Fifty Japanese Stencils

A new donation to the Library is Fifty Japanese Stencils (1911), a sourcebook of particularly fine examples of the industrial art process oft deployed by artists and craftspeople of the Arts & Crafts movement. The book exemplifies the influence of Japanese design on artists and designers at the turn of the twentieth century and supplements Henry T. Wyse’s educational treatise Embroidery and Stencilling (1910), co-authored with Edinburgh embroiderer Kathleen Burns. While an illustrated description of the process of stencilling is offered by the latter text Wyse, in the short preamble to Fifty Japanese Stencils, gives a brief introduction to the nuances of Japanese stencil-plating, describing the subtle variations in the stencil patterns between sets of illustrated plates. Although the stencil examples are tinged sepia (presumably to make mass printing of the text for students of art more afforadable), it is noted that Japanese stencil patterns were produced in delicate and bold colours. Wyse describes aspects of the patterns, noting plate number 25 for its beauty, plate 33 for the accomplishment of the cutting and plate 36 for its contrasting use of surfaces to admirable effect. The ‘ingenuity’ of the fish forms described with regard to later plates and the recurrence of the final plate – a fish stencil pattern – on the book’s front cover, provide tantalising glimpses into the details which caught Wyse’s highly-trained eye and the rationale behind his careful selections.

50 stencils cover 50 stencils title page

A prolific art educator and accomplished designer and craftsman, the Scotsman Henry Taylor Wyse (1870-1951) produced a series of respected treatises on the subject of art education. One of these, Modern Methods of Art Instruction (1909), a manual of practical instruction for teachers of drawing written at the time of Wyse’s position as Honorary Secretary to the Scottish Art Teachers’ Association, is held by GSA Library. Amusingly, an advertisement for the book appears to the rear of the donated text alongside another for Embroidery and Stencilling, written when Wyse was Art Master at George Watson’s Ladies’ College in Edinburgh. The insertion of these advertisements makes a neat connection to the Library’s original holding and brings to the fore a complementary text that might eventually be added to the Library’s regrown Special Collections.

50 stencils fish 50 stencils pattern 50 stencils rose

Having spent much time in Arbroath, Wyse was a founder member of the Scottish Guild of Handicraft and was the creative force behind the Guild’s second incarnation and relocation to Stirling – a process steered by Scottish Arts and Crafts pioneers and staunch Socialists, Roland Muirhead and Robert Maclaurin. The trio reformed the Guild using a cooperative model by which craftsmen were treated as partners rather than employees and cast the movement in a mould that was markedly more independent of the London-based Guild of Handicraft (although, considering the romantic motivations behind its move to the Stirlingshire countryside, arguably just as idealistic). Accomplished in numerous areas of design and craftsmanship including furniture design and ceramics, Wyse is also known to have enjoyed working in paper marbling, famously patenting the ‘Wyse process’ for commercial publication. The book’s inclusion of stencilling as part of his extensive repertoire leaves an impression with us in the Library and, in serving its original purpose as an educational resource, may also impress upon GSA students and researchers, the delicate craft of stencilling.

Our thanks to Professor Stephen White of the University of Glasgow and Friend of Glasgow University Library for this second, kind donation.

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