Who’s Who: Clare Taylor

Who are you and what do you do at the OU? What modules are you involved in/have been involved in?

I’m Clare Taylor, a Senior Lecturer in the Art History Department. I have been involved in Undergraduate and Postgraduate modules in Arts & Humanities and Art History from level 1 interdisciplinary modules, to Levels 2 and 3, and to our MA where I contributed teaching on studying interiors and on a mid-20th century pattern designer, Enid Marx. At present I am leading on Art History’s contribution to a new Level 1 module, Cultures (A112).

What are your main research areas?

I work on the historic interior, and particularly on the unsung contributions made by decorators and tradesmen to how our homes look. I’ve recently focused on eighteenth-century wallpaper made in Britain, China and France and those who made it, sold it and hung it but I am also interested in other areas such as textiles and leather hangings. I’ve recently received a Mellon Fellowship for the project, Gilt Leather Rooms: Decorating with Leather Hangings in Britain, c.1600–c.1800.

What Open Arts Objects films have you done? Are they related to your research or a module?

I’ve made two, and both are related to my research. One film is about a seemingly ordinary length of 1960s wallpaper and how it can become a powerful visual memory, as well as explaining how wallpaper can turn trends in fine art into mass market products. The second film is on Yinka Shonibare’s Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle, where I explore how this contemporary artist uses textiles to re-examine narratives of colonial expansion and maritime trade which are at the heart of British identity, turning the viewer’s gaze towards a different kind of colonial journey.

I also wrote a ‘Travelling Object‘ piece for the OpenLearn unit to support the OU’s co-production with the BBC, Civilisations. It is about an object made in London where products from China, India and Britain meet- a bed made for an eighteenth-century theatrical couple, the Garricks- since on A344 I wrote teaching on Chinoiserie in 18th century Britain,  including discussing Eva Garrick’s own Chinese silk robe.

What did you love most about doing an Open Arts Objects film?

I loved showing everyone the wallpaper, as it belonged to a member of my family- a real personal connection!

What is your most significant publication or latest publication? How does it relate to the films?

Definitely my first full  length monograph, which, although it’s on eighteenth-century wallpaper, also relates to how wallpaper has been seen through time. It’s often been ignored as a component of the interior, so my aim has been to pull it out into the foreground alongside textiles and furniture, and allow it to be considered as a key driver in taste.


What got you interested in Art History? a fun fact?

I did my Undergraduate Degree in Modern History, but really wanted to work with art. So, after my BA, I did a postgraduate course in Art Gallery and Museum Studies. This led to a career as a Curator and it was looking after artworks, researching them and above all sharing stories about them with visitors that led me into Art History.

A fun fact is I’m really a frustrated flower arranger. Christmas decorations are big in my house, and each year I make door wreaths for close friends and family using stuff I’ve gathered and materials from my hoard of decorations. So I enjoy the process of design and making as well as writing about it.

For more information about my publications and research interests, please see my OU people profile.

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