Essay collections are always a mixed bag, and this one is more muddled than most. The warning signs are clear. The volume is part of a series ominously titled ‘Austrian Studies in English’. Six of the 15 essays were papers presented at a 2010 conference of the same name at the University of Vienna.
In this inspiring new study, Rebecca Houze builds on her series of excellent articles, in Journal of Design History, Studies in the Decorative Arts, Centropa and elsewhere, which deal with Austrian and Hungarian applied arts at the turn of the century.
Book compilations can be a difficult genre. Comprised of varied essays and authorial voices, it takes a clear and well-defined theme, and a sure editorial hand to maintain focus and quality.
In Kimono: A Modern History, textile historian Terry Satsuki Milhaupt encourages her readers to ‘reflect deeply and broadly on what the kimono has meant at various points in its long history’ (p. 287). In this ambitious project, she identifies ‘modern’ with the period from the 1850s onwards.
Tucked away in museums displaying and storing collections of dress and textiles there is often a subsidiary but significant collection of printed ephemera. This might encompass bills, trade cards, paper carrier bags, fashion plates and dressmaking patterns.
A stitch up is a devious act that someone does to someone else. It may involve putting a person or organization, perhaps, in a position where they will be blamed for something they did not do or it might mean manipulating a situation, in unseen ways, to one’s own advantage.
Household goods piled along curbs with hand-lettered signs saying ‘free’; never-worn clothing hanging in closets, price tags still in place; vacated college dormitory rooms filled with abandoned throw rugs, hair dryers, bookcases; consultants who help us simplify our lives by getting rid of ‘stuff.’ This is the world of things that many Americans inhabit today.