FROM the finest silver cutlery to the simple, functional British traffic light, Sheffield designer David Mellor’s creations marked him out as one of the most versatile craftsmen of his generation.
Many of the late designer’s pieces are still produced today, and recognised as classics in their field – and now his efforts have been given fresh museum status, with a selection of his works included in a new exhibition at the V&A in London.
The exhibition, called Innovation In The Modern Age, celebrates British designs from 1948 to the present day, and runs until August 12.
David’s son Corin Mellor – who took the helm at the family firm after his father died in 2009 – said he was ‘quite excited’ about the pieces going on show, and said he thought the wider public are becoming more interested in the importance of good design in everyday objects.
The son of a toolmaker, David was born in Crookes and later studied at London’s Royal College of Art, where his ‘Pride’ cutlery range was chosen to go straight into production in 1953.
He eventually built the Round Building in Hathersage, where the David Mellor Design company is based today.
“My father’s designs were part of the early pioneering, post-war designs, so they’ll fit very well in the exhibition,” said Corin.
“It’s trying to tell a story of what we’re good at as a country.”
He added: “In their time, the Pride cutlery was quite radical to look at and still looks quite strikingly modern now. It’s probably still our main range of cutlery.”
As well as knives, forks and spoons, David designed typewriters, tableware, tools and street furniture, such as 1966’s National Traffic Light System.
“He had a brief, which was to look at a system that would encompass both the pedestrian and the motorist. Before that it was two separate things – the Belisha beacon and the old traffic lights,” Corin said.
“It makes life easy if things work and more enjoyable if they look good. I get very annoyed by bad design. Everyone does, it’s vitally important. Badly-designed cutlery just feels dreadful.”
Visit www.vam.ac.uk for more information about the exhibition.
By Richard Blackledge