Knox and the Silver Studio

Below is a brief paper on Knox and the Silver Studio in London.

The Silver Studio was founded in 1880 as a commercial design studio providing fabric, wallpaper and other designs to major manufacturers and retailers. It is named after its founder Arthur Silver.

By the late 1890’s Liberty was a major client of the Silver Studio.  Liberty was buying wallpaper and fabric designs from the Silver Studio by its leading designers, including the likes of the famous architect Charles Voysey.  At around this time Knox joined the Studio and several wallpaper and fabric designs from the late 1890’s by him are known.

How Knox came to be hired by the Silver Studio is unclear. It is possible Knox was hired from Christopher Dresser’s own studio as it ran down.  Knox was also a close friend of fellow Manx artist A J Collister who was well established and connected with the London design and art scene.  What is certain is that Knox, either prior to joining or soon after, formed a close relationship with the Silver Studio’s then Senior Manager, Harry Napper.  Watercolours by the two painting together are known and in 1897 the record book of the Chicken Rock lighthouse (Manx: Carrick ny Kirkey) shows Knox visiting this Manx tourist attraction with Napper and his wife.

In 1898, Liberty turned to the Silver Studio to undertake silver designs for its new artistic “Cymric” silver range. Whether by chance, or design, Knox was asked to help design items for this range and we know he did many of the earliest pieces for the original exhibition launch of the range in May 1899.  Original drawings for this exhibition still survive in the Silver Studio archive held at the Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture (MoDA) at Middlesex University.

Knox continued to work for the Silver Studio until around 1900, producing many of Liberty’s most important silver designs. Attribution is sometimes difficult but on the whole Knox’s design drawings at MoDA are named after obscure Manx places or history and/or have Knox’s tell-tale stylised Celtic or organic design features. At some point in 1900 he chose to leave London and move back to the Isle of Man.  However, such was his reputation with Liberty they retained him to design for them, and he continued to be a prolific producer of silver, pewter and other designs for Liberty until around 1906.