COINCIDING with the 180th anniversary of the birth of one of the world’s most influential designers, the largest international exhibition has been unveiled to celebrate the work of Christopher Dresser.
Among the first independent industrial designers, he pioneered modern manufacturing in the development of wallpaper, textiles, ceramics, glass, furniture and metalware.
In 1879 he helped establish Linthorpe Pottery in Middlesbrough and designed for it for three years over its short 10 year lifespan when it created more than 2,000 different shapes of ceramic ware.
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To complement the collection of vibrant Linthorpe Pottery displayed in the town’s Dorman Museum, the gallery has dedicated a permanent exhibition to Mr Dresser who lived from 1834 to 1904.
Hundreds of exhibits detailing the designer’s life and work, which can sell for thousands of pounds, have gone on display following years of preparations by staff and volunteers.
Dorman Museum curator, Gill Moore, said 140 years ago Linthorpe Pottery was the first in the country to use a gas-fired kiln so experiment with glazes by being able to control its temperature.
“We are hoping this exhibition will attract worldwide interest, there have already been exhibitions of his work in New York and Japan,” she explained.
“He does not get the credit he deserves in this country. He has been overshadowed by William Morris who looked to the past whereas Dresser was more forward thinking.”
Although born in Glasgow, Mr Dresser’s family originated from North Yorkshire and he was related to Dressers stationers, which for many years had a shop on Darlington’s High Row.
“Christopher Dresser is without doubt one of the most important figures in the history of design and he remains a massive influence for modern designers – and so much of his work was done here in Middlesbrough,” she added.
“He could not understand why you could not manufacture something that was affordable and beautiful.”
“Through this exhibition and other projects we have going on we hope people in the town will take his life and work to heart and adopt him as ‘one of our own’.”
Charlie Rooney, Middlesbrough Council’s executive member for regeneration, said: “Christopher Dresser is a world-renowned designer – regarded by many as the ‘father of modern design’ - whose work set a blueprint for many production methods still used today.
“His pieces have been exhibited in places such as the Victoria & Albert Museum and across the globe, so to now have the largest collection in the world here in Middlesbrough is brilliant.