Historian speaks on Otago designers

Otago's long history of design innovation was celebrated at Otago Museum last night.

More than 20 people attended an illustrated talk by design historian Michael Smythe in the Otago Museum Hutton Theatre.

The talk, which was based on his 2011 book New Zealand by Design: A History of New Zealand Product Design, explored groundbreaking New Zealand designs for a wide variety of products, including stoves, ploughs, wire-strainers and even a tin watering can patented by Balclutha tinsmith John Ramage in 1880.

''New Zealand was leading the world in gold dredge design in the 1890s,'' Mr Smythe said.

''Designers had to stand tall, with their head in the clouds and their feet on the ground, at the same time.''

Quality design, particularly in furniture, was a source of national pride, he said.

New Zealand design was influenced by the second wave of immigrants from Europe, the arrival of Chinese goldminers in the 1860s and the qualities celebrated in Maori art of ihi (vitality), wehi (impact) and wana (awe).

The talk complemented the ''Celebrating the Heritage Lost and Found: Our Changing Cityscape'' exhibition in the Postmaster Gallery at the Otago Museum's H.D. Skinner Annex.

- nigel.benson@odt.co.nz

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