Working at Ditchling Museum of Art + Craft

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BA Hons History of Art and Design student Sally Lawrence on being on placement at Ditchling Museum of Art + Craft

Corita Kent

Fig 1. View of Corita Kent: Get with the Action. Ditchling Museum of Art+ Craft. Author’s own photograph.

On 5th May 2018, a very rousing new exhibition opened at Ditchling Museum of Art + CraftCorita Kent: Get with the action uses film, her personal correspondence and  screen prints, including some that have never before been shown in Britain, to explore the life and work of this fascinating lady. Corita Kent (1918-1986) was an American Roman Catholic Nun, teacher and artist who believed in the power of art to create a sense of togetherness and to elicit social change. She worked in America in the 1960s and was heavily influenced by Pop Art, particularly by the work of Andy Warhol. This year at Ditchling, Corita has influenced a very exciting new project.

Morag Myerscough

Fig 2: Morag Myerscough. Belonging Bandstand, Brighton Sea Front. Author’s own Photograph.

I recently had the opportunity to undertake a placement at Ditchling Museum of Art + Craft as part of my degree, for the second year ‘Behind the Scenes’ module. I arrived at a particularly busy time: they were not only preparing their brilliant new exhibition (Fig 1.), but they were also embarking on a very innovative project, inspired by Corita Kent, that involved creating a piece of art and design that inspires and explores notions of belonging. Designer Morag Myerscough, with the help of a plethora of school, community and university groups, put together a travelling bandstand (see Fig. 2), which will help bring communities together through art and music. Myerscough’s bandstand is topped with a crown of placards designed by groups including the University of Brighton, DV8 in Bexhill, Diverse Crawley and Ditchling Primary School. With each new location the bandstand will have a new crown (see Fig. 3) that represents the local community and will host different performers each location.

Morag Myerscough

Fig 3. Morag Myerscough. Belonging Bandstand, Brighton Sea Front. Author’s own Photograph.

Where the bandstand will be this summer:

19th-20thMay- Brighton Festival, Your Place, Hangleton

26th-27thMay- Brighton Festival, Your Place, East Brighton

7th-9thJune- South of England Show

4th-10thJuly Crawley Festival

22nd-27thAugust- Newhaven Festival of Belonging

1st-9thSeptember- Coastal Current Arts Festival, Hastings

17th– 23rdSeptember- Ditchling.

You can also see more of Morag Myerscough’s work in a display at Ditchling Museum of Art + Craft, alongside Corita Kent: Get with The Action, until 14th October 2018.

Fig 4.

Fig 4. Morag Myerscough and Luke Morgan. The Sign Machine. 2017. Author’s own photograph. Ditchling Museum of Art + Craft.

Breaking into museum work

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Fig 1.

Fig 1. Bird’s eye view of The Mary Rose Museum (image by Hufton+Crow)

Fashion and Dress History graduate (2012) Josephine Payter-Harris on working at The Mary Rose Museum

Fig 2.

Fig 2. The Mary Rose Museum: cafe and reception (image by Hufton+Crow)

Since graduating I have developed a career doing what I love: working in the museums and heritage industry. I am currently part of the management team at The Mary Rose Museum, Portsmouth. Whilst studying for my degree, my end goal was to secure a job either working in costume for TV and film, or to go into the world of galleries and museums. I was (and still am!) completely passionate about period costume, and completed my dissertation on the use of historical costume in period film. Throughout my studies I worked to build up a good level of skills within these areas, so that when I came to graduate, I had a range of experience to add to my CV.

Fig 3.

Fig 3. The Mary Rose Museum: Lower Deck Museum Gallery, Lower Deck, showing Tudor brick oven (image by Hufton+Crow)

Work in museums, particularly curatorial and behind the scenes, is hard to break in to. As such I volunteered at several small, local museums and was able to get some fantastic hands-on experience. I undertook a voluntary placement with the Flora Twort Gallery, which houses a beautiful collection of period dress. I dated, researched and archived this collection, and was able to get some ‘white glove’ curatorial experience. I later completed an unpaid placement with Historic Royal Palaces as part of the team to help research costumes for the ‘Fashion Rules’ exhibition at Kensington Palace. Volunteer placements like this are such a good way to help your CV stand out to employers, and a great way to get your foot in the door.

Fig 4.

Fig 4. The Mary Rose Museum: Main Deck Museum Gallery (image by Hufton+Crow)

In my final year, I applied for graduate internships at museums and galleries, and anything to do with costume in TV and film. I lucked out and was offered a four week unpaid placement at a production company based in London. My role was to assist the costume and set design runners for location filming, set dressing and costume for historical docu/dramas. I took on everything I was offered, with a flurry of enthusiasm, and was offered further paid work which I gladly accepted.

After a time, I decided to shift my focus to museum work. I secured a paid internship at a small art centre and museum: The Spring, an independent organisation based in Havant. This internship enabled me to develop skills in curation, exhibition planning, marketing, installation, and the organisation of large historically-themed open days, lectures and art/crafts workshops. I progressed from intern to Museum and Participation Assistant, and thrived in a creative and unique organisation. I took on a second job working for English Heritage (now Historic England), starting off as Historic Property Steward, and developing into Site Duty Manager. This was my first experience working within a large, commercial heritage organisation, and I took on all the training, development and opportunities that were available.

Fig 5.

Fig 5. The Mary Rose Museum: Upper Deck Museum Gallery (image by Hufton+Crow)

In 2014 I was offered a job at The Mary Rose Museum, where I am currently based. The Mary Rose is a world class visitor attraction which receives over 400,000 visitors a year. The museum is home to King Henry VIII’s warship, which sank during the Battle of the Solent, 1545. The ship and over 19,000 artefacts from every day Tudor life were recovered and raised in the 1970s and 80s. The ship sits at the heart of a state of the art museum, which was opened to the public in 2013. My current role, as Front of House Manager, means I manage the day to day running and flow of the museum and a team of 34 museum staff and look after over 100 volunteers; I oversee aspects of the museum such as ticketing, retail sales, recruitment, staff training, development and personnel – so I am certainly kept busy!

Fig 6.

Fig 6. The Mary Rose Museum: View from within Ship Hall, showing ship from the stern (image by Hufton+Crow)

What I love about my work here is that no two days are the same; you have to be flexible, adaptable and ready to deal with all kinds of quirky challenges. My degree certainly laid the foundations for my career, and instilled in me a creative way of thinking, problem solving and a keen sense of attention to detail. Without it I don’t think I’d have the mix of diverse skills and experiences to date which have led me to my current position.

My advice to students aspiring to work in this field is always to put yourself forward, don’t turn down opportunities, even if it means taking unpaid placements. Grasp work and keep striving to learn and develop, don’t pigeon-hole your aspirations, have goals, but be prepared to take a winding road to achieve them, accept that nothing is straightforward and every job will be hard work. Volunteer at smaller organisations, work your way up, take every chance you can get to gain skills and experiences which will make you stand out.

I take pride in my work and feel genuinely lucky to be where I am, my hopes for the future are to keep on moving upwards and onwards within the museum and heritage sphere and to continue to work for organisations which inspire and instil passion.

Seminar Style! May 2018

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Ramona

Ramona at Grand Parade

Name: Ramona

Course: Philosophy, Politics, Art

Outfit: t-shirt from Family Store Brighton, kilt from Urban Outfitters, glasses from Speccy Wren Brighton

Style inspiration: Lo-fi indie. I love fashion but have to interpret it my own way, on a budget

Instagram: @yourleastfavultraleftist

Object of the Month: May 2018

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MA History of Design and Material Culture student Sarah-Mary Geissler investigates a book from the collection of designer FHK Henrion

 

When looking at an object, it is vital to understand its context. Who owned it and where does it come from? Where is it now and why? Belongings often illuminate much about who used them. Sometimes the real story of an object is actually the story of the owner.

Ein lustiges ABC der Moden, Trachten und Kostüme (A merry ABC of fashion, folk dress and costume) by Fritz Kredel [n.d.]

Image 1: Ein lustiges ABC der Moden, Trachten und Kostüme (A merry ABC of fashion, folk dress and costume) by Fritz Kredel [n.d.] University of Brighton Design Archives. Image courtesy University of Brighton Design Archives.

This was the case with Ein lustiges ABC der Moden, Trachten und Kostüme (or A merry ABC of fashion, folk dress and costume) by Fritz Kredel.[Image 1] This charming book teaches the alphabet through the history of dress; from 1700 BC to 1956 AD, from Eton boys to Vikings. Each page depicts the interaction of two characters dressed in historic garb, their frolics described through rhyming couplets. The sheets are discoloured at the edges, but clean; as though they were turned with care. The book belonged to German designer FHK Henrion, an internationally renowned graphic designer. The book now resides in the FHK Henrion Archive within the University of Brighton Design Archives, whose staff provided me with the information necessary to investigate further.

P & Q ‘The damsel in the peplos seems scolding- The gentleman, in pajamas to charm.

Image 2: P & Q ‘The damsel in the peplos seems scolding- The gentleman, in pajamas to charm. Modest was the Quaker woman’s fashion- In iron proudly went Don Quixote’. Image courtesy University of Brighton Design Archives.

It is worth noting that Henrion’s collection of books were given to the Design Archives, and kept in the order that Henrion himself had at his home library. As archivist Sue Breakell informed me, his personal collection was comprised of many hundreds of books, a mix of German and English and covering many subjects.[1]So why would such an esteemed professional designer hang onto this book in particular? The ABC format seems juvenile, though the translated text comes across somewhat saucy, such as P’s “the damsel in the Peplos seems scolding, The gentleman in Pyjamas to charm”[Image 2]. We can’t be certain whether the book was his own purchase or a gift. However, as historians we can link what we see in the object to what we’ve read to come up with our speculations.

His parents, concerned with the rise of National Socialism in Germany, sent him in 1933 to live with relatives in Paris. It was here that he took up a design apprenticeship for a textile manufacturer, and attended many life drawing classes while in the city.[2]This was the beginning of an illustrious design career, going on to design logos for Dutch airline KLM amongst other corporate ventures such as Shell, Phillips, and the Post Office.[3]Though his interest in graphics for the fashion industry endured through his career. During the 1940s Henrion designed covers for fashion magazines Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, he also conceived the ad campaign for Harella ladies clothing.[4]

T & U ‘Tournure was worn at the time- the toga was the Roman’s dress. Uhlan whip the ladies gladly- the Ulster coat for a quality Gentleman.’ Ein lustiges ABC der Moden, Trachten und Kostüme, Fritz Kredel [n.d.]

Image 3: T & U ‘Tournure was worn at the time- the toga was the Roman’s dress. Uhlan whip the ladies gladly- the Ulster coat for a quality Gentleman.’ Image courtesy University of Brighton Design Archives.

This is but my own speculation, that FHK Henrion was charmed by a colourful little book illustrated with forms and textiles in a quirky, contemporary way which recalled to him his many brushes with fashion, though this may be my over-sentimentalised deduction.[Image 3] In fact, there could be any number of reasons why he held onto the book. The typography, rather than the illustrations, could have been inspiring, or perhaps he enjoyed the witty wordplay. Or it could have just been a gag gift that he left on the shelf and never read; it seems we know the ending, just not the beginning of the story of the book.

s.geissler1@uni.brighton.ac.uk

[1]Information provided by Sue Breakell, 13thApr 2018.

[2]Mike Hope, FHK Henrion: Five Decades a Designer(Leicester: Flaxman, 1989).

[3]Ruth Artmonksy & Brian Webb, FHK Henrion: Design(Woodbridge: Antique Collectors Club, 2011).

[4]Hope, FHK Henrion.

cover

Image 4: Cover. Image courtesy University of Brighton Design Archives.