As part of the Goldsmiths’ Fair 2017 talks programme, Eleni Bide, Goldsmiths’ Company Librarian, discussed the drawings of Omar Ramsden and the Artificers’ Guild and their connection to Arts and Crafts aesthetics and ideals.
The Company’s archives date back to the 14th century, and the Library’s collections include over 8,000 books and over 15,000 images, magazines and journals, films and special research collections. Explore the highlights of this magnificent collection on the Company’s website.
The Sheffield-born silversmith, Omar Ramsden (1873-1939), came to London with his partner, Alwyn Carr (1872-1940), shortly after their graduation from Sheffield School of Art in 1897. Settled in west London, the partnership flourished until the First World War when Carr left to serve in the Artists’ Rifles.
The Library holds 19 of Ramsden’s workbooks, alongside five portfolios of working drawings and contemporary record photographs of his work. They cover the period 1921 to 1939. A key to the code used in the workbooks is also available. They were donated by the silversmith Leslie Durbin, who trained in Ramsden’s workshop, along with 34 of boxes containing small artefacts from the workshop.
The Artificiers’ Guild
The Artificers’ Guild Ltd was founded in 1901 by the metalsmith and enameller Nelson Dawson (1859-1942). It was one of the few guilds inspired by the Arts and Crafts movement to enjoy real commercial success, and remained in operation until 1938.
During its existence, the Guild operated as a substantial business, employing over 40 staff at its peak, including a large number of skilled craftsmen, many of whom would have been trained in the Guild’s workshop. Although unacknowledged for much of the 20th century, the Guild is now recognised as an important producer of high quality metalwork and jewellery during this period.
The Library holds a collection of around 2,000 Artificers’ Guild design drawings, many of them signed by the Guild’s designer Edward Spencer. They demonstrate his excellent draughtsmanship, as well as the Guild’s ability to respond to changes in fashionable taste. They range from finely rendered presentation pieces for clients to full-scale wash studies for stock pieces and working drawings with annotations giving indications of price and alterations. Although most of the work is his, the Guild did employ designers other than Spencer, and the collection also includes a significant number of designs by the architect and designer John Houghton Maurice Bonnor (1875-1917).