Japan and Britain: a Continuing Dialogue

Zoe Hendon, MoDA's Head of Collections, talks about links between the Silver Studio Collection and Japan.

I’m delighted to have been invited to the Miyagi Gakuin Women’s University in Sendai in northern Japan, at the end of this month.  I’ll be speaking there and also in Tokyo about the Silver Studio and how the designers who worked for it were influenced by the art of Japan.

building on previous success

This invitation came out of MoDA’s recent Arts Council-funded project, Katagami in Practice, which ended earlier this year.  But the origins of this project go back much further.  It’s interesting to reflect on how our knowledge of the museum’s collections has built gradually over the years.


An ongoing aesthetic dialogue

MoDA’s Silver Studio Collection includes around 400 Japanese stencils or ‘katagami’, which were collected as design reference at the end of the nineteenth century.  Their importance was first noted by Toshio Watanabe and Tomoko Sato in their book Japan and Britain: An Aesthetic Dialogue, 1850-1930, published in 1991.

In 2008 we secured some funding from Museums, Libraries and Archives (MLA) to store the katagami stencils to appropriate conservation standards.

That fed into an exhibition that we organised at MoDA called Japantastic, and an accompanying publication, The Silver Studio and the Art of Japan, which is still available from our online shop.

As the result, more Japanese researchers became aware of the katagami in the Silver Studio Collection, and we lent a number of items to a major exhibition in Tokyo in 2012.

One thing leads to another

The Katagami in Practice project in 2016-18 strengthened our links to experts in Japan and Britain, including Dr Naoko Okubo of the Miyagi Gakuin Women’s University.  Dr Okubo secured the funding for this trip from the Japan International Cultural Exchange Foundation.

When I visit Japan in a few weeks time I’ll be giving talks about the influence of Japan on the Silver Studio.  I will also have the pleasure of meeting various Japanese experts to learn more about different aspects of MoDA’s collections.  I’m particularly looking forward to meeting Tomoko Sato, one of the academics who drew attention to the important influence of Japan on the Silver Studio in the first place.

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