Artisans, Design Education and the Luxury Trades in Scotland 1780 – 1914

This one, Thomas Pitts, London 1761

Professor Stana Nenadic gave an absorbing (I missed my bus!) and enticingly illustrated talk about Scottish artisans, design education and the luxury trades in Scotland last night under the auspices of the Old Edinburgh Club.

I joined the club with just this sort of little gift in mind. Like many another historical novelist, I tour stately homes, scale the ramparts of ruinous castles and haunt costume museums, but you don’t always get the words right and the cheery assistant doesn’t always get the function of a piece exactly right.

Professor Nenadic chose a glass epergne made in Edinburgh to mark the marriage of Queen Victoria as the main item to illustrate her theme. The epergne was already out of favour as a functional piece at that time and by the time the craftsman had finished making his one, it was already a museum candidate.

Design education was increasingly important for the apprentice artisan from the middle of the nineteenth century on. Many firms sent their boys to the major centres. I suspect many families have in their possession wonderful ‘prentice pieces created by some of these lads towards the end of their course.

And what was the function of an epergne? It sat in the middle of the dining room table and displayed food. It’s heyday was that time when the whole meal was sent to the table at once and before the kind of service we now experience.

Bella’s Betrothal

Mariah’s Marriage