Arts and Crafts Metalwork

23 July - 2 November 2003

The summer exhibition of Arts and Crafts metalwork is an exciting survey of the wealth of material produced by Arts and Crafts metalworkers in the period 1880 – 1910. It focuses on the work of the leading guilds and makers of this period, figures such as W.A.S Benson, Archibald Knox, Ernest Gimson, C.F.A. Voysey, John Pearson and John Paul Cooper, as well as the Guild of Handicrafts, the Keswick School of Industrial Arts, the Birmingham Guild, and the Newlyn School. All of these are displayed in the setting of Baillie Scott’s most important surviving house, Blackwell.

This exhibition looks at the wide range of styles that emerged from a melting-pot of materials and techniques. Some were clearly rooted in the past, for example the loop-handled bowls produced by C.R.Ashbee and the Guild of Handicraft reflect classical drinking cups. Archibald Knox’s famous designs for Liberty used the Celtic imagery found at his home on the Isle of Man to create a style linked closely to the continental Art Nouveau. Elsewhere the medieval period was a dominant influence, seen clearly in the grape and vine designs favoured by figures such as Ernest Gimson, who worked with the blacksmith Alfred Bucknell.

Also on display are objects including copper chargers, silver tableware, and enamelled pieces that were produced at the Keswick School of Industrial Arts. Alongside there are examples of work produced in the metalwork classes of the Newlyn School, where the seasonally unemployed fishermen used the simple technique of repoussé to punch out designs in copper, decorating objects with traditional images of the sea and their trade.

Blackwell is the perfect setting for an exhibition of Arts and Crafts metalwork. Baillie Scott experimented in this field, as he sought to achieve a harmonious interior; designing features from enamelled fire-dogs through to copper light fittings which can be seen in the house today. His enthusiasm for traditional craft skills was shared by the leading metalworkers of the Arts and Crafts movement. Techniques such as wrought ironwork and enamelling gained popularity, as did materials such as copper and pewter.

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