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Studio: international art — 14.1898

Seite: 224
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The Lay Figure

The lay figure.

“ Why is it that the great industries
of the silversmith and the potter seem
almost unaffected by the new movement
in design ? ” the Lay Figure asked.

“ I fancy,” the Man with a Clay Pipe replied,
“ that the unsatisfactory state of the first may be
due in some degree to absurd restrictions of trade
societies. For instance, I am told that they refuse
to allow a youth who is learning his trade to shape
vessels and to decorate them also. Ffe must either
make the forms and hand them over to another to
ornament, or must take the form brought by
another and decorate it as he pleases.”

“Preposterous !” the Lay Figure retorted, “and
if true, enough to account for all the bad things
we see. Who could delight in creating beautiful
forms for another person to ruin by ornament
conceived in wholly different manner, or take much
interest in decorating shapes which were not to
his taste ? Does the same hold true of pottery ? ”
“In a sense, owing to division of labour, it
does,” said a Manufacturer, who had dropped in to
the studio; “ but as domestic pottery must needs
be a mechanical reproduction of models, so far
as the average dinner or tea service is concerned,
that is not the chief reason for its unsatisfactory
state, which I recognise and deplore as much as
you do. It is the public taste which forces us to
make stuff we do not like.”

“ That is a lame excuse, surely,” the Lay Figure
replied. “ Is it not to your interest to educate it ? ”
“ Lame it may be, lamentable it is certainly,
but it is only too true,” the Manufacturer replied.
“ We are in the hands of the trade, and perhaps
even still more at the mercy of our own travellers.
Even if there are many people who would care to
have really artistic table-ware, how are we to get
our wares to them ? ”

“ That is surely a matter for the manufacturer
to discover,” the Lay Figure broke in. “ The
makers of wall-papers and textiles, the coppersmith
and ironfounder, and a dozen others have managed
to produce excellent work of late years that the
trade keep on sale : surely it is merely a confession
of impotence to bemoan the present state without
serious attempts to improve it.”

“ Do not think I disagree with you,” the Manu-
facturer said ; “ I am quite ready to own that the
stuff kept in an ordinary china shop is bad in
every way; but the public will have cheap things.”
“ That excuse will not serve,” the Man with a
Clay Pipe said. “ I happened to go over a great

pottery lately, and, as a rule, the best stuff was the
cheapest—stock patterns that had been made
regularly for the last fifty years at least, possibly
for a hundred. The only higher-priced table-
ware that was even tolerable was also in every
case a deliberate reproduction of an old design.
All the efforts of modern designers, according to
the evidence there, had either been ignored or
proved to be unequal to the task of producing a
simple tea or dinner service not unutterably de-
graded in form and colour; and this when several
factories achieve the highest excellence of body,
glaze, and general finish, and turn out exhibition
pieces of mere bric-a-brac, some of which are works
of fine art.”

“ We have tried,” the Manufacturer said. “ One
of your favourite designers was commissioned, and
we adapted his idea to practical shape. Just as it
was beginning to sell, he saw it and refused to
let the altered design be issued. When it was re-
made to his pattern no one would buy it.”

“ That may be quite true,” the Lay Figure said,
“ but an isolated instance does not alter the case.
Possibly your travellers resented his interference;
possibly you felt he had assisted in rendering it
unsaleable, and so became lukewarm in pushing
it. Look at the success of younger firms, who saw
that taste had improved, and enlisted the best men
to provide fresh designs. Do all designs go past a
board of directors ? If so, it explains much ; a
board, as we know, has no soul to be saved, no
body to be kicked, and, as a rule, no taste collec-

“You cannot risk the prosperity of a great
business with a huge plant, with hundreds of work-
people accustomed to a certain style, and a vast
stock of patterns and finished products, to embark
in new ways that may lead to failure,” the Manu-
facturer insisted. “ We have the trade ready to
prefer the worst—speaking of the trade as a whole,
not of a few more enlightened dealers—and our
own travellers, usually promoted from the factory or
warehouse, do not understand a good design, and
so cannot persuade the buyers to stock it.”

“ This is merely owning that you accept present
conditions as final,” said the Lay Figure. “ Depend
upon it the first pottery that realises the state of
things, and engages new designers and new sales-
men, calling the attention of the art-world to its
enterprise, will not only reap a large profit, but leave
others the ignominious alternative of following
where they once led. Fame and fortune await the
right firm ; but you all seem too timid to grasp the
chance.” The Lay Figure.
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