The Lawson Park Collection was founded in 2006 as a working domestic collection in day to day use at the farm. The objects are drawn from a broad spectrum of British design, craft and manufacturing, with the aim of highlighting their relevance to popular cultural development and to art.
The core Collection is augmented by occasional items from other countries that hold particular relevance to Grizedale projects or relationships.
The Lawson Park Collection was founded in 2006 as an active collection of design in daily use and on display at Lawson Park, the experimental upland farm of Grizedale Arts, situated above the East shore of Coniston Water in the English Lake District. The Collection is centered on domestic design, including items for use in the house and on the surrounding land, and is principally comprised of objects by British named designers and craftspeople.
Lawson Park’s house and grounds are used as a professional residency base and induction point for anyone visiting and working with the organisation. Lawson Park is also used for independent research purposes, including archival, literary, artistic, historical and horticultural research by a range of visitors.
Items in the Collection are drawn from a broad spectrum of design, craft and manufacturing, with the aim of highlighting their relevance to popular cultural development, and to various histories of art, design and craft. The core collection of 20th century British pieces is augmented by a growing range of international objects, particularly from places that have held relevance to Grizedale Arts’ programmes. Almost every object that contributes to the running of Lawson Park - from the chairs to the cutlery to the bedside lamps - has arrived there through careful and conscious inclusion. A few objects arguably surplus to daily use (for example a beloved peanut-shaped cable tidy) are included on the grounds of their backstory and related references.
Items find their way into the Collection through many avenues. They might be bought, gifted, made or found. Contemporary artists and designers are sometimes commissioned to add new works to the Collection, under the themes already established. Inevitably some items are lost or damaged on occasion, but they are never removed from the online archive here.
The Collection closely reflects our ongoing programme, and will grow alongside it, reminding us of the people, artefacts and reference points of each new project and relationship.
Each online entry in the Collection outlines the object’s specification and its discreet history, including its provenance.
To make a visit in person to the Collection, please enquire in advance to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
When Modernism goes bad (An alternative history of Modernism)
This strand of the collection tracks Modernist themes, styles and appropriations, following designers whose work has influenced, referenced or rebuked Modernism. Local examples include the Keswick School of Industrial Art (KSIA), a school established as an evening class in 1884 with the aim of alleviating mass unemployment, which specialised in woodwork, metalwork and the production of brass, copper and pewter items in the traditional Arts & Crafts style.
The school was in full operation for 100 years before its closure and conversion into a restaurant in 1984. KSIA began using stainless steel, the quintessential Modernist material, in 1930, and adopted a Modernist design aesthetic more closely drawn from Christopher Dresser, rather than for example William Morris. The company introduced machinery for production in the 1950’s and used this for the final 30 years of operation. Their history is particularly pertinent when considered in relation to the Lake District and its peculiarly twinned preoccupations with both the traditional past and the leisure and service industries.
A mug’s history of design (The folly of the mug)
Over the course of its very short history, the mug has become a quintessential comfort object. The origins of the contemporary mug are found in the medieval tankard, designed for drinking beer. When the 20th century crafts movement was looking for ways to represent British traditional design it alighted on the tankard, and married it with the Japanese aesthetic so prevalent at that time (examples include Tenmoko glazed tankards or Robert Welch stainless steel tankards from Chipping Camden).
The tankard slowly gave way to the mug as we now know it (still with tankard-like adornments). In time it has become the ubiquitous pottery object; never fully satisfying aesthetically but retaining its ‘essential’ position, and steadily building up its own mythology and language through exposure in popular media such as television and advertising. The mug has given us the mug tree, the ugly mug, the branded or promotional mug, the comedy mug. It has introduced the ‘curled up on the sofa with a steaming mug of X’ notion of comfort, the personalised office ownership of the mug.
Authenticity is a key contemporary fixation. It is a particularly mediated and legislated concept in Grizedale Art’s home, the Lake District, where the most heavily endorsed notions of authenticity inform a range of cultural outputs; from planning regulations that require ‘authentic’ Victorian-styling on garages and extensions, to the marketed appeal of a wilderness landscape which is in fact meticulously managed. This collection includes fakes, forgeries, and work in the style of key design and craft figures.
Many of these fakes are purchased on the open market via auction and/or eBay, including the Wormwood Scrubs Leach forgeries, Martinware (Colston fakes), Lucie Rie, and Kurt Schwitters. Further fakes are often commissioned by GA for those with an interest in producing them.
This Collection reflects the popular, heavily marketed image of the Lake District, and the market for objects that fall under this rubric. Objects are selected purely on the grounds of their contribution to a preoccupation with local heritage – drawn for example from Coniston (the nearest village to Grizedale’s Lawson Park farm), Lakeland, (for homewares), Ambleside (for pottery), and John Ruskin themed items (including the widespread appropriation of his image and persona for advertising any number of goods, for example cigars).
KEY PRACTITIONERS AND MOVEMENTS:
Arts and Crafts and Christopher Dresser – the birth of a Modernist aesthetic:
Arts and Crafts is an important local (Cumbrian) theme with a number of notable designers and makers associated with the area, icnluding the Keswick School of Industrial Arts, Simpsons of Kendal, Gillows of Lancaster, garden designer Thomas Mawson, Baillie Scott, CFA Voysey, Edwin Luytens, Ruskin and the associated Guilds.
Arts and Crafts eccentrics/mavericks:
Sir Edmund Elton, Bernard Moore, George Ohr, Martin Brothers, Edward Bingham, Ruskin Pottery: Ruskin lace, Ruskin woodwork, Ruskin cigars.
Crafts Movement and the schools of:
Bernard Leach, Lucie Rie & Hans Coper, Gordon Russell, George Cook (Ambleside Pottery), Mouseman Thompson.
Mass-produced Crafts style:
Susan William-Ellis, Robin Welch, The Ugly Mug, Whitefriars, George Baxter, Robert Welch, Lucienne Day, Barbara Brown, Robin Day, Erno Goldfinger, Ernest Race, John and Sylvia Reid.
Historical and traditional craft references:
Georgian furniture and glass, spill work, coppice- elated crafts, lace, etc.