Robert Welch (designer)

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Robert Radford Welch MBE, RDI (21 May 1929 – 15 March 2000) was an English designer and silversmith. His philosophy was to create beautiful, functional, yet affordable products which remained true to their materials, and he endeavoured to develop a shape and line for each that transcended fashion. His style helped define British modernism.

Welch was born in Hereford and brought up in Malvern, Worcestershire. He was educated at Hanley Castle Grammar School and while at school he briefly played cricket for the Second XI of Worcestershire County Cricket Club. His time at Malvern School of Art was broken up by two years of National Service, during which time he served as a wireless operator in the Royal Air Force. He attended classes at Cambridge School of Art and returned to complete his studies at Malvern in 1949-50.

Whilst he had undertaken metalwork classes at Malvern, he began his training as a silversmith at the Birmingham College of Art, School of Silversmithing and Jewellery.

He went on to study at the Royal College of Art in 1952, joining both David Mellor and Gerald Benney who were a year above him. Welch was the only silversmith in his year. All three were to become renowned in their field, creating "remarkable one-off commissions in silver, as well as tackling production designs in newly fashionable and affordable stainless steel. During the 1950s they had all been influenced to a large degree by the Scandinavian Modern style, especially the anthropomorphic vessels and jewellery of the Danish sculptor-designer Henning Koppel for Georg Jensen." Lesley Jackson[1]

As a student, Robert Welch made four extended visits to Scandinavia, studying in Stockholm and working with a Norwegian silversmith. Scandinavian modernism made a huge impression on Welch, giving him a love of functional precision and the clean line.[2]

In his final year at the Royal College of Art, Welch did some work for J. & J. Wiggin, a small family firm in Bloxwich, north of Birmingham. J. & J. Wiggin was the only British manufacturer of stainless steel tableware, marketing pieces under the brand Old Hall. In 1955, Welch was appointed Wiggin's design consultant, an association which lasted until the firm closed down in 1984.

In 1955 Welch set up a studio in Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire in a silk mill that had formerly been the home of Charles Robert Ashbee's Guild and School of Handicraft.

In 1962 Welch designed the Alveston tableware range, named after his home village, near Stratford-upon-Avon. Composed of elegant curves and planes, it won the Design Council award in 1965.

Robert Welch Designs Ltd is still a family business owned and managed by Alice and Rupert Welch (daughter and son of Robert Welch). Like their father before them, Alice and Rupert Welch have dedicated their time to the pursuit of design excellence. Every item, large or small, has been created by the Robert Welch Design Team in Chipping Campden in the same building where Robert Welch started all those years ago.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Jackson, Lesley (2002). "Fab Fash Pop – 'the look' of British Design during the early 1960s". Twentieth Century Architecture (No. 6, The Sixties: life : style : architecture): pp. 18–26. 
  2. ^ MacCarthy, Fiona (2000-03-23). "Robert Welch: His clocks, cutlery,knives and candlesticks helped to define 'contemporary' style". The Guardian (Guardian News and Media Limited). p. 24. Retrieved 2008-07-13. 

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