Handwork rendered expeditious: the Rottmann-Silver stencil venture of the 1890s

Hendon, Zoë (2017) Handwork rendered expeditious: the Rottmann-Silver stencil venture of the 1890s. In: DresserFest: Christopher Dresser, Japonism and the Victorian World of Goods, 30 Jun - 02 Jul 2017, Teesside University, United Kingdom.

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Abstract

This paper will examine a series of stencilled wall coverings produced in the 1890s as a result of collaboration between businessman Alexander Rottmann and designer Arthur Silver. These products were inspired by a collection of around Japanese stencils (‘katagami’), acquired by the Silver Studio as design reference in the 1880s or 90s. The katagami stencils, and archival evidence of the Rottmann-Silver stencil venture, now form part of the Silver Studio Collection at the Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture.

Alexander Rottmann and Arthur Silver had already worked together by the time they set up their joint venture: the Silver Studio had supplied a number of designs to Rottmann for his ‘Japanese leather papers’, made at his factory in Yokohama (Wailliez 2016). As Suga notes, Japanese leather papers represent a kind of hybrid product, perceived as authetically Western by the Japanese, and authentically Japanese by Westerners (Suga 2006). The Rottmann-Silver stencil venture seems to have been an extention of this earlier collaboration, using similar techniques and aimed at a similar market. It therefore represents an interesting example of the dissemination of Japanese design ideas within British homes. The Rottmann-Silver stenciled wallpapers were described in the promotional material as Japanese, though they were almost certainly made in London. However, their selling point was not their typically Japanese appearance; they generally feature large-scale stylized Art Nouveau motifs and were praised for having adapted Japanese techniques for Western tastes.

This paper will explore the ways in which Japanese-influenced techniques made certain products more affordable through the use of semi-industrialized processes, and argue that this presented a challenge to Western notions of craft, workmanship, art and labour. It will draw on the evidence of the Rottmann-Silver stencilled wall-coverings themselves, along with archival records and contemporary press cuttings that gives clues to the project’s reception in the late 1890s; and which illuminate wider themes about the influence of Japanese design ideals in the last years of the nineteenth century.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Research Areas: A. > Library and Student Support > Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture (MoDA)
Item ID: 22185
Useful Links:
Depositing User: Zoe Hendon
Date Deposited: 03 Jul 2017 12:24
Last Modified: 08 Sep 2018 00:51
URI: http://eprints.mdx.ac.uk/id/eprint/22185

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