Harold Stabler (1872 – 1945) British ceramicist, enameller, jeweller and silversmith

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Harold Stabler Art Deco Electroplated Metal Tea Set
Harold Stabler Art Deco Electroplated Metal Tea Set

Successfully transitioned from Arts and Crafts to Modern Movements

Harold Stabler (1872 – 1945) was a British silversmith and metalworker, and pottery designer.

Harold Stabler’s lengthy, illustrious career began in the Arts and Crafts movement and extended into the modernist era. Over the 50 years or so he devoted to the arts, he created an astounding diversity of highly regarded pieces, both unique and mass-produced, in various mediums and styles. 

Early Years and Education

Stabler, born in Levens, Westmorland (now Cumbria), studied woodworking, stone carving, and metallurgy at the Kendal School of Art before teaching metalworking Cumberland (Cumbria) trade school. By 1898, Stabler had become a full-time director at Keswick. Still, he departed soon after to join the Liverpool University Art School’s metalworking department. He taught at the Sir John Cass Technical Institute in the early 1900s (Stabler became the Art School’s head in 1907, which he held until 1937). In addition, from 1912 to roughly 1926, he taught at the Royal College of Art.

Transition to Modern Movements

His exceptional design ability, as well as technical virtuosity, were best displayed in his various metalwork. After helping to form the Designs & Industries Association in 1915, he adapted to modern production processes, which was a logical step after helping to found the Designs & Industries Association. This was mainly due to his growing discontent with the Arts and Crafts exhibits in which he had long participated and his encounter with the Cologne-based Deutscher Werkbund Exhibition in 1914. He had seen that seminal presentation with Ambrose Heal. The two, along with Harry Peach, W.R. Lethaby, and others, founded the DIA to promote higher design standards, promote design-industry cooperation, and, in general, to give the modern designer a better name and greater prominence. Stabler devoted himself entirely to industrial design, although he did not abandon his inventions of particularly commissioned, one-of-a-kind works.

Dancing Satyr Pendant, 1916 designed by  Harold Stabler and Phoebe Stabler
Dancing Satyr Pendant, 1916 designed by Harold Stabler and Phoebe Stabler

Stabler and Firth Vickers

Stabler’s 1930s association with Firth Vickers, a Sheffield stainless-steel producer, was one of his most fascinating forays into modern metal production. Firth Vickers commissioned Stabler to create prototypes with etched and applied adornment to introduce the product to British enterprises. The Cumberland tea-set Stabler designed in 1938 was still in production in the 1950s.

An old hall Cumberland stainless steel four piece Tea Set by Harold Stabler
An old hall Cumberland stainless steel four piece Tea Set by Harold Stabler

Recognition

Stabler has deservedly gained a lot of critical and public appreciation throughout the years. He was selected one of the first ten Designers for Industry by the Royal Society of Arts in 1936. (along with Eric Git, H.G. Murphy, Keith Murray and others). Indeed, he was one of the few designers in the late 19th and early 20th century who successfully and uncompromisingly bridge the gap between the Victorian-era Arts and Crafts Movement and the forward-thinking Modern Movement.

Sources

Byars, M., & Riley, T. (2004). The design encyclopedia. Laurence King Publishing.

Dormer, P. (1991). The illustrated dictionary of twentieth century designers: the key personalities in design and the applied arts. Mallard Press.

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