Presenters’ Biographies and Abstracts


Alistair Grant and Angus Patterson, authors of the book, ‘The Museum and Factory: The V&A, Elkington and the Electrical Revolution’ (V&A/Lund Humphries, 2018), will present a joint paper called ‘Electro! Two Object Studies in Electrotyping, 19th-Century Design and the Legacy of Empire for 21st Century Museums.’

Electrotypes are not benign: the decolonisation of museums is not confined to ‘original’ works. 19th-century Museums collected electrotypes as both drivers internationally of British design as the blueprint of good taste and as powerful expressions of colonial conquest. Two objects from the vast numbers of surviving electrotypes, both produced by the pioneers of electrometallurgy, Elkington & Co., show how an interdisciplinary approach to the interpretation of electrotypes can offer today’s audiences a broad, complex, nuanced and relevant context for their creation. The electrotypes of the ‘Perak Royal Regalia’ produced in 1874 and ‘The Apotheosis of Homer: An Electrotype from the celebrated original bas-relief preserved in the British Museum’ produced in 1848 were made for very different reasons but both, historically, help us address key issues being tackled by 21st century museums: industrial innovation, artistic inventiveness, cultural transformation and the enduring legacies of slavery and empire.

[expand title=”Alison Flemming

The Preservation Challenges of Early Plastics in Jewellery and Accessories Collections ” rel=”type-highlander”]

Early plastics, which first appeared in the mid-nineteenth century, did an impressive job of imitating natural materials such as ivory, tortoiseshell and pearl, and new mass production techniques meant that jewelry and accessories moulded from these plastics were accessible to people who might not have been able to afford the real thing. As the distinction between “real” and “costume” jewelry diminished, plastic accessories became objects that we now consider valuable in their own right and worthy of study and preservation.

Although early semi-synthetic plastics such as cellulose nitrate and Vulcanite were amazing inventions, in that they transformed cellulose and rubber respectively into substances that were homogenous and capable of being coloured and cast, they were, unfortunately, chemically imperfect. These polymers are especially prone to degradation, even in ordinary environmental conditions, and a number of them emit acidic vapours as they age, which can build up in storage cabinets and damage other materials. While testing our jewelry and accessories collection at the Royal Alberta Museum for malignant plastics, it became clear that some adjacent materials, such as metals, had been affected by acidic offgassing.

Artifacts in jewelry and accessories collections are often highly detailed, and are invariably completely aesthetic in their function, and so visible damage is detrimental to their meaning and value. Such damage can include distortion, cracking, discolouration, and surfaces coated with powdery or greasy-looking deposits. Fortunately, though, it is possible to slow down the degradation of malignant plastics by cold storage and appropriate housing. This presentation will look at how to identify malignant plastics, which can be a challenge when they’re masquerading as something else or have been used in an unexpected way. It will also outline how to store them in order to keep them in the best condition for as long as possible.

Biography:  Alison Fleming is an Objects Conservator at the Royal Alberta Museum and has worked there since 2014.  She is a graduate of the Collections Conservation and Management program at Fleming College in Peterborough, Canada.  Prior to joining the museum, she completed a fellowship with the objects lab at the Canadian Conservation Institute in Ottawa, interned with the conservation department at Parks Canada, and was an HLF-funded intern at the National Maritime Museum in the UK.


[expand title=”Marc Holly 

From Laboratory to Fashion – The introduction of Aniline Black into textile dyeing in the 19th Century” rel=”type-highlander”]

Biography: Marc Holly works at the University of Applied Sciences Niederrhein,(Fachhochschule Niederrhein) Krefeld Germany as Collection Care & curator for the historical dye collection of the university. During his BA & MA studies in Book- and Paper-Conservation he gained deeper interest in textile sample books and their development. The last two years he was part of the research project “Colorful World” researched the rise of synthetic dyes in Germany and the development of the Krefeld Dye Collection. Currently he is doing his PhD on the conservation of dye collections at the Dresden University of Fine Arts (HfBK Dresden).

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[expand title=”Sandra Wilson 

Electrochemical Replacement Plating – The value of a historical technique in addressing contemporary issues.” rel=”type-highlander”]

This paper presents new jewellery & silverware that was created from a residency at the Love Chemistry Group part of Edinburgh University. The Love group have developed a new chemical compound or ligand that uses hydrometallurgy (a green method) to select gold from a solution of metals recovered from electronic waste. The residency was an opportunity to experience the hydrometallurgy process using computer circuit board fingers that I purchased from ebay and experiment with different surface finishes possible with metals in solution.

I worked with an area of chemistry called ‘electrochemistry’. This is a branch of chemistry that looks at ‘reduction’ and ‘oxidation’ reactions, commonly referred to as ‘redox reactions’ where the electrons of one metal compound in solution will be lost while the other solid metal will gain electrons. This exchange of electrons creates a force measured in volts hence the name electrochemistry. Effectively this is a form of plating known as electrochemical replacement plating. This is sometimes also referred to as electrochemical displacement plating. We know from the electrochemical series, that is the list of metals arranged in order of how easily the metal atoms lose electrons, that some metals are more reactive than others. For example, silver ions are oxidising, therefore should oxidise copper (remove electrons) to form copper ions and, at the same time, deposit silver metal. But this wouldn’t work the other way around – ie copper will not deposit onto silver as it is more reactive than silver.

I experimented with droplets of different solutions from the metal recovery process on small pieces of different silver alloys to see what effects could be achieved. The first solution containing all of the metals recovered (Copper, gold, cobalt, iron etc) created a beautiful effect, with the copper (the largest quantity of metal extracted) contained in the solution crystallizing around the edges as it dried out. These droplets were around one centimeter in diameter. I created a time-lapse video of this process, in which around three-and-a-half hours is condensed into a one-minute sequence. This result is fairly robust and does not break off the silver easily.

Sandrs Wilson photo

Image: Sandra Wilson 
Experiments with a weak gold chloride solution on different types of silver and found that on sterling silver the gold crystallized on the surface of the silver but could easily be brushed off. On fine silver, it was more robust, creating a lovely milky effect that did not brush or rub off. A strong gold chloride solution created a beautiful deep brown surface finish, with veins of gold visible on all of the silver alloys.

Biography: Sandra Wilson is a contemporary jeweller, silversmith, researcher and edeucator. Her interdisciplinary work is funded by various UK research councils and has won awards from the Scottish Arts Council, the Audi Foundation for Innovation, and the British European Designers Group. Her current research investigates recovering precious metals such as gold and copper from electronic waste using a green hydrometallurgy chemical process.

Prof Sandra Wilson, Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design, part of the University of Dundee,


[expand title=” Kadian A Gosler 

New Technology and Materials:  Uncovering Insights from Bra Patents 1859 to 1940 .” rel=”type-highlander”]

 The brassiere is both a utilitarian and fashion-based garment. Although the term brassiere was developed in the early 20th century, later shortened to ‘bra’, its history extends as far as 1859. The bra is one of the most engineered garments and the highest patented. Whereas most researchers examine its history through commercial avenues often dating the first bra at 1914, few have studied the bras advancement through its patent history which extends back further. Through interrogating patents spanning the proposed time frame 1830 – 1940, the post-bra articles referred to as breast pad, bust form and bosom pads are examined as they morph into an outline of the modern bra culminating in 1940 with the invention of the bra pad moulding machine. During this period, inventors with foresight documented in detailed patents through text and technical drawings, their desire to improve women’s health, engage with new materials, and advance the design of the garment. Utilising an extensive self-developed directory informed by the U.S. Patent database, bra patents are critically analysed and organised using the LATCH method focusing primarily on Location (U.S. patents), Time (1830-1940) and Category (materials). This system demonstrates not just the improvements in the bra aesthetics and functions but also the transformation in materials used for the burgeoning bra classifications such as nursing, mastectomy and leisure.  

Keywords: Bra patents, technology, innovation, Bra History, LATCH method 

Biography: Kadian Gosler is a theory and practice-led PhD Candidate within the Fashion & Textile and Design department at the University of the Arts London. Her interdisciplinary interests include fashion design processes, experience-centred & emotion-centred design, wearables, dress and embodiment, Black women’s sexuality, femininity and ageing.  Her PhD explores experience through a multi-perspective approach in the design and development of Bra Wearables — a subsection of smart bras. Kadian’s extensive educational background in intimate apparel and professional career as a lingerie designer & merchandiser in New York City informs her practical approach and interests in the future of the field.  


[expand title=” Sarah James 

The textile and pattern design practices of Mary A Harper NOD ILIA: Exploring interconnections between her family history and the industrial rise of Birmingham and social improvement through the arts c.1820 – 1940″ rel=”type-highlander”]

Very little seems to be known of the work of Mary A Harper. However, study of a privately-owned collection comprising design and personal ephemera, establishes a connection between her work, her family’s evolving position and Birmingham’s industrial design history. The collection offers insight into the legacy of a region, family and individual in the commercial arts.

Focussing on three indicators, the presentation posits that the Harper family trajectory parallels that of the region. Further, that Mary’s work can be seen as a synthesis of the progression of arts and industry in Birmingham.

  • Harper Family: Skilled metal workers to design aesthetes and educators, integral to Birmingham Art Schools of the late 19th and early 20th
  • Situational and locational shift – family relocation indicating the elevation of their circumstances and perceptions of art, design and craft.
  • Mary A Harpers work, professional training and affiliations as synthesis.

As an entry level MRes Project there are many ways to draw from the collection. At its inception research prioritises how it can be understood as a body of material. By opening it up to the scrutiny, expertise and interest of this symposium, it is hoped that connections and questions will be raised to inform a developing methodology.

The Collection

Pattern design, fabric samples and personal ephemera belonging to Mary A. Harper spanning an approximate period of 50 years c.1930 – 70. Designs are commercially focussed, and reflect period trends and evolutions in style. Some were produced through Edinburgh Weavers during the artistic direction of Alistair Morton. There appear to be examples of Harpers work in the V&A textile archive.

The collection is extensive, and was bought as part of a house sale in the 1980s. It is believed that the house was designed by Mary’s father, himself a painter and metalworker from a line of well-regarded Birmingham artists and designers. The folios of Mary’s design were considered of little value in comparison to a wealth of antique books, furniture and paintings, and would otherwise have been thrown away.

Biography: Sarah James is a Senior Lecturer for BA (Hons) Visual Communication at the Arts University Bournemouth, specifically contextual studies. She has a longstanding commitment to the integration of theory and practice and the use of art as teaching and learning method.

Sarah’s design practice is in decorative leaded glass, ranging from domestic commissions to architectural projects (Birmingham Art School refurbishment, Birmingham Assay office and The Criterion Restaurant, Piccadilly Circus). Her MA and recent practice interests extend to book arts, drawing practices and illustration.

Sarah James – MA, PGCE, HEA Fellow


[expand title=” Dr John Grayson 

Linen patterned enamel boxes: Investigating processes and object aesthetics of a Midland ‘toy’ trade (circa 1750-1830)” rel=”type-highlander”]

Midland enlightenment thinking—the synthesis of art, science and technology—was central to the expansion of manufacturing in eighteenth and early nineteenth-century Birmingham and South Staffordshire. Our current knowledge of the region’s making, an area that consisted of a multiplicity of different trades, is limited due to a lack of primary literature. Consequently, scholars suggest objects, of which the region’s trades are well represented in museums, provide a valuable source. This paper focuses on the investigation of the decorative qualities of Midland eighteenth-century enamel ‘toy’ trade.

Novelty was important for eighteenth-century consumers: the enamel trade (circa 1750 – 1830), made personal and domestic items such as snuffboxes, bonbonnières, and tea caddies, the decoration of which was central to creating consumer appeal. Items comprised a stamped paper-thin copper form coated with decorative enamel, finished-off with guilt-metal edging or hinged mounts. The enamel decorating process— a synthesis of chemistry, technology and artistry—was similar to the ceramics trade. The Midlands was the main production centre; however, maker’s marks were not applied to the objects making it near impossible to attribute ware to specific workshops.

Scholarship predominates from the twentieth century but was biased assuming that a short-lived manufactory in Battersea, Surrey (1753-56), produced high-quality enamels and Midlands’s workshops unsophisticated ware.  This belief was disproved in later writings, but authors still gave primacy to artistry, and technological advancement of transfer printing. Consequently, contemporary researchers are still reliant on limited literature; this provides justifications for a new approach that values low-tech enamel techniques used by the trade as crucial for developing new understanding. Within existing literature, primitive decorating techniques have seen no real investigation: this paper considers the hitherto disregarded textile pattern enamel technique used to decorate patch boxes, snuffboxes and bonbonnières. The process appears to have used linen as a stencil through which enamel powder—often reds, greens, pinks and yellows—were pounced (sprinkled) on to a different coloured enamel ground. Once fired, it created a beautiful delicate pattern that was then further embellished using other enamel techniques.

Through analysis of museum objects and primary literature, and the use of practice-based research replicating the decorating process, new insights are revealed, such as. What was the synthesis of craft, chemistry and technology required to apply enamel in this way? What was the sequence of production? What drove aesthetic decision making of the craftspeople at the time, was it a means to make a quick background pattern or conscious decision to try to emulate textiles for a defined audience? Furthermore, through object comparison identifying correlations in design and considering it within the broader context of enamel production, new insights into why such seemingly high and low technological process were juxtaposed either on one object, or, on different objects emanating from one workshop or across the trade will be developed.

This paper presents on-going research that forms part of a longterm engagement investigating this genre of enamel. It seeks to present initial ideas on historical enamel craft practices to support historical research and contemporary craft practice.

Biography: John Grayson is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Faculty of Arts, Design and Media, Birmingham City University; Honorary Research Fellow, University of Birmingham; and, craft maker. His research interfaces the fields of contemporary craft and material culture history exploring eighteenth-century metalworking trades—principally enamel—of Birmingham and South Staffordshire. Using making as enquiry, he has investigated significant enamel collections including Wolverhampton Art Gallery, the V&A and Museum of London, and disseminated responses through exhibition and publication including, including Enamel | Substrate, a touring exhibition for Ruthin Craft Centre (2018-19), and Imperfect Printed Enamel Surfaces, Midland History journal (2020).


[expand title=” Dr Lynne Bartlett 

The wonder of ‘coloured’ metal (The early history of the introduction of titanium to the jewellery world)” rel=”type-highlander”]

Titanium was the new metal of the 20th century. Although discovered in the late18th century it was not manufactured in any quantity until the 1940s when the requirement for its unique combination of properties made it ideally suited for the US space industry. No other metal possessed such a combination of light weight and high strength. However by the 1950s US policy had changed and the manufactures of this novel metal set about finding new outlets.

It was in the UK that the team headed by Joe Cotton at ICI’s metal division, Imperial Metal Industries (IMI) approached a tutor at the School of Jewellery in Birmingham, Gerald Whiles, with a suggestion that students would find the properties of this new metal interesting for decorative metalwork. Both organisations were located in the Birmingham area which made the contact a logical step for Cotton.

Initially the silversmithing students were invited to IMI, given samples of titanium sheet and wire and guidance on methods for processing. Some of the pieces produced survived and images of others show what was achieved. This early cohort was augmented by students on the jewellery courses and in 1965 the earliest examples of designed jewellery using titanium were produced.

Clearly the metal producers were looking for volume outlets but the jewellers, early adopters of the metal, saw it as a way of differentiating their work as designer/makers in the burgeoning world of contemporary jewellery. For the majority of jewellers it was the colour possibility of the metal when oxidised that provided the main attraction of using such a comparatively difficult material.

The working characteristics of titanium are very different from those of the more traditional jewellery metals such as gold and silver but nonetheless its unique properties encouraged jewellers to engage with this new metal. Titanium has now achieved an established position in all sectors of jewellery manufacture even being used to set diamonds in fine jewellery pieces.

This paper traces the early history and in particular examines the various processes that the technical team at IMI established for the manipulation and colouring of titanium. In particular anodising, which had been developed in the 1920s as a way of protecting aluminium surfaces, was used to produce an even oxide layer on the metal and a range of durable colours. Information about the recommended procedures was obtained from former IMI researchers and titanium suppliers in the course of research for a PhD, awarded in 2010 by the University of the Arts, London.

Biography:  Lynne is a self-employed jewellery designer/maker. Having studied chemistry and worked in the Chemical Industry, jewellery is her second career.  She is a Fellow of the Gemmological Association of GB and an examiner for the Gem-A Foundation Course in Gemmology, a board member of the Association for Contemporary Jewellery and a trustee of the Society of Jewellery Historians.  Colour features strongly in her work. Her practice also involves continual experimentation, developing new techniques for producing pattern on titanium and working with knowledge of the behaviour of the metal derived from her PhD research completed at the University of the Arts London (2010).



[expand title=” Sarah M. Pickman 

‘The most durable manner with every attention to warmth’: British Rubber, Waterproof Fabric, and Exploration in the Long Nineteenth Century” rel=”type-highlander”]

Sarah M. Pickman, Department of History, Program in History of Science and Medicine, Yale University,

The importance of rubber to Western industrialization and colonialism in the nineteenth and early    twentieth centuries has been well examined by historians, including work by John Tully, John Loadman,  and others. However, one aspect of this industry, rubberized fabric, has received relatively little focused examination. In the early nineteenth century, British manufacturers Charles Macintosh and Thomas Hancock introduced the first mass-produced waterproof textile to the Western world, by fusing cotton  cloth with layers of rubber. Its makers promoted this fabric – popularly known as “mackintosh” – as a modern technological marvel, a way for wearers to master their environment through clothes impervious    to rain or snow. Following improvements in manufacturing technology, by the 1870s, mackintosh garments became popular with urban consumers around the world, and Manchester and Salford were the undisputed centers of the mackintosh industry. However, these clothes were almost completely rejected    by those men who were arguably most invested in protecting themselves from the elements: British explorers, mountaineers, and field scientists who traveled in the most extreme environments on earth. While the technological development of materials like mackintosh could be considered an adventure in itself, there were also those who tested these materials during their own adventures around the world.

This paper will provide an introduction to the history of the rubberized fabric industry of greater  Manchester during the long nineteenth century, with a focus on the consumer experience of rubber garments and the application of rubber to the burgeoning expedition outfitting/outdoor market. Rubber’s potential as a material led to the creation of raincoats for a fashionable urban clientele, but also to a flurry of new items for those going “to the field,” including portable bathtubs, air mattresses, and groundcloths   for tents. However, when British male explorers tested mackintosh clothing in polar, alpine, and tropical areas, they largely found it wanting, as mackintosh’s impermeable rubber layer trapped perspiration and caused sweat from physical activity to build up against the skin. The unmet market for a mass-produced, waterproof but breathable fabric for strenuous outdoor activities eventually led to the development of materials like Burberry’s gabardine.

This paper will suggest that more than just representing perspiration as an inconvenience, explorers’ debates over waterproof clothing and sweat reveal how emerging conceptions of comfort, health, and hygiene were entangled in Victorian Britain, as well as how explorers were increasingly thinking about “dressing the part” for their profession. These more abstract ideas found physical form in materials like mackintosh. The paper also suggests that the growth of expeditionary travel and tourism over the course of the nineteenth century helped spur developments in materials and manufacturing technology to meet the demands of this small but increasingly important consumer sector. Finally, this presentation will pose new directions for future research, including how an interdisciplinary approach can reveal historical connections between materials, industry, colonialism, and technology.

Biography Sarah M. Pickman is a Ph.D. candidate at Yale University in the Department of History, in the Program in History of Science and Medicine. Her dissertation research focuses on quotidien equipment for    exploration and field science in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, with an emphasis on British and American companies that provided gear for expeditions and used explorers in their marketing materials. She holds a B.A. in Anthropology and Art History from the University of Chicago and an M.A. in Decorative Arts, Design History, and Material Culture from the Bard Graduate Center.