Rex Silver, designer-manager: the Silver Studio and questions of authorship

Hendon, Zoë ORCID logoORCID: (2015) Rex Silver, designer-manager: the Silver Studio and questions of authorship. In: Behind the Scenes: The hidden mechanisms of design and architectural culture, 10-11 Jun 2015, University for the Creative Arts, Canterbury, United Kingdom. . [Conference or Workshop Item]

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What does it mean to be the ‘author’ of a design? Commonsense tells us that if something is made by human hand then there must be someone, ideally a named individual, to whom the item can be attributed. But commercial realities and design processes sometimes mean than ‘authorship’ is a problematic concept, with the finished product being the result of a complex interaction between client and designer, not to mention the numerous further interventions in the manufacturing process.
This paper will draw on archive evidence from the Silver Studio collection to propose that Silver Studio designs were never simply the work of one individual but were rather the product of complex negotiations between clients and designers, mediated by Rex Silver. The Silver Studio produced designs for mass-market wallpapers and textiles, and between around 1900 and 1960, Rex’s role was to act as an intermediary between his clients (representatives of manufacturing companies) and his employees, ensuring that the latter were briefed to meet the requirements of the former. We can gain an insight into these negotiations through detailed diaries and other records kept by Rex’s secretaries, who themselves played an important but frequently-overlooked role in the working of the business. The paper will also draw on evidence of correspondence between Rex and his clients, to show how he worked to maintain these working relationships, some of which evolved into genuine friendships over the course of his working life.
Consideration of the Silver Studio collection necessarily requires a re-consideration of practices of biography within design history, and the purpose of this paper is not to attempt to raise Rex Silver to ‘hero’ status, but rather to draw attention to the inadequacy of this model of historical explanation.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Research Areas: A. > School of Art and Design
A. > Library and Student Support > Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture (MoDA)
Item ID: 18558
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Depositing User: Zoe Hendon
Date Deposited: 10 Dec 2015 10:43
Last Modified: 12 Jun 2022 07:15

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