Nicola Stylianou: An insight into the design process

MoDA's Collections Assistant Nicola Stylianou talks about linking Silver Studio designs with their source material.

The Silver Studio Reference Collection

The Silver Studio reference collection is made up of things the Silver Studio designers used as inspiration for their work. It includes a large variety of materials such as books, textile samples and postcards.

Les Batiks De Java by Daniel Real

Les Batiks De Java by Daniel Real

Recently, James Francis Millar, a fashion tutor at Middlesex University visited MoDA.  James was particularly interested in the reference collection.  One of the things James wanted to see was ‘Les Batiks de Java’.  This handsome portfolio,  published in 1927, contains images of  Indonesian batiks held in European collections.

While looking through the portfolio I noticed that one of the designs had been annotated in pencil with measurements and the number 12074.  Many of the Silver Studio designs were assigned numbers and whenever we can we add these numbers to our electronic catalogue of objects.

However,   due to the large number of designs in our care we have only been able to do this for a small proportion of the collection.  On this occasion I was lucky. A design drawing did have the same number assigned to it!

The Design

Some of the designs in the Silver Studio Collection are rough pencil sketches while others are painted and more detailed.  This design was a highly finished version,  painted dark blue like the original.  It was remarkably similar to the batik with only minimal changes.

If you look closely at the two images below you can see that the diagonal rows of squares have been reduced and the trailing floral pattern is less detailed in the design than in the original.  Copying handmade artworks and turning them into designs that could be mass produced was not an uncommon practice at the time.  The written archive revealed it had been designed by ‘Miss L’ in 1939 but we do not know the name of the original maker.

The Samples

The following week I was lucky again.  While auditing the collection I came across both a pencil sketch of the batik (presumably an early version of the design) and two samples of the finished product.  This suggests the design actually went into production.  The textile samples show are in two colourways quite different to the original dark blue. We have not (yet) found evidence in the archive of who the design was sold to and therefore where the product was sold.


What these designs revealed to me was the potential of the Silver Studio archive.  With time and patience it is sometimes possible to match design drawings to original material and product samples creating a unique insight into the design process.

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