Christopher Dresser – The Origin of Modern Design

Christopher Dresser Inspired Patterns

Back in college, I took a course on the History of Design and we created patterns inspired by Christopher Dresser (posted above). I had fun with this project (and definitely needed the Illustrator practice!) and so when I heard that SHAG’s latest event: Truth, Beauty, Power: Christopher Dresser and the Origin of Modern Design was happening this month—I couldn’t wait to go. Dr. Bradford Braden, Dept. of Natural Sciences, Bowie State University was the presenter. A few things I learned about Dresser:

  • He described himself as a botanist, artist, architect, inventor and ornamentalist.
  • He wanted to (and did!) bring manufactured goods at a reasonable price into the common home.
  • He insisted that his name “Dr. Dressers’ Design” be imprinted on the objects he designed (this happened during the early part of his career).
  • Considered one of the first industrial designers—designing within the limitations and techniques of modern machines.
  • Most of the work sold at The Art Furnishers’ Alliance was Dressers’ or was designed under his supervision. The Art Furnishers’ Alliance could be considered a modern day IKEA where items were sold at affordable prices and the furniture could be seen in an environment—the staff even wore period costumes!
  • His work was very 2-dimensional allowing it to be easily reproducible at a price that could be afforded by the middle class.
  • Good design must be beautiful and useful.

The best part of the presentation was the “show and tell” table—5 REAL Dresser pieces (part of Dr. Braden’s collection). Pictured below are 2 bowls, a print, a candlestick holder and an iron stand.

Christopher Dresser

Are you a fan of Dresser? What do you like about his work?

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