“The Manchester School of Art”

When I was a student in the seventies I studied printed textiles at “The Manchester School of Art” which was then part of Manchester Polytechnic and is now known as Manchester Metropolitan University. As a student I fell under the spell of the practitioners of The Arts and Crafts Movement, a fascination that has lasted a lifetime. Manchester School of Art had strong links with the Pre-Raphaelites and exponents of Art Nouveau; many treasures are now on display in an exhibition “Art Nouveau” at the Sir Kenneth Green Library. If you are a fan of Archibald Knox, Jessie M King and Aubrey Beardsley or the like you will find this exhibition most interesting.

I owe much to my time at Manchester, in particular to the excellent teaching we received. There was always a strong emphasis on drawing both from life and from plant forms. One of the more celebrated teachers was Adolphe Valette, a French painter who was at the school from 1907 to 1920 and taught L S Lowry. The great designer and illustrator Walter Crane was also director in the eighteen nineties and left a legacy of drawing directly from nature.

It is always strange visiting old haunts; my student days are so fresh in my mind it is hard to believe that over thirty-eight years have passed since I studied there. Much of the old buildings remain although many new ones have been added, the character of the place seems unchanged. I decided to take some photographs to share with you some of the decorative details of the old Art School building.
The modern glass buildings across the park now house the beautiful Sir Kenneth Green Library where you can find The Special Collections Library which includes artist books, decorated papers, a children's book collection: featuring 19th and 20th century children's book illustration and book collections exploring aspects of the book as an artifact. There is also a collection of Victorian ephemera featuring 19th century albums and scrapbooks.

I spent many happy and inspiring hours in the art school library and am delighted to say that some of my illustrated children’s books and artist books now have a home there.

I’ve been playing around with a few new ideas and have created a set of three printed ACEO’s for my shop and am in the process of offering some original artwork in that form too. I have always been drawn to miniatures and have always had a tendency to paint on a very tiny scale. My husband jokes that is because I have always been so poor and art materials so expensive. I think he may have had a point!
The lovely green Celtic binding decorates a volume of Irish literature, a book I bought whilst in the student area in Manchester at a roadside sale. I really don’t have room for any more books but that cover was talking to me, I am sure you know the feeling.


  1. How fortunate you were to study in such a place! I don't think I could have passed up the lovely binding on that book either! I absoloutely love those miniatures, how fun. There's something about your work that deserves a place in a library collection. It's a gift you have for capturing the essence of your subjects.

  2. Your art work is beautiful ~
    I love everything in miniature too... and have a very hard time passing up a good book, which explains my home looking like a library... :)))
    Lovely photos!

  3. I should have known you were influenced by the Arts and Crafts Movement Valerie - now you have told me I can see that influence in your work.

  4. Those miniatures are beautiful, how do you get such gorgeous greens? I can see you must mix them up instead of just using one straight from a tube. I don't think you used the brushes in that pot though?? :) Art materials are expensive,and they just keep going up! working small is good, but I would need my specs on now :)

  5. I want to envy you, but envy is a sin. :) Talent earned you entrance to an amazing school. Talent kept you there and seems to be with you still. I enjoy your art.

  6. I wish i could see that show of art!

    each of these pieces are a joy to see!
    I love collecting small art, it is all i have room for ;-)

    that book cover is indeed gorgeous.

  7. Thank you Kerry, Melody and Weaver for your kind words. I can see you share my love of old books too.

    Julie, no I don't paint much with those brushes in the pot, they are used for crafts, glue etc. I keep my series 7 nice and clean and well away from those brushes! I do mix up my colours and apply lots of layers with tiny brush strokes but now need glasses, sad but true.

  8. What a wonderful place to study, it must have been very inspirational. You must be pleased that some of your own books are in the library there amongst those of the artists who influenced you:)

  9. Wonderful! I had no idea that Walter Crane had been a director at the Manchester School of Art. I wish I could make a visit to the library!

    Your Canadian Goose is exquisite (especially against the Celtic binding!!!) I recently came across a bookbinder on Pinterest who made me think about you. All her boards are about bookbinding and paper engineering. Lots of great resources/links: http://pinterest.com/blueroofdesigns/

  10. Valerie, I really enjoyed reading this post about The Manchester School of Art. I think that I would also have very much enjoyed being a student there (if I'd been accepted.)

    One of these days, when we do get together for many cups of tea (and I am sure that day will come) I'd love to trade tales about early education, encouraging talent, and evolving career paths.

    Over the years, painting or drawing on a smaller scale has also appealed to me, often for the same reason you cite.

    How I admire your work!

    Thank you also for your recent helpful comment over at my place.


  11. Valerie, I was always poor too, one reason to love watercolor in the tube, it lasts for ages! Your little birds are a joy to behold, as is ALL your work. I seem to have been painting "miniature" all week, as the 40 some figures in my current illustration are only 1/8" to 1" tall. What a marvelous school you attended... Walter Crane!!!

  12. Your miniatures are delightful :)

    Fascinating post!

  13. It is interesting to read about the books and and artists which inspired you and your work. It is a strange feeling to go back to the place of your students days, where did the time go.
    The little goose is another lovely piece of work, your eyes can still pick out the amazing details in your beautiful work.

  14. Lovely blog post.... i really enjoyed reading it.

  15. Lovely blog post.... i really enjoyed reading it.

  16. Your drawings and paintings are always stunningly beautiful. I went to art school in the late 1960's and dearly loved Aubrey Beardsley. I had several books on his work and started to draw with crow quill pens and India ink. Still do to this day. Oddly, India ink drawing scan well on my printer, and I can make copies of originals for my friends, enlarge them, shrink them and make greeting cards too. There is nothing as dark a black as India ink. Have a lovely Spring.

  17. What an inspiring place to study, thank you for sharing the images.
    M x

  18. I had to pause for a moment when I read the title to this entry. I took classes at the Manchester Institute of Art and my first thought was that the name was wrong...and then I remembered that you live in England and I live in New Hampshire - same idea, far different place! :0) Hopefully some day the Institute will reach the caliber of the Manchester School of Art. How lovely that some of your work is now in that library. What a wonderful place to study!