The Art Nouveau and Japanese stylings of the famed Silver Studio textile design studios from the 1890s combine with scenes of modern-day North Finchley to create an enchanting new world, in an innovative new art project from the Hasler Gallery, Middlesex University and the Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture (MoDA).

Designer Jo Angell and artist Katie Horwich won the commission from the Hasler Gallery, based in Finchley’s Grand Arcade, to develop a piece or body of work inspired by the Silver Studio and Charles Hasler collections, which are both housed at MoDA, in Middlesex University in Colindale.

The Silver Studio was one of the most influential textile and wallpaper design studios in the UK, from its formation in 1880 by Arthur Silver until the middle of the 20th Century.

It is widely recognised as having played an important part in the development of British Art Nouveau, producing thousands of wallpaper, textile and metalwork designs in that style between 1895 and the early 1900s. The studio was also heavily influenced by Japanese style and art, which influenced its Art Nouveau designs which consequently found their way into many British homes.

The studio closed in the early 1960s and its contents were given to the Hornsey College of Art, which became part of what is now Middlesex University. This collection of designs now forms the core of MoDA.

Since the start of summer, Jo and Katie have been exploring MoDA’s archive and North Finchley with sketchbooks in hand, having both decided that they wanted to combine imagery from both sources.

They were both drawn to the Silver Studio’s Art Deco period, oriental chinoiserie – a European artistic style reflecting Chinese influences – and Japanese-inspired Katagami stencils, originally used for designs on kimonos.

“In the Silver Studio, exotic motifs travelled and were re-interpreted into homes across suburban London, and were initially incongruous to the setting,“ says Jo, who was surprised to discover a ginkgo tree that had recently been planted in North Finchley’s High Road.

Her installation focuses on the way these unfamiliar objects interact with their new environment – a waterfall of ginkgo leaves made from stenciled handmade papers are juxtaposed with a series of paneled textile designs inspired by the hidden Art Deco façade of an original department store in Finchley.

Katie, who grew up in Finchley, was inspired by the fact that Japanese, alongside Gujarati, is the most common language amongst West Finchley’s schoolchildren, other than English, and has created a decorative screen which combines images of the local landscape with ancient Japanese screens, and direct observational drawing with imagined exotic motifs.

“I stood at the 221 bus stop on Alexandra Grove and stared at the sky,“ explains Katie. “I’d spent hours waiting there as a schoolgirl. A pigeon landed on a branch but I wished it were a hummingbird. I was waiting for dusk, when the Finchley sky turns purple and you squint, imaging you’re in Kyoto. I wonder if somewhere in Japan there is a small suburb that looks just like Finchley?“

  • Two Worlds – In the Footsteps of the Silver Studio is at Hasler Gallery, Grand Arcade, North Finchley, until Wednesday, December 31, Thursday and Friday from 12pm to 6pm, and on Saturdays from 12pm to 4pm. Details: