Category Archives: Drawing

Installing the Beakers

Final display of glasses and books

In writing this last blog post, I’m finally bringing my wonderfully long Illuminating Objects internship to a close; my second object, the pair of Zwischengoldglas beakers are now installed in The Courtauld Gallery and await the grand reopening on 19th November.

One of the main starting points for the display was thinking of my own practice in terms of my physical art space/studio/work table and thinking of the workspace as an art object, which brought subsequent discussion of a still life working environment, with tools of research and tools of fabrication. The idea of capturing something mid-process allows the visitor to have a fluid interpretation of the piece. We wanted to contextualise the era of early 18th-Century Bohemia, where the glasses are from, with a composition showing how we imagine its history in terms of an alchemist’s studio or an elite post-hunt drink. We used the objects as vehicles for story-telling and created threads to feed the visitors’ interest, whilst also emphasising the role of the accidental. This hopefully gives a little feel of what we were initially thinking with the display.

In September I met with Sacha and Matthew to install the scene of narrative objects in the 18th Century room. Their new home was to be a beautiful new case in a simple glass structure, which you could walk all the way around and view from different angles of the room, which was perfect.

Firstly, a conservation report is done before the beakers are installed so that there is a record of exactly what condition they are in. Then another one will be done afterwards to make sure that nothing has changed. This was also where I saw for the first time the Victorian collector’s archival sticker, which had been taken off one of the glasses (and preserved as a document belonging to the object) so the smiling hare could be seen properly. The sticker had been placed onto some delicate paper and was a beautiful object in itself!

What seemed to be quite a simple process actually took slightly longer as we played around with the positioning of the objects a couple of times. I had photos ready of where to place the pieces but we found whilst in the room it was important to get every angle right depending where the viewer would be entering. For example making sure the glass could be seen well in front of the window, the hunting scene on the beakers showing the specific part we wanted at the top and not underneath, arranging the drawing, books and beaker to look natural but not block the best view, seeing the hare peeking out, no loose threads on the velvet and even how the velvet draped on the surface. There was a lot more decision-making on the install day than for the silk fragment in the Science Museum. There, the design and material of the mount had already been thoroughly modified, tested and made before the install, and, the case was against the wall, so there were fewer decisions left to be made.

We then finally settled on a change from the original scene format. Bringing the beaker on its side with the plum velvet to the front and the standing cup to the back. It was great to have one final collaborative workspace around these objects with Matthew and Sacha. It was the right decision and as we all stepped back, moved around, that was it. I couldn’t believe how good it looked finally in its place. It looked better than I expected from my photos of testing it out in the storage room with Matthew. All that is left is the label to be added to the front, which when writing also came as a new learning curve of how to add all the objects to the text tombstone!

I’m so pleased with how it all came together and particularly with this last object the creative freedom I was given and how we managed to convey that in the display whilst fitting into The Courtauld’s new gallery space. I am going to miss getting absorbed and engaged into my research and work here, the collaboration with Sacha, Matthew and Katy and just the whole eye-opening process to the world of art history and galleries. Its been a rewarding experience and I am going to take many of the new skills I learnt here into my practice of design, to hopefully design and make better.

I hope viewers are intrigued by it, move around and look from all directions to see something different each time. I look forward to seeing what people think of these beautiful beakers within this display!

Final Display case of Glasses

Extended selection process – a reflection

A hand drawn image of the four objects being held at different angles

Having trained for 3 years in Bespoke Tailoring at London College of Fashion, followed by working for 3 years at different designers and now studying for my Masters in Design: Expanded Practice at Goldsmiths, I was thrilled to learn about my acceptance for the internship Illuminating Objects at the Courtauld and Science Museum. 

I look at construction and making as part of design. I come to the Illuminating Objects Internship in a different context from previous students due to the current pandemic. While I will select my object entirely through a computer screen, I have been utilising my design background to examine these objects creatively. I have been drawn to objects in the collection which can be described as fragments, and to the narratives they enclose or inspire, exploring conversations that may arise from them, through gestures of movement and touch. The idea of fragment is a starting point in thinking how these objects relate to today’s material culture. Although both touch and ‘real life’ viewing have been removed from the internship thus far, I  will use my design skills and my interest in drawing to connect with and understand the pieces I have selected for display. In contrast with previous internships, this one will have a strong focus on the process of selection itself.  The eventual chosen object will be on display at the Science Museum in 2021.

My practice stems from being drawn to certain materialities. I make/design because I find the object, the point of intrigue: the rusty button, the hanging scrim cloth, the found dug up clay. I draw because I see the movement in the cloth on or off the body and where that can lead to in a design. I am particularly fascinated by even the word ‘object’ – the aesthetic look of it, the sound of it – which is what initially drew me to the Illuminating Objects Internship. With my course often looking at material libraries and the material processes in a scientific manner it seemed a wonderful opportunity to express these research threads. You can view more of my work here.

The whole process from my interview, to how I’ve been working has been a fully socially distanced process, from not being able to physically meet new people or see the storage areas or learning facilities, to not even entering the Science Museum. While this might have brought initial slight sadness, the internship is also focused in its digital platforms to showcase the process, and limitations I have found can often bring more interesting insights and pursuits. Along with guidance from the two curators at the Courtauld and Science Museum and the Courtauld’s gallery technician the conversations at our weekly meetings have offered a wealth of knowledge and inspiration leading down different paths for the objects.

I have always been interested in working for a gallery within this design frame, looking at how objects are displayed. When viewing other objects, I feel that taking an inanimate ‘dead’ object and displaying it in its own right gives it a specific a way to be viewed aesthetically rather than for purpose. With the object eventually being displayed at the Science Museum, it will bring a whole new concept to me in terms of the sculptural frame where my object will stand, compared to an art associated gallery format.

In light of the current circumstances, I have been able to have a longer selection process which has been wonderful. From scrolling through many image files and document files, your eye really starts hone in on the type of things that its drawn to and the type of language that spikes interest in the object documents. Because of the scope of the collection I was initially drawn to the backs of objects; their markings, their faded colours, their shapes correlating to the object itself, their almost minimalist artistic manner.

Notebook pages with Object Document files and photos of the backs of objects Notebook page of a mood board of a series of objects from the courtaulds collection

I have gradually narrowed down my search to four objects. The scarf, the fragment, the cups and the drug jar.

Objects that could be seen as fragments, or overlooked pieces, seemed to be the direction I was drawn towards but with a focus on the object’s everyday use within our material culture and how their narrative in the design could be obscured. Last week Matthew, the gallery technician, was able to go to the museum stores and show me these four objects through a video call. Holding, hanging and turning the objects around delicately, we discussed elements of the objects individually and then together. Seeing the fragment on its edge was beautiful, the bright colours of the scarf I was not expecting, the mirrored effect of the cups and the illustrated costume on the drug jar. It was so lovely even just to see a hand in a glove touching them, particularly within our pandemic context where touch and physical contact have been removed. It really brought new questions and conversation points to the objects. I was physically able to see them from different angles and how that changed their aesthetic appeal. I will be bringing these ideas together towards a design question for my proposal.