The journal of design and manufactures
Miscellaneous, pp. 146-152
Miscellaneous. 0t mass of the printed garment fabrics this country. Experience has long shewn me that the class of "buyers" usually employed, though smart men of business in most instances, are anything but smart judges of artistic excellence; hence they take that most vulgar of all standards, "novelty," as the one upon which to make their purchases: and it has been my misfortune to observe re- peatedly, that out of some six or eight respectable-looking designs, the great probability would be that the worst would really be chosen; not on any principle, but simply because some slight eccentricity of line or detail rendered it more novel than those with which it was exhibited: and the result would be, that the worst-designed article would be se- lected, and an order given for a large number of pieces, whilst probably the best designs, if purchased at all, would only be in such small quantities as to really give them no chance in the gene- ral market, and the one selected by the buyer as his particular choice is made to "sell," because, having staked his re- putation on that choice, the retail cus- tomer must be worried into purchasing it by the eloquent young men who act as his "subs" in the establishment in which he plays the part of arbiter elegantiarum. Nor is the choice of patterns by those who preside over the manufacturing pro- cesses conducted on any better princi- ple; for I have very rarely met with one of the very many persons engaged in our calico-printing establishments, as the judges of patterns and the arbiters of what is and what is not to be printed, who could draw a line of sufficient ac- curacy to indicate any desirable altera- tion in any pattern,-in fact, the power to do so is thought nothing of by our calico-printers ; and in nine cases out ten, when any such suggestion is verbally made, it is scarcely understandable, and is often dictated by the mere whim of the suggester, or from a desire to have "a say" in each design, and to a certain extent make it "his own" by spoiling it. If his advice is rejected, the pattern is at once condemned; and even should some authority superior to his direct its execu- tion, the sale of it may be altogether prevented by this very man whose capri- cious opinion has been rejected, whilst those patterns he has assisted to render more ugly are urged upon the customer with an eloquence of the very highest Manchester stamp. Instances might be quoted of goods so printed or manufac- tured to patterns, which had not passed the ordeal of approval or alteration of such a gentleman, being left unopened in the warehouse until the end of the season, and then their not having sold has been quoted as an instance of the want of judgment on the part of those who ordered their execution, not having the fear of the salesman before their eyes; whilst the " uglies" selected by the latter, or altered to his mind, have been sold off, and are quoted, of course, as a triumph- ant proof of his better taste! In short, there are two classes of persons engaged in decorative manufactures of every de- scription, who, as a body, are infinitely behind the great bulk of the public, and these are, those who select the patterns for execution, and those who afterwards make the wholesale choice for the retail dealer. Few of either class have any principle on which to conduct their selection, and as their opinion of public taste is based on a standard even below their own, their choice is often a very anomalous one. Believing their own opinion to be im- maculate, when they find that the public finds fault with their goods, they con- clude at once that their choice has shot over the heads of their customers; for it never appears to enter their own that any other choice could have been better than the one made, and still less that more taste could have been displayed therein. In short, this is the class above all others who need training in our Schools of Design, which ought to have a practical knowledge of first principles which should render them the best im- provers of national taste, and whose utter ignorance of anything of the kind at the present time renders them the greatest possible obstacle to radical improvement. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule to be found amongst the salesmen and buyers of our wholesale and retail houses; but these pro% the rule, since it is the excellence of the choice of these individuals, made on a definite principle, which shews of how much value the knowledge they possess is, and that to the tradition of the warehouse and the shop, the addition of artistic principle would prove a boon of immense value. I despair, however, ofseeing the present class of salesmen and buyers attempting to gain any such knowledge, or troubling their heads about the nonsensical ab- stractions of pure the principles of ignorant ati - y know how to make designs, n o spoil or sell them; for I knotv they are too profoundly imbued with the prejudice of the market- place and the logic of 'Change, that that is best which "sells." So as they do not "buy" excellence themselves, even so do they set it down that they cannot "sell" it to others. AN OBaxvHa.
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