Design for a wallpaper sample featuring chrysanthemum sprays, 1892. Silver Studio Collection, MoDA

Turning Japanese

25th September 2009

Japantastic – a small but perfectly formed exhibition at MoDA (the Museum of Domestic Design & Architecture, Cat Hill, Barnet) – is part of a series of events that celebrates 150 years of friendship between our two countries. This delightful offering focuses on the design innovations inspired by the Land of the Rising Sun.

In the last decades of the 19th century Japan began to trade with the west after a long period of isolation.

The British rapidly became passionate about all things Japanese. Exciting, exotic, unfamiliar – Japanese art and design offered a whole new way of looking at and interpreting the world. British designers weren’t slow to realise the opportunities this new craze represented.

Arthur Silver was one of them. Originally a furniture designer, he set up The Silver Studio in 1880, developing wallpapers, textiles, rugs, carpets and metalwork. The company’s archives provide a fascinating insight into the sorts of furnishings used by the majority of consumers.

Arthur Silver and his colleagues collected Japanese source materials avidly. They incorporated Far Eastern ideas into their designs, while keeping a close eye on the demands of the mass market. The Studio flourished in the twentieth century under Arthur’s son, Rex, supplying many of the leading interior design names, including Liberty’s and Sandersons.

Japantastic draws heavily on the work of the Silver Studio to show how Japanese materials, methods and motifs were used and adapted between about 1880 and 1930. The resulting designs are not straightforwardly ‘Japanese’ but are the result of a cross-cultural fertilisation of design ideas, and many still appeal to the modern eye. This is an ideal opportunity to see just some of the many wonderful Japanese and Japanese-inspired objects from the Silver Studio collection, including textiles, wallpapers and original Japanese katagami or stencils.

Japantastic continues at MoDA – the Museum of Domestic Design & Architecture, Middlesex University, Cat Hill, Barnet until 1 August 2010.
See for more information.

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