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Art and crafts at the Museum Interview with Mr. B. H. Woodward, F.G.S., C.M.Z.S.
Record no:
The article is by "J.L."
Kept:Press clippings book 1, p. 82


(By J. L.)

Having heard that the committee of the West Australian Museum has added
considerably to the Arts and Crafts collection there, I ventured to call

on Mr. Woodward, and ask him for an interview. He is just now even more
than usually busy, having on hand a guide to the art collection ; but,
very kindly, he spared time for a walk and a talk in the galleries where
the arts and crafts exhibits are at present.

Mr. Woodard referred to an interview with Mr. Linton that appeared some
time ago, and said that the committee have for some time past been getting
typical representative examples of the arts and crafts of the world, in
order that the public may see the great advance that has been made in
domestic art, namely, the improvement in the design of home fittings,
furniture, and utensils. These will prove of the greatest use to the
students in the old Technical Schools. Since 1880 there has been a great
revival amongst the arts and crafts. William Morris, Madox Brown, the
Rosetti brothers, and others founded the new school, and the seeds they
planted have been nurtured and fostered by people in high positions. The
Royal Family has taken a deep interest in the Royal Art Schools at South
Kensington, and from those centres other schools have branched out in many
directions. “In a new and rapidly growing country like Western Australia,
it is necessary to keep practical ends in view,” said Mr. Woodward, “even
while we educate the taste of the public. One or two potteries in this
State are turning out very good work in tiles, and some of the commoner
kinds of terra-cotta, and will shortly be doing work of a higher class.
Let us then commence with the pottery exhibits.


“This is the oldest of the crafts. The making of pottery dates back to a
very early period, far beyond the reach of historical records.  In the
Mosaic writings, the potter and his work are honourably mentioned, and at
an early period the Egyptians made their beautiful ware. Glazed bricks
have been found in the ruins of Babylon. The potter’s wheel, of which an
example will be on exhibition very shortly, is the oldest machine in the
world, and the photograph we have on view shows one almost identical in
form and shape with those represented on the Assyrian and Egyptian
monuments. The old wheels were turned by the hand ; the modern ones are
worked by a treadle, or by a fly-wheel, rotated either by human agency or
by power. These samples of raw materials have just been received by Mr.
Horace B. Woodward, F.R.S., Assistant Director of Geological Survey of
Great Britain. They show clays in the rough, and as prepared for the
making of stoneware, earthenware, and china. Any quantity of china clay is
waiting in Western Australia, and there will be plenty of openings here
for the students who go in for this work. A pottery class will shortly be
established in the Technical Schools on St. George’s Terrace. We have
already in the Museum example of pottery from the earliest times to the
present day. I may mention that the designs in English china have improved
very much of late, and some of the specimens we have here are not
surpassed, if equalled, by Dresden china wares. You may have noticed this
china on the lower shelf of a glass case by the entrance, while on the
upper shelves are some very beautiful designs, both as to colour and form,
from the Della Robbia Works, and on the cups and plates presented by
Messrs. Brown, Westhead, Moore, and Co., of the Royal Cauldon Potters,

Messrs. Doulton's well-known contributions to the Museum then received
attention ; but as these have already been described at considerable
length in the “West Australian,” Mr. Woodward passed on to a large series
of exhibits showing different kinds of English, Continental, and Eastern
potteries. “We desire to show the public all possible shapes and colours,”
continued Mr. Woodward, “so that they may learn what to select and what to
avoid ; and the labels in many cases point out the good and the bad points
in the design. Some of the simplest pottery shows the best art. Look at
these pots from Ceylon, for instance. Some are 2,000 years old, others
modern, but they are perfectly adapted to the ends their designers and
makers had in view. Our collection is not very large, but it includes many
types. In addition to those already mentioned, we have ancient Egyptian
pottery from Thebes, ancient Greek and Graeco-Roman ware, as well as
examples of the crudest Central African. Specimens of modern Italian,
Spanish, German, Bohemian, and Flanders pottery are all represented in our
collection. From China there is but a single specimen, but we have a whole
series of Japanese from the Imperial Museum at Tokio.”


While walking to the gallery where wood-carving is exhibited, Mr. Woodward
said that often 800 people visit the Museum on a Sunday afternoon, and
that the average was more than one-third of the attendance at the British
Museum. Nearly all the visitors belong to the labouring classes. “I do not
fear a Labour Government,” he remarked, “as I know it will recognise the
educational importance of the Museum and the Art Gallery. In the older
centres of civilisation,” he continued, “all classes are now trying to
make their homes beautiful ; and we desire to show our visitors how the
same thing may be done in Western Australia. That is why we are trying to
gather together from all parts of the world specimens of the arts and
crafts, both ancient and modern. If we show students the best models, they
will learn how to become good designers. Several ladies here have taken up
wood-carving very successfully, as is shown by the screens in St. George’s
Cathedral ; and others are doing equally well in repousee [sic] work, in
brass and also in leather. Hundreds of thousands of little blows are
required in this work, for heavy blows would crack the metal. It needs an
immense amount of patience, as well as skill, which is, doubtless, the
reason that so many ladies have taken it up and been so successful. But
the ladies must have a knowledge of design first. Amateurs often want to
put in too much detail. See how restful, and yet how highly ornamented …
[missing original text] … worn on the person ; enamels on pictures, or
simple colour harmonies, in a particular kind of glass that can be fused
on to the surface of certain metals, such as gold, silver, iron, copper,
and bronze. To other metals the glass will not adhere. The metal usually
use is copper. The ancient Egyptian method is known as Champleve. In this
the design is gouged out or engraved, leaving fine bands standing up to
confine the different colours into their own compartments. The colours are
then carefully laid into their appointed places, and the article is placed
in a muffle furnace, raised to sufficient heat to fuse the colours on and
into the surface of the metal. According to the depth of the engraving, so
does the intensity of the colour vary, the colours used being transparent.
Thus the process had to be repeated many times, the surfaces being
polished, and more colour added when required between each firing. In the
Cloisonne form of enamelling, little raised metal compartments are made by
soldering flattened wire on to the copper or other background. The colour
is then filled in and fired as previously described. It was this form of
enamelling that found favour with the Byzantine school for adorning
reliquaries, etc., for the early Christian Church. The crucifix in this
style which we exhibit is by Mrs. Edith Dawson, and it shows to what
perfection ladies can attain in this work. I know two ladies at the top of
the profession in England who are being offered more work of this
description than they can execute. The most fashionable brooches,
necklaces, and bracelets nowadays are enamels. We have but few specimens
as yet. However, as soon as funds permit, we hope to get some examples of
Alexander Fisher’s work. The Japanese have practiced the Cloisonne form
for many centuries, and the perfection to which they have brought it can
be seen in the many specimens we have in the Museum. One of these latter
is very ancient. It was once formerly in the possession of the late Hon.
J. G. H. Amherst. Limoge enamels have no compartments of any kind, but the
metal, in the first place, is covered with an opaque enamel, usually
either white or black, and then the design or portrait is painted on in
the same way as a miniature, though not with the same pigments, and it is
fired and touched up and refined as many times as is necessary to get the
desired result. Good specimens of Limoges enamels were presented to us by
the late Captain Roe. These are of the later Limoges, and date back to
about 1550. Fourthly, we come to the Basteille enamel. Its groundwork may
be described as a basso-relievo, on a sunken ground, filled in with
enamel, the different thicknesses of which give variations in the colour.
Of his work Mr. Linton is preparing an example to present to this

The Triptych.

Mr. Woodward then led the way into his office, and there I saw one of the
most important additions as yet made to the art collection. It arrived
only a few days ago and will be placed on view to the public as soon as a
case is provided. It was designed by Mr. Nelson Dawson, the well-known
craftsman and water-colour painter, and the enamels, seven in all were
executed by his wife, Mrs. Edith Dawson. They illustrate the lines—

“Rest after toil, port after stormy seas.
Peace after war death after life, doth greatly please.”

There is a man resting after ploughing a field a ship going into port, an
old warrior sitting outside a castle, and the winged head of a woman
representing “Upnos’s” sleep. The design is in harmony, red poppies
representing sleep on the closing doors, and tall poppies standing in
repousee [sic] steel inside. The frame is supported by wrought-iron legs,
and the whole is surmounted by a silver olive wreath, entwined with
wrought-iron scrolls. The mellow yet brilliant scheme of colour must be
seen to be appreciated. This triptych shows amongst other things, the
great difference there is between Japanese and European enamelling for,
although the enamels are of the Limoges class, they differ from the usual
run, in that [they] are almost entirely worked in transparent enamel, by
which means the great brilliancy of colour has been achieved. This latest
addition to the art collection, of which but a feeble idea can be given by
pen and ink, should prove an immense attraction, for the work is excellent
throughout both in design and execution, for the blacksmith and the
silversmith, as well as the enamels, are superb.

The arts and crafts shown in the Museum are far from exhausted, but the
glass and many more things must be left for another visit. The special
Japanese collection from the Imperial Museum at Tokio requires an article
to itself.
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