I arrived on Monday morning to be met by Becky Wallis who took me to get an identity pass and key, which was very exciting. We then spent the morning touring parts of the museum with Becky highlighting key pieces and explaining her involvement with different galleries and displays.
I even had the chance to try on a gauntlet, which was rather heavy, and visit some of the fantastic room sets.
In the afternoon we went to the Postmodernism Exhibition which is fabulous. The atmosphere and design compliment the objects and ethos of the movement. I thoroughly enjoyed it and have been on the V&A website to look at the blog on how the exhibition was put together, it is very inspiring. I was also able to look around the Power of Making Exhibition which was fantastic. It included such wonderful objects as spray on fabric, a Crochetdermy Bear and a Lego dissected frog!
Tuesday we catalogued part of a new acquisition of furniture rests. A new book has just been published which we were able to use to help us try to identify subject matter. Some were based on Wellington whilst others may have been Princess Charlotte.
In the afternoon I was shown around Conservation and given a general introduction to the work carried out by the team. This includes a wide range of tasks such as the conservation or full restoration of objects, advising on how to display items and writing condition statements. I was shown their current projects and told about the tools and materials they use. It was a brilliant introduction to an area I had not previously been shown.
I spent Wednesday at Blythe House with Becky and Catrin Jones.
Their department is swapping storage rooms with another and they have been organising everything ready for an efficient move. We looked at a miscellaneous case and used labels left with the items, the database records and our knowledge to organise the objects and move them to the correct places in the store.
It was a fantastic chance to handle an odd mix of ceramics and to have a look at the reserve collection that didn’t make it into the dense store in the ceramics gallery. It was also exciting because there was a film crew on site for a new BBC2 production called Dancing on the Edge. It was interesting to see how the museum staff work around filming as there were lights and scenery on the stairs leading to the stores.
On Thursday Becky took me to see the Grayson Perry exhibition, The Tomb of The Unknown Craftsman, at the British Museum. I had seen the documentary about it and was very excited. It exceeded my expectations and was made even better by the fact Grayson Perry himself was there leading a tour around the exhibition. Hearing him speak about the items in the exhibition and his reasoning behind his choices was excellent.
We then moved on to look around Grays Antique Market where we had a chat with some of the ceramics stall holders before moving on to Christies for the Centuries of Style Viewing. It was interesting, after having had a behind the scenes viewing with Aileen Dawson at the Kensington site, to see their other building and how they hold open viewings and how they display the items. I was able to hold an 18th Century German gold box by Christian Neuber that was in the catalogue at £150,000 – £200,000! It was gorgeous and I think viewings like these are such a wonderful way for people to see and handle items they would never normally come across.
In the afternoon we went to see the Ceramics Artist in Residence, Clare Twomey, who gave us a tour of the studio and showed us her works in progress. There is a lot of emphasis in her work on the meaning of making and on the skills needed to make or decorate ceramics.
It was fascinating to watch her install a display of some of the work that had taken place to show a paintresses skill at Wedgwood. The difference between how an artist arranges ceramics compared to how museum staff would approach the same items is brilliant to see.
On Friday I took a trip to the V&A Museum of Childhood to have a look at the difference between the two sites. Unfortunately Becky was off sick and so I was on my own but I enjoyed the experience.
The space is so different, it is a big open space to fill and is definitely aimed at children and families. Looking at the differences in interpretation and display was enlightening.
They also have a Magic Worlds exhibition which overlaps on some of the fairy tale themes that were in Once Upon A Time at PMAG and it was interesting to see how they differed.
In the afternoon I helped Catrin locate and move items ready for the Caughley Society to photograph the following week. Having helped at Coalport it was fun to see the items they had chosen at the V&A.
It was a wonderful week and I am very grateful to the Ceramics and Glass Department for their fantastic hospitality.