Knowledge Exchanges

Global North/UK/London

Toni Rutherford

Dissertation Title

Exploring Armatures in Plaster Sculpture during the Nineteenth Century - Materials, Construction, Influence and Transference of Skills

Toni Rutherford

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Symposium Panels:


Coming from a practice-based and technical background my research interests have often lay in the transfer of knowledge and craft. This course has pushed me to develop my research practices allowing me to further explore these subjects; to learn more about the practices of the past that might inform the practices of tomorrow.

Practices and knowledge transfer can be seen as a thread throughout my engagement with the course. For example while studying Moulded Leather Cases from the fifteenth century, it became clear these small unassuming leather cases held a wealth of practical knowledge. Knowledge which was revealed by looking closely at the material properties of individual cases and working with conservators, to gain material and process knowledge through experimentation. A process that is lost to time and, with limited written sources, can now only be speculated upon based on the limited cases that have survived. I also researched how the knowledge of abstract notions, Railway Time, were transferred into society. Exploring how the change from solar to railway time was communicated and became socially impactful, even in places without a train station. The breadth of the impact from this design change is fascinating and the material culture of this change is something I look forward to researching more in the future.

This interest in knowledge transfer has culminated in my dissertation exploring armatures in plaster casts of the nineteenth century. The research deals with the attitudes and materials involved in creating the internal supports of plaster sculpture and reproductions. Exploring the influence of the French art schools and studios on the Government Schools of Design curriculums and the influence of Italian practitioners on those creating and installing plaster reproductions. This research has been greatly aided by my previous experience working with plaster casting and sculptural materials. My own background in making allows me to see the small, unseen, embodied knowledge that migrating practitioners can bring to a creative community many of which are still used in plaster casting today. The challenge of exploring and telling the stories of those unnamed practitioners and small process changes through history has been really fascinating and one I hope to continue.

My journey through this course has been incredible, one that I look forward to taking forward in the future. The support and knowledge networks that I have found through teachers, peers, and professionals, is irreplaceable.