Petal Power

Design Education for Women

The first all-female school of design opened in London in 1842 but the young women designers employed by the Silver Studio were part of the generation for whom the possibility of marriage and home-making was jeopardized by the loss of millions of young men in the First World War (1914-18). For these women, artistic skill became a route towards paid work and economic independence. On-the-job apprenticeships in design for industry were rare for women before the 1940s. Instead women looked to their local Schools of Arts and Crafts and the newly founded Technical Colleges for a grounding in the skills which would allow them to have a trade.
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  • Lewis F Day, The Anatomy of Pattern 1899 (BADDA 980)

    In his 1882 essay 'To Ladies and Amateurs' Lewis F.Day recommended needlework, rather than pattern design, to artistic women, because he feared they lacked the necessary boldness and breadth to be good at design. Attitudes towards women were gradually modernising, yet limiting preconceptions about women's abilities retained their currency into the 20th century. The 1912 edition of Trades for London Girls recommended that a girl with artistic tastes would probably do well to try 'Artistic Dress' Embroidery', provided she had good eyesight

  • Winifred Mold sketchbook, 1915 (SE1397.1)

    Winifred Mold attended Art Classes at Paddington Technical College from 1909 to 1912. Although her training was in the art department (as opposed to the trade school) the prospectus for her course noted that "Art classes are intended for those whose object is to apply the knowledge and skill imparted to industrial purposes as Designers and Artistic Craftsmen.' This sketch book detail shows an arrangement of decorative forms drawn in the flat. Training in the fine arts (painting and sculpture) still privileged the skill of drawing form in three dimensions.

  • Tulip sketch by Winifred Mold, 1909 (SD26505)

    Drawing from nature was felt to be important part of a designer's education. Not so much for achievement of technical accuracy or realism - although this was a valued skill for furnishing chintz designers - but because it was felt to develop designers' understanding of natural form and movement.

  • Winifred Mold's sketchbook, around 1909 (SE1398)

    This page from Winifred Mold's sketchbook illustrates how the study of historical examples was a key aspect of a designer's education. These examples were probably sketched from exhibits on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum

  • Design for a printed dress silk, Madeleine Lawrence, 1931 (SD2743)

    This design was described in the Silver Studio's daybook as a dress silk design of 'detailed Persian groups'. The inspiration could have been a ceramic or a textile in the Victoria and Albert Museum's collection.

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