Always be prepared

With just under seven months until the Blue and White: British Printed Ceramics display opens preparation is fully underway. Research began in 2013 with visits to the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery, the Wedgwood Museum and the Spode Museum Trust in Stoke-on-Trent to explore their collections of blue and white. Working with the curators Miranda Goodby, Claire Blakey (PMAG), Director Gaye Blake Roberts (Wedgwood) and Spode Trustees Paul and Kath Holdway we have identified a fabulous selection of ceramics to feature alongside the V&A collections.

In the stores  © Potteries Museum and Art Gallery, Stoke-on-Trent

In the stores © Potteries Museum and Art Gallery, Stoke-on-Trent

In February there was also a research visit to see Horizon – Landscapes, Ceramics and Prints at the National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design, Oslo, curated by Inger Helene Stemshaug, Knut Astrup Bull and the artist Paul Scott whose work will feature in the V&A show.

Horizon – Landscapes, Ceramics and Prints  © National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design, Oslo

Horizon – Landscapes, Ceramics and Prints © National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design, Oslo

We have a number of contemporary artists and designers who are generously lending their work for the display, including London based designer and British bone china specialist Richard Brendon.

Teapot, 'Details from Willow'   © Richard Brendon

Teapot, ‘Details from Willow’ © Richard Brendon

One of the many fun things about curating a show is planning how the objects will be displayed in the gallery, what to include, where they best fit with the various themes etc. In this modern digital age we could use a software programme, but there is something to be gained from going back to basics. Printed case plans and cut out thumbnail images, at this initial stage, are a great way of seeing the range of objects that can be included and any potential gaps we need to address. With the colour coded tabs it does look a bit like a ceramics seating plan!

Work in progress, planning the display  © Victoria and Albert Museum

Work in progress, planning the display © Victoria and Albert Museum

The next stage of planning will involve mock-ups of the case displays with the V&A objects and life-size cut outs of the ones we are borrowing. All of this must be done well in advance of the display opening to the public, to allow for labels to be written and printed and for the installation of the objects to be considered. It is always important, for example, to measure the objects to know they will fit in the case!

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