6 May 2017 -
Last month, the Design History Society welcomed three new Ambassadors to the team. Continuing the success of the first two DHS Ambassadors, Zara Arshad and Janine Barker, Vivien Chan, Simon Spier and Suchitra Choudhury have taken up the baton, and hope to take the role to new and exciting places!
I am currently in the final year of my MA in History of Design at the Royal College of Art. My background in Illustration and animation has meant that my interest in design crosses between academic and studio-based processes, and I am interested in combining all of this experience in my practice. My current thesis is focused on the dai pai dong in twentieth-century Hong Kong, a type of street food stall that has been present in the everyday lives of working-class people, and now the focus of cultural preservation in the city. While my research focus is dominantly in East Asian geographies, my interests cover fashion, gender, identity, the sensory and the everyday.
For me, the role is an opportunity to stay in tune with the discipline, which I hope to pursue further after graduating from the MA, and to continue some of the processes that myself and my colleagues worked with at the RCA. During this time we worked on several projects that aimed to push us as design historians to share our process via a variety of platforms: we collaborated to produce an exhibition, a publication and relaunch our online platform Unmaking Things. Similarly, we engaged in producing seminar sessions, documentaries and workshops. I would love to continue working in this way with the DHS as a platform.
I am a first year PhD student based between the University of Leeds and The Bowes Museum in County Durham. My research project focuses on the creation of this particular museum, and how its founders – John and Joséphine Bowes – formed their unique collection of Fine and Decorative Arts within the context of the art market, public museums and philanthropic activity in Britain and France in the second half of the nineteenth-century. I mainly see the project as an exploration into the intersections and overlaps of public and private art collections, and how, in these specific spheres of the market and the museum, 'public' and 'private' are not necessarily binaries.
I am interested more broadly in the design and decorative arts of the nineteenth-century, hence my compulsion to be an active member of the DHS. I have spoken at and attended DHS-endorsed events in the past on Victorian art and design, and I hope to strengthen my ties to the Society as it enlarges and flourishes. I also hope that engagement with the Society and its members will provide fresh critical perspectives on my own research, and push me to think differently or with interdisciplinary inflections. Mainly, I'm looking forward to looking at and writing and speaking about things that will interest current DHS members, and hopefully entice a few new ones into the fold as well!
I completed my PhD in English Literature from the University of Glasgow, where I researched the literary representation of cashmere and paisley shawls. In general, I am interested in exploring postcolonial criticism and the place of textiles and design therein. I was one of the first participants in the Hunterian Associate Programme organised by the Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery.
The global history of design is an exciting area of enquiry, and as a DHS Ambassador I look forward to initiating conversations about the way in which national enterprises, such as the British empire, acted as catalysts for the increased movement of design. Currently, I am a participant in a University of Glasgow project call Second Cities of India, and I am revising my doctoral thesis for publication as a monograph. My articles have appeared in Textile History, and Victorian Literature and Culture.
We are looking forward to developing the DHS blog especially, and invite members to view this platform as a channel for exchanging ideas and creating networks. If you are interested in contributing, please do get in touch!
Vivien Chan, Simon Spier and Suchitra Choudhury
DHS Ambassadors 2017