THE LAY FIGURE REITER- pressing the manufacturer to produce really good
ATES THE OBVIOUS designs, and persuading the public to buy them,
if between the two the anonymous but powerful
The Lay Figure was evidently in a fit buyer for the trade and the retail shopman come
of bad temper, and was predicting woeful in and suppress the good things."
things for British manufacturers because they would " Are you sure that these bogeys are not entirely
not see that a certain section of the public de- of your own imagining ? " the Journalist asked,
manded better design than they offer them. "No!" the Quiet Voice broke in, "decidedly
" I feel sure," said the Journalist, " that when no ! I could give you chapter and date of dozens
our German and French rivals grasp the newer of instances where the manufacturer has taken the
styles of decoration they will send over objects we advice of well-known artists, has co-operated most
shall all buy, and the English manufacturer will loyally in the production of the designs, only to
have lost the best chance he has had for many find that he could never get them to the public."
years past of retrieving his position." " But surely a shopman has a right to exercise
"Surely there are plenty of well-designed things his own taste," said the Journalist, "and to educate
to day," said the Man with the Clay Pipe, "chintzes his customers to forego the ideals they had learned
and carpets and book-covers." at the ' Arts and Crafts,' or in the pages of The
" But a house furnished exclusively with those Studio and elsewhere, in favour of the taste the
would be incomplete," said the Lay Figure. " If salesman himself prefers for his Brixton bower of
I want an iron bedstead, a tea-service, some floor- bliss, or his Hoxton home."
cloth, electro-plate, or furniture for a dining-room, " He has the power, certainly," said the Quiet
I have to choose between hideous novelties (?) or Voice, " and he uses it with a vengeance. I
more or less lifeless imitations of old goods—and wish that manufacturers could stamp their name
' even imitations all day long are apt to pall.'" on every yard of stuff they make, on every object
"We are all doing the best to design good they send out. Then, if they advertised freely,
things," said a Quiet Voice, "and I really think not with illustrations of the designs and objects, the
without success, and the manufacturer to-day is public would insist on seeing 1 Smith's muslins,' or
often as keen as any of you. But he is in the 'Jones' wall-paper,' or 'Robinson's tea-services.'
hands of his travellers and middlemen, and the As it is, you can only recommend abstract qualities,
assistants in shops. One does not blame them for and the people who search for wares that embody
lack of taste, they may have had no opportunity them are in nine cases out of ten choked off by
to acquire it. But it is hard to have their ex- some young assistant, or tacitly reproved for con-
tremely pronounced notions forced upon one." flicting with the cultured choice of a superior person
" They certainly do press the ugliest and most in a frock coat."
vulgar things on your notice," said the Lay Figure. " It is rather funny to be snubbed in a shop on
" It was only by chance last week that I saw hidden one's own particular subject," said the Lay Figure,
away in a corner a simply decorated fabric, which " I was with a noted expert the other day, and we
the very polite shopman who had tried to educate my were both amused to hear a peculiarly blatant
taste to accept his awful ideas of 'art-colours' and shopkeeper lay down his theory of decoration and
' aesthetic-patterns,' declared was not to be had." beauty. He would not even show us some designs
" That is it!" said the Quiet Voice. " These of the sort we wanted, but said contemptuously
people have caught up the slang of the penny that he had some of the things somewhere, where,
domestic papers that head their correspondence he did not know, and by his accent implied that
columns ' The House Beautified,' or some such he did not care."
title. The advice printed in those papers is some- " Why not get upShopkeepers' Guild of Taste,
times not bad; but the readers evidently ignore a list of business addresses, where a set of patterns
the wise hints and swallow the cant of hiding chosen by the manufacturer, aided by his artistic
packing-cases by art-muslin, imitating carving by advisers, could always be seen?" the Quiet Voice
putty, and painting cheap little pieces of ricketty broke in. "As it is, how few people have the
furniture with noisy, shiny enamels." courage to hunt after the wares which they know
" But you have said all this so often before," exist. We need to take steps against the inert as
said the Journalist. well as the over-conceited middleman. Surely the
" Very likely," the Lay Figure replied, " but it brains of artists and their allies should be a match
needs saying over and over again. It is little good for both foes." The Lay Figure.