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Spotlight: David Mellor

Spotlight: David Mellor

David Mellor's Quiet Design

David Mellor's work was so understated that it has slipped into the canon of modern British life with little fanfare. 

~ New York Times, July 2016


Mellor's English pattern, with monograms for Queen
Elizabeth II and 10 Downing Street.

 

David Mellor's work never demanded much attention, yet it has become as
much part of British culture as afternoon tea. From farmhouses and townhouses to palaces and embassies, Mellor's work is ubiquitous in the UK, having been commissioned by 10 Downing Street and Queen Elizabeth II. 

Born in Sheffield in 1930, David Mellor trained as a silversmith at the Royal College of art. After a trip to Sweden and Denmark in the early 1950s, he developed a strong affinity for simple  minimalism.  

Like many architects of post-World War II modernity, David Mellor considered good design his civic imperative.  This led to several important government commissions in the 1960s, including a controversial square mailbox (right), street lamps, traffic lights, bus shelters, park benches and telephones. Mellor also produced a one-off silver candelabrum and tubular steel chairs (below, right), both of which are in the permanent collection of the Design Museum in London. Sir Terence Conran has described him as 'Britain's greatest post-war product designer'.

 


                 

 

 

Deceptively simple silverware

Often referred to as "the cutlery king", Mellor was  at the centre of the renaissance of handmade silver in 1960s Britain. His most important work was a complete new collection of modern silver tableware commissioned by the government for British embassies in a drive to give Britain a more forward-looking image. 

 Alongside silversmithing, Mellor was stimulated by  the relatively new design potential of stainless  steel. His was the first high-quality stainless steel  cutlery to be produced in quantity in the UK. 

 

David Mellor's tableware stood out amid the bright  and noisy designs of the 60s and 70s. His work, never demanding attention, quietly and steadily became an integral part of English life.

 

A craftsman at heart

Mellor's approach to design was always to some extent that of a craftsman, in his close involvement in materials and techniques and his insistence on the highest standards of environment and working conditions. Today, the entire process of making cutlery is set up in The Round Building (below), Mellor's factory near Sheffield.


Built in 1990 in collaboration with the architect Sir  Michael Hopkins, The Round Building has won numerous architectural awards. Hopkins also designed the nearby David Mellor Design Museum, which opened in 2006, and covers the spectrum of Mellor's work over  the past half century, from tea spoons to traffic lights.​

The first David Mellor shop opened at 4 Sloane Square, London, in 1969 and immediately set international standards for retailing design. In addition to additional shops across the UK, David Mellor became available for the first time in Canada in 2015 with the opening of Hopson Grace. Among other honours throughout his life, Mellor became a trustee of the Victoria & Albert Museum, became the youngest Royal Designer for Industry at the age of 32, was awarded four honorary doctorates and was appointed OBE in 2001. David Mellor passed away in 2009, but his legacy lives on in his Sheffield factory, in London at his Sloan Street flagship store, and through his son Corin Mellor, who acts as Creative Director of the company.


ABOVE: David Mellor in his Sheffield factory. BELOW: Corin Mellor.
  • Post author
    Martha Grace McKimm