Tag: design

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Disembodied

It's not surprising that when a fashion designer sits down to draw, the emphasis is usually on the clothing. Flip through a couturier's sketchbook and you're likely to find a series of interchangeable, blandly beautiful women or men, dressed up and maybe given new haircuts. These examples from the V&A's collection of 1940s sketches by the British fashion designer Marjorie Field make the point pretty well. Though the renderings are wonderful, they remind me of a child dressing up a paper doll in different outfits. The same attitude is evident in this terrific 17th century miniature, which allows you to …

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Absent Minded 2: Caroline Slotte

After I put up the last post on the subject of erasure a little while back, the artist Caroline Slotte got in touch to show me this new piece of hers, entitled Going Blank Again. I 've known Slotte's work for a while and am a big fan.She uses only one technique:the removal of material from old china, usually plates printed with a 'Willow' pattern or other Chinese landscape design. The V&Ahas one of her works (on view in the new ceramics galleries), from a series in which she cuts all the way through her plates and then stacks them. …

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Absent Minded

Sometimes, the most powerful expressive act is to take something away. This is a familiar idea to historians of twentieth century art, because of Robert Rauschenberg's famous Erased DeKooning of 1953. A young artist's gesture of insurrection against the previous generation, Rauschenberg's work also draws on a long tradition of iconoclasm.The V&A's British Galleries includes a fascinating display of objects defaced by early Protestants, who were taught to abhor 'graven images.' I'm a curator, so Iguess I'm supposed to prize original condition. But I bet I'm not the only one who finds medieval stained glass or paintings like the ones …

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A Work in Progress: The Design and Printing of Eighteenth-Century Trade Cards

This post has been contributed by special guest star Dr. Philippa Hubbard, Institute of Advanced Study, University of Warwick. This endearing pen and ink sketch, from around 1770, of drawing-master Thomas Johnson is a draft design for Johnson’s advertising trade card. Trade cards were typically single-sheet engraved or etched prints that combined text and image to promote the goods or services for a wide variety of individual tradesmen and shopkeepers. These black and white images were popular in Britain from the middle of the seventeenth century until the first quarter of the nineteenth century, when intaglio engraving techniques were superseded …

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Fold Along Dotted Line

Since beginning this blog early in 2009, Ihave been trying to come up with examples in which preparatory sketches have a direct impact on a finished design. But only now, as 2010 is upon us, has it finally occurred to me to write about the activity in which this happens most directly of all:folding. With no tools at all, you can take a piece of paper, marked in all the right places, and turn it into a sculpture. The most sophisticated type of folding there is, of course, is the East Asian craft of origami. Normally the papers used are …

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License to Drill

This post has been contributed by Polly Hunter, a second-year MAstudent on the V&A/RCACourse in the History of Design. In it she discusses two extraordinary promotional images that she discovered in the course of her research, which focuses on design in extreme environments, such as oil drilling platforms. (Images courtesy of British Petroleum Plc.) Recently, in the BP (British Petroleum) archive at the University of Warwick, I ran across this unusual watercolour: Little information was attached to it, but I could determine that it was an artist's impression of a drilling and production platform, originally designed for use in 1970s …

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Edition of One

Sometimes I can't believe how lucky I am to work at the V&A, and the past week has been one of those times. First we opened the majestic new Medieval and Renaissance Galleries, and now we have a new exhibition about the the present day, or maybe even the near future. The show is called Decode:Digital Design Sensations. Tightly conceived by the V&A's Louise Shannon and Shane Walters, director of onedotzero, and sensitively designed by Francesco Draisci, the exhibition works brilliantly on a lot of levels.There's a lot to see and do: a lot of eye candy swirling around, and …

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A Horse of a Different Colour

The V&A's current exhibition, Maharaja:The Spendour of India's RoyalCourts, got me looking around for related design drawings in the collection. Icame up with this example made in about 1850, for a portrait of Ram Singh IIof Kota – one of the main figures in the exhibition. What strikes me most about this delicate line drawing is its complete lack of colour. Annotations give a sense of which tints were to be used, but if you compare it to the below (similar) image of Ram Singh, which has its full paint job, and you realize what a leap of imagination was …

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X Ray Specs

A small show currently on view in the V&A's Architecture Galleries, Europe and English Baroque:English Architecture 1660-1715, got me thinking about cross-sections in design drawings. The display features works by Christopher Wren and other architects of his era. (Those who saw the excellent exhibition Compass and Rule at the Museum of the History of Science, Oxford will see some familiar names – that show will open at the Yale Center for British Art soon.) There are two especially striking examples of cross-sections in the V&A show. First, Christopher Wren's sketches for the dome of St. Paul's Cathedral.On the left is …

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Ooh, Shiny

One of the fascinating things about design drawings, at least to me, is that you often can’t tell whether they are for presentation, for working out a design concept, or just recording an object once it’s finished. Sometimes, perhaps, there is a bit of all three going on. The confusion really sets in when you see aesthetic touches on what you would otherwise expect to be a ‘working sketch.’ For whose benefit has the drawing been prettied up? Maybe the draftsman was taking pride in the work. Maybe there was an internal politics in play, where the designer wants the …

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