It is interesting to speculate how some of our own in- - dustries would stand to-day had their Directors been ready to call in such artists, whose early careers are associated with the Omega Workshops, as Duncan Grant, Frederic Etchells, Wyndham Lewis, Venessa z Bell, Vernard Adeney, Edward Wolfe, McKnight Kauffer, and Hamilton. Such work as any of these artists do to-day for repro- jj duction is done simply because they, and those whose artistic appreciation is on a similar level, are unable to obtain the kind of furniture and fabrics they want by any other means. They have proved that their ideas are practical, and so far as their application to reproductive processes is con cerned, the working "designer" is well fitted to carry out the routine draftsmanship necessary to put them to use, provided that a manufacturer does realize that they mean something as they stand. Not all artists possess this overplus of creative energy, but the artist whose imagination is constantly enliven ing a variety of objects will turn out far more ideas than any working designer, and his ideas will be original. There is no lack of native talent in this country. In the elementary schools of London children between the ages of four and six, working as free artists without restraint, are turning out work of astonishing excellence. Much of it is far superior to the productions of the ordinary trained "designer." Unfortunately the influence of children's imitative faculty, and the vitiation of taste due to constant association with third rate productions generally shows itself at the age of fourteen or fifteen in their work. By the time the average art school student has completed his training he has had the last trace of independent thought squeezed out of his mind. If there existed to-day some form of liason between art and industry, some centre to which artists could offer their work and on which manufacturers could draw for ideas, the cost to industry would be no higher than that of the individual employment of working "designers." Indeed, as things are, the idea that an independent artist demands a prohibitive fee is quite unfounded. This impression has unfortunately been fostered by those manufacturers who occasionally, as an idealistic gesture, take an artist's design and offer it to the public in a de luxe form at a stiff price. They claim that the price must be high to cover the artist's fee. In fact, they themselves have not sufficient faith in the merits of the work and will not risk producing it on a large scale to cover the fee by many sales at a reasonable price. Foley's Manager, a very enterprising man, did once approach a solution to the problem by offering outside 187 artists a sum down and royalties on sales, but his was a lone gesture. Probably the real difficulty lies with the retail salesman. Every manufacturer, whatever his business, knows the limited viewpoint of his retailers and their assistants. They seem to be, as a class, not only unwilling and un able to sell anything that the public does not specifically ask for, but to have no power of supposing that the public has any unexpressed wants which could be educated and satisfied by something better than they already possess. They will not make the attempt to sell anything that they think may require an effort to be made known and liked. There are some beautiful cotton fabrics being produced in Lancashire to-day, so cheap as to be within the reach of all, and infinitely finer in colouring and design than the bulk of fabrics offered at prices many times higher in the shops. These fabrics are never seen in this country. They have been designed and produced with no thought of the English market and its limitations, as diagnosed by retail outlets. They are made for a market which judging by its tasteis far more cultured than our own, and, judging by its ability to get what it wants, is less hampered by the ignorance or opposition of salesmen. These fabrics are made for the natives of Africa. Making for them, Manchester forgets that tradition of solid worth which is sometimes a credit, but more often a debit charge on English enterprise. The greatest hindrance to the development of art in the industries of this countryviewed from every aspect seems to be timidity. Everyone is playing for safety. Architects, unable to find anything original and good, introduce us to that which is innocuous. The wealthy flat owner, distrusting his own taste, engages the "experts" of a furniture shop to design, deliver and dispose about his rooms the elements which, as the expression of his own individuality, would have made it a home. The result is the "show flat," in excellent taste: Faultily faultless, icily regular, splendidly null, Dead perfection, no more. It has been said that Mohammedanism is a good religion by which to die, but not so good to live by. The same appears to be true of English art in industry to-day. NOTE ON DUNCAN GRANT'S FABRICS FOLLOWS.

Industrial Arts en | 1936 | | page 27