Collection

Lumitron table light x 2

Collection: When modernism goes bad

Category: Metal

Date: Circa 1968

Designer: Robert Welch

Nationality of Designer: British

Manufacturer: Lumitron

Manufacturers Location: Hertford, Hertfordshire (UK)

Material: Cast iron, aluminium, steel and enamel

Dimensions: Height 60cm & 35cm

Purchase Price: £39

Abstract:

Two table lights

Provenance:

Purchased by Grizedale Arts director Adam Sutherland on eBay.

Personal history/nominator:

‘I was brought up near the Welch workshop in Chipping Camden, Gloucestershire. It always seemed an anachronism, a modernist designer in a perfect medieval village. But then Chipping Camden had a heritage of the inappropriate. In the 1890’s it was invaded by Ashby’s Guild of Craftsfolk arriving by bicycle in an 150-strong crowd all the way from London’s East end.

Chipping Camden was used by Pasolini as the setting for the film ‘The Canterbury Tales’, initially to local excitement but after they had seen the devil farting out priests they were less enthusiastic. The film is still talked about today and referenced in artist Nathaniel Mellors piece ‘Giant Bum’ for Grizedale project Agrifashionista.tv.
Adam Sutherland

Adaptions/renovations:

The grills are missing and there is a chip to the enamel on the base of one lamp

Why it's in the Collection:

Welch was a link between Ashby’s Guild of Craftsfolk (probably the most important arts and crafts producer of the 19th century) and the post-war modernist influenced British School of Design. Welch’s early work as a silversmith and designer for Old Hall drew on Modernist principles, and along with Gerald Benney and Viners his work embraced and was successful in the mass market. Both designers developed the post modernist, neo arts and crafts style that became the dominant style of the 1970’s. Welch combined a studio practice with a mass market production and is a key figure in the evolution of UK design and the peculiar turns of modernism, with many of his early designs now back in production. Many buyers of his retro designs might be disquieted by his craft products.

About the Designer/Maker:

Robert Welch (1929 – 2000) established his studios in Chipping Camden (in the old Guild of Handicrafts building) after training as a silversmith at the Birmingham School of Art under Ralph Baxendale and Cyril Shiner. From 1952 to 1955 he was at the Royal College of Art, London, after which he was appointed as design consultant to J. J. Wiggin of Sheffield, manufacturers of stainless-steel tableware.

He quickly established a production and design reputation, being a cornerstone of the Design Council endorsed style and working extensively with stainless steel and Staybrite pioneers Old Hall. With Old Hall he designed a wide range of tableware. In 1958 Welch was commissioned to design the tableware for the Orient liner SS Oriana. The collection was designed and manufactured as part of a wider commissioning program led by the chairman of the Orient Line Sir Colin Anderson who initiated a forward looking design policy, employing some of the most experimental designers and architects of the day to construct and fit out it’s ships.

Welch also designed (principally mirrors) for Durlston, as well as maintaining his own practice and workshop outlet in Chipping Camden. Today the is ran by various members of his family.

About the Manufacturer:

Lumitron was founded in 1962 in Hertford (UK) and is still in production today manufacturing many of the styles that were popular four decades ago.

Bibliography & Further information

Welch workshop

Interesting history of Birmingham School of Art