This post was written by Joanna Weddell, Researcher at the University of Brighton. She is currently completing an AHRC-funded Collaborative Doctoral Award entitled Disseminating Design, which examines the regional impact of the Circulation Department in the post-war period 1947-77.
To mark the centenary of her birth, this post features the work of Finnish designer and ceramic artist Rut Bryk (1916-1999). The Museum has an earthenware panel by Bryk, composed of 23 tiles moulded and stamped in relief, partly with blue, green, purple and brown glazes, made by Bryk at the Arabia Factory in Helsinki, around 1960.
Rut Bryk, Tile Panel, 1960, earthenware, 48cm, Arabia factory, Helsinki, CIRC.101-1963 http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O167797/panel-bryk-rut/
Until its closure in 1977, the V&A Department of Circulation sent touring shows of art and design to regional museums and schools of art around the UK and was responsible for many of the Museum’s post-war contemporary acquisitions. Bryk’s work played a prominent part in the Finlandia – modern finnish design exhibition held at South Kensington in 1961-62. The Keeper of Circulation at the time, Hugh Wakefield, noted approvingly that in Finland there was no ‘significant distinction between craftwork and the products of industry’ with factory products expressing ‘almost to the point of eccentricity the personality of their designer’. Wakefield explained that ‘nearly all the studio pottery of Finland is made on the top floor of the principal industrial factory and fired with the exactness of industrial techniques’. Circulation created a survey show of historic ceramic tiles and the Department specially purchased this tile panel from Bryk to illustrate the best in contemporary practice.
Circulation’s 1963 touring show was entitled simply Tiles and drew on the Museum’s extensive collection of ceramics with examples from the Middle East and Europe. As well as medieval and renaissance tiles, the show included the work of William De Morgan and Walter Crane, closing with Bryk’s contemporary work. The exhibition was popular and toured widely. So some fifty years ago, between 1966 and 1967, Rut Bryk’s tile panel was seen and enjoyed by visitors to Chelmsford and Essex Museum, Dagenham Rectory Library, Great Yarmouth Tolhouse Museum, Huddersfield Art Gallery, Nuneaton Museum & Art Gallery and Whitchurch Art Gallery & Museum.
Pekka Korvenmaa, Finnish Design – A Concise History, V&A Publishing, 2014