The Curator’s life – or, 63 dinner plate-sized paper circles edged in one inch strips of double-sided sticky tape

After months of research, learning to handle and catalogue archive material talking, and more talking, making schedules and twiddling with budgets our exhibition finally went into the production phase.

This is heaven and hell. Heaven is to be finally bringing together and testing all our ideas and aspirations, hell is a cat that insists on sitting on your lap while you are trying to attach double-sided sticky tape to delicate elements of your display.

The sense that we had conceived an exhibition that was coherent and well-designed kept us going throughout a busy, but not manic, phase. And the fun seemed designed-in. Inspired by the circles of power in the print industry, which our archive evidenced through many hundreds of dinner menus, the display concept was to suggest the behind the scenes activity of a private dining room. Sourcing the material to dress the scenario meant getting hold of 600 dinner plates, cutlery, silver candlesticks, tablecloths and napkins. Where better to go than the London’s National Theatre props warehouse? Among the rubber ducks and papier mache lobsters we rooted out some of our props. We also sneaked into the costume stores and toyed with dressing up as the people we had encountered in the archive, including the inimitable typographer Beatrice Warde (picture a tweed suit and sensible shoes).

With all the elements for the display sourced, cleaned and paid for the morning of the installation arrived.

Our display area was a window, much like a large department store window – so it was shoes off and onto the task of sticking 63 printed paper circles onto the wall. Next came the scene setting with all the props, the trials of ingenuity when the stiffening baton fell off the large text panel, the extensive use of social media to communicate feedback on object placement through a sound proof window and the thousand and one things that need to be done to get a display ready in a few hours. Then the star objects arrived by taxi from the archive. Placing those in the display made it all feel real. And it looked great, better, I think, than we had imagined.

That’s satisfying, but of course, was just our opinion. The next stage was to have people, real, actual people, look at it and pass comment. But before we could get audience feedback it was time for dinner.

Dinner that day was the event we ran to accompany the exhibition. Four fabulous guests were invited to have dinner with us and talk about the circles of power in the print industry. More about that in the next blog.

Ps – I’ve checked, you can’t see the cat hairs.DSC_6920

8 Hours and 476 Plates Later…

…our exhibit Eat Drink Print is now up at the Lethaby Window Gallery at Central St. Martins. Yesterday, our weeks of research, designing, and planning our display, the big day arrived. Our design team sketched out plans and we scoured every corner of London for props and materials to create a “behind the scenes” look in the gallery. Signage was designed, proofed, edited and printed. Archival material was mounted. We debated how to best show the historical items without compromising the fragile paper and condition. Display strategies were mocked up and tested. We printed and cut out hundreds of circles for the back wall. The archival material was finally packed up and made the journey from London College of Communication to Central St. Martin’s on Monday morning and work was underway.

With a detailed game plan for the day, it was all hands on deck as the team assembled the exhibit. We started with the dozens of circle graphics on the back wall, which had to be perfectly measured and aligned in a grid pattern. Next, we hung the large exhibition sign on the left end of the gallery. After testing the light levels in the gallery and finding them on the high end, we decided to cover one end of the gallery where sunlight was streaming in to preserve the materials and so a canvas shade was constructed and raised up. Then the fun part. Plates, wine boxes, beautiful silver tableware, white tablecloths, bone cutlery… and the archive. The next couple of hours was spent positioning, coordinating between team members inside and outside of the soundproof gallery, and putting everything into place until it looked just right down to the last fork.

 

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We also held a special event last night to coincide with the exhibition. With beautiful food courtesy of Le Pain Quotidien and wine provided by Terrus winery, our special guests Will Hill, Colin McHenry, Rebecca Wright sat down at our table alongside two students from the MA CCC course, Anya and Rhianne, and the hosts Eva Tyler and Lisa Kim. The conversation covered print history and it’s power and influence in society then and now. It was a fascinating discussion that ranged from traditions of the Double Crown Club to the political posters up around London right now. And it was interesting to see the “circles of influence” play out right at the dinner table. Will and Colin mentioned that they had only met last month while speaking at a conference, which was surprising since I assumed they had known each other for years. But it turned out that they discovered that Will had done some illustration work many years ago for Colin when he was at the Radio Times. A chat revealed that Rebecca and Will had mutual colleagues and acquaintances in the print and design field. Our discussion really could’ve gone on for hours..

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The team effort and coordination was unbelievable and I know I speak on behalf of everyone when we say we  are very pleased that our hard work is finally on show.

Stop by the Lethaby Window Gallery at Central St. Martin’s at King’s Cross this week. The gallery is accessible 24/7 as it is part of the exterior of the building (around the corner from the CSM Museum) until next Monday, 5th May.

Star Objects & Archive Reveal

Star Objects & Archive Reveal

Among the archive we got from London College of Communication, there are boxes of delicate printing samples in 20th century,  collected by Charles London Pickering. To classify them, they are menus, booklets, poems, storybooks, and education materials. According to our theme … Continue reading

Press Release – Eat. Drink. Print. – an exhibition about the circles of influence in the British print industry

Eat. Drink. Print.

An exhibition about the circles of influence in the British print industry

Presented by MA Culture, Criticism and Curation at Central Saint Martins

 

Exhibition: 28 April 2014, Monday – 6 May 2014, Tuesday

Venue: Window Gallery, Central Saint Martins Museum and Study Collection, King’s Cross, London, N1C 4AA

 

Opening Event: 5pm, 28 April 2014, Monday

Venue: Platform Foyer & Bar, Central Saint Martins, King’s Cross, London,N1C 4AA

 

Eat. Drink. Print. – Circles of Influence in the British Print Industry is a project curated by the MA Culture, Criticism and Curation at the University of the Arts London (UAL), Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design.

 

This exhibition is the product of research on the uncatalogued archives of Charles London Pickering (1908 – 1998), a British print educator and Inspector of Education (HMI) whose personal archives are now part of the UAL Archives and Special Collections Centre located at the London College of Communication.

 

Eat. Drink. Print. explores a part of Pickering’s archive, his collection of beautifully designed and printed menus and memorabilia from the lunches and dinners of some of Britain’s most prestigious printing societies, eg the Double Crown Club and the Wynkyn de Worde Society. These private dining clubs were made up of some of the most influential typographers, print designers, illustrators and publishers of 20th century London. The exhibition moves beyond Pickering’s collection to explore the influence of print.

 

A parallel event will be held on April 28th, 2014 at Central
 Saint Martins. A panel of expert guests will recreate a modern day version of a society dinner. Over wine and food they will discuss print, typography, and the related social and political issues of today.

 

Blog: https://eatdrinkprint.wordpress.com

This blog is part of the exhibition’s research that examines the relation between technology developments, social changes, the rise of graphic design sphere and printing societies clubs. (For more information click here)

 

For more enquiries, please contact:

Sylvia CHEN

E: s.chen5@arts.ac.uk

More high-resolution photos available upon email request.

 

Behind the scenes: a glimpse to the exhibition’s design process

The exhibition EatDrinkPrint will be presented as a window display at Central Saint Martin’s Museum and study collection window gallery. The opening event will try to recapture the dinners of the print societies in London from the Twenties to the Seventies. It would hold a discussion with print and politics experts over food and wine. Save the date: Monday 28.4 at 5:00 pm.

Printing Association Dinner, probably Double Crown Club. Date Unknown

Printing Association Dinner, probably Double Crown Club. Date Unknown

The window display has been conceived as a “behind the scenes” of the dinners and lunches that were hold by print societies and clubs. it was a sphere for networking, especially focused on develop individual careers and lubricate business.

When the idea came out we thought we may display lunch noise through an artificial mess during preparation and table settings. Starting from this point our work has been focused on finding objects related to the dining table: dinner set, table cloth, chandelier, wine bottles and wooden boxes, ceramics, everything for recreate a convivial atmosphere.

Charles L pickering with a friend. Date unknown

Charles L pickering with a friend. Date unknown

We discovered an amazing place where is possible to hire all this fabulous props: The National Theatre Hire Place (in Oval). here are some pictures of what we’ve found that really sparked our imagination.

The National Theatre Hire Place

The National Theatre Hire Place

The National Theatre Hire Place

The National Theatre Hire Place

The National Theatre Hire Place

The National Theatre Hire Place

The National Theatre Hire Place

The National Theatre Hire Place

On top of these objects we would display the most important archive materials, such as pictures, menus, newspapers and more.

We are getting into the real production stage now and it is interesting to see how our idea be undertaken. You are all more than welcome to come and see it.

 

Oh, just one more thing: free food on the opening night. Do we need to say more?

For more information about EatDrinkPrint click here

Let’s Eat! The Double Crown Club Dinners

Food is never ‘just food’”, writes Pat Caplan in the introduction of the book “Cooking Cuisine and Class”, Furthermore, “it is intimately bound up with social relations, including those of power, of inclusion and exclusion, as well as with cultural ideas”. Caplan’s observation allows us to dig deeper into the social meaning of eating together and drinking together in some societies. In this case, printing societies in 20th century in London.

These societies established magnificent dining clubs where dining played a wider role than merely gathering people around a plate of roasted duck or cooked salmon. The research for “Eat.Drink.Print” has shown that the dining table was a place for networking, promoting ideas and sharing knowledge.

In this post we are focusing on the Double Crown Club dinners, a predominant printing club, and trying to answer when, why, where and, most importantly, what was served. Yummy!

A typical club dinner. Image from Charles London Pickering archive

A typical club dinner. Image from Charles London Pickering archive

So where did this is all begin?

According to James Moran the Double Crown Club was founded on 1924 by Oliver Simon. Simon discussed the idea of a dining club of people interested in what he called “the Arts of the Book”.

The Club held his inaugural dinner on 31 October 1924, and at the second dinner got down to the business of dissecting printing with a discussion on “Type-faces of Today”, a natural subject considering the background of those who formed the club.

The club members set a list of rules that delineate its nature and structure of the meeting. For example, Rule number three states that: The Club meets at dinners to be held not more than six times and not less than four times a year.

The Double Crown Club Rules list. Object from Charles London Pickering archive

The Double Crown Club Rules list. Object from Charles London Pickering archive

More interesting is rule no 7:

“Every dinner two persons from among the members of the Club be invited by the Committee to be respectively Chairman and Designer. “The duty of the Designer shall be to Provide a specimen of printed matter, which must include an invitation card and a menu and which may be criticised in the course of the meeting”.

Charles London Pickering’s archive includes a wide collection of well-designed invitations and menus. Exploring these invitations was like taking a glimpse of graphic designs trends and styles from the twenties to the nineties. Color printing, type faces, illustrations, binding and folding: it is all there.

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Invitation to the Double Crown Club 4th dinner.

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Back to the dinners:

For each dinner a theme was chosen, presented by a club member or a guest speaker. There were clear rules about inviting guests to the club’s dinners.

Some themes of the lunches are documented in Moran’s book “Stanley Morrison” from 1971 in a chapter that is dedicated to the Double Crown Club:

At the 25th dinner, in 1930 Stanley Morrison (one of the most influential type-designers of the 20th century, designed the Times New Roman type face on 1931) spoke on “The Newsletters of Ichabod Dawks”, the results of some individual researches; Ten dinners later, in 1931, he spoke on the “Old English Newspapers and “The Times” New Roman”, reflecting both his preoccupation with newspaper history at the time and the new type designed for “The Times”. With Ellic Howe at the 75th dinner, in 1944, he discussed unusual pieces of printing, and a year later, at the 82nd dinner, he took up the problem “What is pamphlet?”.

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The Double Crown Club accounts of the year 1987

At the Club’s 134th dinner in 1956, Morison joined with Meynell and Lynton Lamb to speak in memory of the Club’s founder, Oliver Simon, who had recently passed away.

Other themes are shown in the dinner invitations in the archive: The 3rd dinner was dedicated to “Book Illustration” with the guest William Rothenstein; The 4th to “Period Printing” The 90th dinner discussion was about the club’s future.

But what did they eat?!

The clubs’ meeting took place mostly in restaurants, which served fixed menus that included 4-5 dishes: appetizer, soup, salad (sometimes) meat or fish, two side dishes and a dessert. The critical component in these meals was wine. Sometimes a small wine menu accompanied the food menu.

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Invitation to ATPAS dinner

Eat.Drink.Print exhibition will include a modern version of a print society meeting.
Stay tuned!

 

What is Going on Here?

Welcome to the resonant world of Charles London Pickering. CLP – as he is now fondly known – collected. His theme was print, his habit was lunch; for a skinny guy he ate a lot, and we are talking a lot, of lunches.

CLP (OBE, 1908-1998) kept box after unordered box of material associated with his professional life – bureaucratic paperwork related to his role as an inspector of print, design and typography colleges; samples of print and typography for education; trade press; newspapers; photographs and lunch menus.

He was a member of several professional print industry societies – each one had up to four lunches a year. For each lunch a society member produced a menu – showing off their technical ability, taste and creativity. Collectively the menus trace the development of design from after World War Two to the late 1980s – and they are delightful. More than that, the menus give us an insight into a circle of, almost exclusively, men, gathering to talk and eat and learn and do business.

CLP’s boxes are now stored safely on the steel shelves of the London College of Communication Archive and Special Collections Centre.

At the Archive. Photo by Tara Emad Aldughalther

At the Archive. Photo by Tara Emad Aldughalther

 

As part of our Masters Programme, MA Culture Criticism and Curation at Central Saint Martin’s, we were given access to the uncatalogued material, with the aim of producing an exhibition at the University campus in Kings Cross, London. We discussed many themes the objects in the archive suggested; the position of women in the industry during the period (we only found one! But she, Beatrice Warde, is a paradigm example of a woman rising to the top of a male dominated profession); changing technology; the development of graphic design and typography and more.

Image From Charles London Pickering archive

Image From Charles London Pickering archive

A lot of this history is well-documented and all of our conversations came back to the lunches – so we decided to produce an exhibition that reflects on the circles of influence that operate in the print world, which, as in other professions, are often situated in semi-social networks, making change and maintaining tradition. Whether you call the lunches an Old Boys Network or peer support groups, the industry cliques, then as now, eat together, drink together and print together. The wider social influence of the print circles is something we are thinking about – particularly in the context of two overtly political objects – print is not innocent, design is not innocent, what do those bloody lunches reveal?

Charles London Pickering

Charles London Pickering

This blog will relate our experiences of producing the exhibition, look at some of the star objects and some aspects of our research. Skinny, smart, serious old CLP didn’t change the world, but he made a difference in an industry that has underpinned the development of modern human history and continues to be powerful. So, please raise a glass to CLP, and wish us luck for the project.

Eat.Drink.Print exhibition take place on Central Saint Martin’s College of art and design from April 29th to May 5th.