Last Friday I attended an excellent seminar at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London entitled Furniture: Making and Meaning. This seminar was celebrating the new Dr Susan Weber Gallery of Furniture (which I posted about earlier) and to investigate issues around materials, making and design.
One of the exciting features of this seminar was a set of talks about the construction and the tactile and visual effects of a French 18th-century jewel cabinet and a Japanese 19th-century lacquer box. The objects had been brought to the auditorium to star as ‘live’ performers, with a camera on hand to project close-ups on the screen for all to see.
The day also included talks on the ‘reception history’ of carving, plywood and shagreen, and a stimulating discussion with three contemporary designer-makers.
What I particularly took away from this event was a vivid awareness that furniture is never just furniture: it is simultaneously social attitude, consumption pattern, political ideology, technical development, personal taste and manufacturing process. And I was inspired by the fact that all those ways of looking at furniture are just as relevant to historical collections as they are to the latest creations.