A Shoreditch design tribute to the lost Hackney firm of Goddard and Gibbs and its creatives

A design (section) by Goddard and Gibbs alumna Zoe Angle-Harvest
GreatArt17: GreatArt 41 Kingsland Road, Shoreditch E2 8AG © david.altheert[at]gmail,com 081117
Local pride: Goddard and Gibbs, left, and, above, the building today

© NAHACKNEYITES WHO moved to the borough before 2006 will occasionally feel a pang of nostalgia when they pass the building shown here in two of its various forms.

In Kingsland Road, Shoreditch E2 8AG, it was once the home of Goddard and Gibbs, a Hackney creative pioneer enterprise that somehow seemed to have inherited the work-art-functionality ethic of great designers such as the Victorian Age’s William Morris. The building last year became the London HQ of GreatArt, a German chain that in its effort to be more than a retailer by contributing to the British art scene, has organised a tribute. G and G collapsed suddenly in 2006.

GreatArt’s Martina Mannozzi told Loving Dalston: “We will be hosting work from seven Goddard and Gibbs artists, and will also be celebrating the history of our building and the many works created within its walls by the firm’s skilled artists.”

Keeping an old craft alive

The firm was founded in Blackfriars in 1868 by a Walter Gibbs. In the 20th century it was bought by James Clark and Eaton as an artistic enhancement to its structural-glass business.

Clark set up the G and G studio in Shoreditch. On the edge of the City, the building’s two floors had the space to accommodate the skilled crafts workers needed to cut, glaze and fix stained-glass windows. There were racks for storing coloured glass, an acid bay for etching and kilns for firing the painted glass. The process included the drawing-up of a full-size cartoon or the craftspeople to work from.

After the Second World War G and G started to expand. Head designer was Camberwell School of Art-taught Arthur Edward Buss (190?-1999), who learnt stained-glass techniques from Scottish artist William Aikman. Buss’s windows have been described as “balanced and informative, with fine figure drawing and well-researched heraldry”.

Besides making replacement windows for bomb-damaged churches and other buildings in Britain, G and G was in demand from churches and other institutions in Africa, Asia, Australasia and North America for stained glass.

G and G made a breakthrough when it started designing for Islamic buildings in the mid-1970s as newly oil rich Gulf states embarked on a worldwide spendfest. It was bought in 1978 by another Clark, Charles Clark, who offered Arab potentates designs that met Muslim proscriptions on art but referred to traditional Islamic patterns. He won the little Hackney business some of the richest commissions it had ever received.

In 2006 Hardman & Co. bought the firm and uprooted it from London. A series of wretched events, including the particularly horrendous death of a leading figure in the operation, occurred around the still-not-fully explained collapse. A great design firm had quit Hackney.

A Goddard and Gibbs artist painting a classical design

Some of those craftspeople have been brought back for this exhibition. Put it on your what’s-on list.

Hamish Scott 081117 

* Goddard and Gibbs Exhibitionists in their original home, 41 Kingsland Road, Shoreditch E2 8AG, Fri 17 Nov 2017 to Thurs 4 Jan 2018 Mon-Sat 10am-7pm, Sun noon-6pm

Pictures supplied by GreatArt.

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