Muriel Rose At The Crafts Study Centre, Farnham, Surrey

By 24 Hour Museum Staff | 10 November 2006
image of a textile printed with a repeating optical illusion

Muriel Rose's discerning eye is legendary in the world of 20th century crafts. Courtesy The Crafts Study Centre

One of the leading proponents of British craft in the 20th century, and the woman who presented studio pottery as a movement for the first time, is at the centre of a new exhibition at the Crafts Study Centre in Surrey.

Muriel Rose (1897-1986), who curated many craft exhibitions in her own time, was a founder of the Centre. It's fitting, then, that the Centre should host an exhibition of the items she collected. From ceramics, textiles and jewellery to costume, archives, calligraphy, furniture and metalwork; much of which is now in the Study Centre’s permanent collection. The exhibition will run for a year, until November 3 2007.

“This exhibition is our long awaited tribute to one of our founder Trustees,” said Professor Simon Olding. “It has been built around the objects drawn together by Rose herself for public display; principally the Centre’s permanent collections and the craft collections of the British Council. The notable archive left by Rose to the Centre has also proved a rich seam of visual and written material.”

black and white photo of an ornate necklace on a woman

Items have been drawn from both the Centre's permanent collection and the British Council. Courtesy The Crafts Study Centre

Rose ran the Little Gallery from 1928-1939, where she exhibited and sold the work of the leading artist-craftspeople of the day, staging them carefully in room settings.

Bernard Leach pots were shown alongside handmade quilts produced by women living in poor mining communities in south Wales and Durham – places she visited to look for high quality work for the eager markets of London. The gallery also featured craftwork from Europe, India and South America, but it was some of today’s most famous British makers who were given a real footing by the gallery.

The Little Gallery closed with the outbreak of World War Two and Rose became involved with the British Council, as curator of the Exhibition of Modern British Crafts at the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1942. The major show toured the United States until 1945, followed by the Exhibition of Rural Handicrafts from Great Britain in New Zealand and Australia in 1946.

photo of marbled paper

The exhibition is a deserved tribute to Rose. Courtesy The Crafts Study Centre

Until 1957, Rose’s title at the Council was Crafts and Industrial Design Officer, with her position’s remit to demonstrate to the world the nature and vitality of contemporary crafts in the UK. Her taste and discerning eye for quality and aesthetics is now legendary in the history of 20th century crafts.

She was also one of the driving forces behind the organisation of the Dartington Hall conference in 1052 that attracted international attention from potters and textile artists. In 1955, she published Artist Potters in England, defining the studio pottery movement for the first time.

“Owing to the lack of attention paid to Muriel Rose since her death, she has remained a somewhat shadowy figure in craft history books,” said the exhibition’s curator, Jean Vacher. “It is hoped that this exhibition and the new book we are publishing to coincide with the exhibition, Muriel Rose: A Modern Crafts Legacy, will contribute to an understanding of her contribution to both the crafts movement of the 20th century, and her relationship with the nascent Crafts Study Centre in the 1970s.”

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