Helen Muir Wood - Glasgow Girl

This is the second piece by Helen Muir Wood that I have been lucky enough to find so I thought I’d take the opportunity to write a short article about this lesser known “Glasgow Girl”.  Despite training with the Mackintosh group and being both student and teacher at the Glasgow School of Art her contribution seems to have been largely forgotten.

Helen Muir Wood mirror

A repousse copper mirror frame to a design by Helen Muir Wood, circa 1900

Helen Stephen Wood (Muir-Wood) was born in Glasgow in May of 1894. Her father was John Muir Wood and her mother was Helen Kemlo Stephen.1 Her father John Muir-Wood (1805-1892) was a Scottish musician, piano maker, music publisher and an early amateur photographer.  He established the piano and music publishing firm of John Muir Wood & Co on Buchanan Street in Glasgow. Wood was a keen amateur photographer producing his photographs using a calotype process. His collection of more than 900 images, believed by experts to be the first serious series of landscape pictures of Scotland, are part of the collection of the National Galleries of Scotland. An exhibit of this collection was held at the National Gallery of Scotland in 2008. The collection is permanently held at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.2

The family relocated from Edinburgh to Glasgow sometime in the late 1880s. They are shown living at 17 Rosslyn Street in Glasgow in 1891 and 1901. Helen appears to have been visiting her uncle George Wood in Hove in Sussex in 1891. 3,4 The family home in Rosslyn Terrace was just a short walk from the Glasgow School of Art.6 It is hard to date exactly when Helen started at the Glasgow School of Art. There is a suggestion that it was the early 1880s when she was a teenager.5

Helen is featured in the Glasgow Girls book edited by Jude Burkhauser12 She states that Helen Muir Wood (1864 -1930) trained with the Mackintosh group from about 1882 until c. 1900 and was later teacher of enamels at the School. Muir Wood worked in metal and stained glass and painted ceramics.

The first reference I can find to Helen’s work is in the Arts & Crafts Exhibition Society. Catalogue of the Sixth Exhibition 1899. A Miss Helen M. Wood exhibited a casket in gilding metal. In 1900, several pieces by Helen in metal are illustrated in an early The Studio article on Glasgow Designers.7

Helen Muir Wood mirror

Plaque illustrated in The Studio, Vol. XIX, 1900

Helen Muir Wood mirror

Mirror frames illustrated in The Studio, Vol. XIX, 1900

The article states “Some of the metal work exhibits were quite well designed, showing a peculiarly sympathetic treatment, with no sharp edges to be damaged or to inflict damage, beauty of form being obtained by mass rather than line. The finger plates by Miss Harvey, mirror frame by Miss Muir-Wood, candle sconce and white metal jewel casket by Miss Dewar, all of which we illustrate, are excellent in design and execution, and worthy of study.” The Studio article from 1900 includes mention of a number of well known Glasgow School artists and metalworkers including – Jane Younger, Jessie Newbury, Ann McBeth, De Courcy L. Dewar and Agnes B. Harvey.

There are several other mentions of Helen in the newspapers related to the Glasgow Society of Lady Artists’. In 1900, “Among the more notable exhibits we may mention the brass work of Miss Margaret Wilson, the beautiful articles stamped in leather by Mrs MacLaren, some charmingly decorated prises and bowls by Miss Helen Walton, and the contributions of Miss White and Miss Muir”.8 As a member of the Glasgow Society of Lady Artists’ Club she also exhibited in their annual exhibitions at the 1901 Glasgow International Exhibition and with the School of Art Exhibition in Cork in 1902. In 1902 “A bit of tapestry by Miss Jane Younger and repousse sconces by Miss Helen Muir Wood are interesting features”.9 In 1905, “articles in beaten metal by Miss Margaret Wilson, Miss Marion Wilson, Miss Thompson and Miss Muir Wood”.10  In 1911, “Interesting examples of beaten brass are sent by Marion. H. Wilson, Helen Muir Wood and Mary B. Gilmour.”11

As ever, I would love to hear from anybody who can further add to the story of Helen’s contribution to Arts & Crafts metalwork.


1 – Helen Stephen Wood in Scotland select births and baptisms, 1564-1950.

2 – Wikipedia entry for John Muir Wood

3 – 1891 England census for Helen Wood

4 – 1901 Scotland census for Hellen S. Wood

5 – Re-evaluating the Glasgow Girls. A timeline of early emancipation at the Glasgow School of Art. Alison Brown, Curator of European Decorative Art from 1800, Glasgow Museums, Glasgow Life

6 – Google Maps

7 – “Some Work by the Students of the Glasgow School of Art”, The Studio, Vol XIX, 1900, p. 232.

8 – Northern Daily Mail, 12th March 1900.

9 – Gentlewoman, London, 22nd March 1902.

10 – Daily Record, Lanarkshire, 27th November 1905.

11 – The Queen, London, 6th May 1911.

12 – “Glasgow Girls” Women in Art and Design 1880 – 1920. Edited by Jude Burkhauser, Edinburgh, 1990.