Mary Evans Picture Library: Collections Crossover

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Collections Crossover: Pattern

Feeling a little abstract? Then we may have just the thing for you in this week’s newsletter. Pattern is not only a decorative way to look at the past – be that through a Byzantine mosaic or a traditional tartan – but it’s also a great opportunity to give some period feel to your project. Whatever you’re working on; stationery and cards, gift wrap, end papers, textiles, wallpaper, retail products, or set dressings, let’s take a ‘swirl’ wind tour of the library, join up the dots, and check out what’s available.

First stop is the Silver Studio Collection from our contributor, the Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture (MODA), based at Middlesex University. Found in 1880 by Arthur Silver, the Silver Studio was a commercial design practice, based in Brook Green, Hammersmith, London. Between 1880 and 1963 the Studio’s designers completed more than 20,000 designs for items such as upholstery fabrics, wallpapers, tablecloths, rugs, carpets and book covers. We have a good selection of designs originally done for textiles, wallpapers and works on paper, including some glorious art nouveau patterns and pretty inter-war florals as well as novelty suggestions for the nursery.

Another source for wallpaper and textile designs is the National Archives which has a number of intricate and rare nineteenth century examples including fabric patterns by Christopher Dresser. In addition to this, amongst John Maclellan’s unusual collection of ephemera are 1930s wallpaper pattern books, as well as some charming vintage wrapping paper designs. Another terrific resource is the Museum of the Home (formerly the Geffrye Museum) which has wallpaper sample books galore, scrapbooks of textile swatches, Victorian household catalogues and hundreds of objects showing the application of pattern in a domestic setting whether on fine china, rugs, curtains or stained glass windows.

The very comprehensive Pictures Now collection of art and illustration features a selection of images from design greats such as William Morris, C.F.A. Voysey and Walter Crane as well as countless chintzes, paisleys, folky florals and geometric patterns from around the world. Another recent arrival at the library has been the archive of designer Tanya Atkinson, whose fresh florals in delicate pastel shades were created for silk scarves and dress fabrics during the 1950s.

For a more contemporary take on pattern, we can also offer the work of our talented former colleague, Tess Hines, whose sweet linocuts and repeat designs feature a higgledy-piggledy parade of hand-drawn garden gnomes, ducklings, penguins and wellington boots. Tess’s eye for interesting designs also extends to her archive collection, which contains a selection of superb vintage patterns.

We find pattern in all kinds of places in the library from shop catalogues to photo album covers, and were inspired to create our own bespoke range of patterns under the title, ‘History Repeats Itself’. Click here to discover a variety of fun designs featuring a motifs ranging from top hats to teapots.

If you’re feeling a bit dizzy after this round-up of repetition then don’t forget these are just few ideas to get you started on your research journey. Whatever you’re searching for, feel free to browse our website or get in touch with any questions by emailing or calling 020 8318 0034.

Image credit © Mary Evans Picture Library