary craft compositions. This body of work responds to an overall research investigation into how the study of ornament at Manchester School of Art in the late 19th and early 20th century can inform contemporary craft study.

In 1893, Walter Crane suggested that the Manchester Municipal College would benefit from the forming of an object library that would provide reference and influence to students of design. This suggestion triggered the forming of the early Manchester School of Art archive. Crane went on to introduce new methods of design teaching including ‘ornamental art’, which used historical objects as a visual tool for students.

A practice-based methodology supports an investigation into a selection of these early archive objects; taking influence for making from contemporary practice, including the work of Lubna Chowdhary, along with historical source material, such as the drawings of Crane’s student Emma Louise Bradbury. The fundamental notion of ornamentation as surface pattern will be interrogated through creative experimentation, using Crane’s design controls to influence design practice.

The visual display ‘ Disrupting Ornamentation: De Morgan vase x Pilkington’s Vase’ will exploit ornamentation from two historical object surfaces. Across three collections, ornament will appear at multiple scales and in multiple materials; with 2D fabric layers appearing alongside 3D ornamental forms. The ornamental elements will not be fixed, inviting viewers to interact with and alter compositions.

The overall aim is to build a series of dynamic contemporary craft compositions which demonstrate the way historical ornamentation can be realised as an independent form, removed from the original object surface.


Futurescan 4: Valuing Practice Exhibit

University of Bolton

23-24 January 2019


Photographs by Tony Radcliffe and Di Downs.

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