Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Last ever Big Brother house goes all circus and chinoiserie

The plate design embedded in the Big Brother dining table is Spode's Italian Blue (or Blue Italian), first introduced in 1816. The central scene is based on engravings after a watercolour by a Dutch artist. The border is an interpretation of Japanese Imari design. This design is still in production.

Sunday, June 6, 2010


Empire, 2010. Ceramic and tea. 30cmx30cm

Friday, June 4, 2010

The Blueing of America

Curb Your Enthusiasm: Larry David is at Elaine's house, trying to persuade her to take part in a new Seinfield show. Elaine has a huge collection of blue and white ceramic. The pattern on the plate on the dresser behind Larry is called 'Trophy'.

Thomas Minton's Trophy, c.1800. Listed in 1810 as both a table and a teaware pattern. The design is a direct copy of an original found painted on Chinese porcelain. The same basic pattern was used by numerous factories. Plate diameter 241 mm.

In this project I have largely ignored the American's love of blue and white. I have concentrated on the Eastern hemisphere because this where it originates and where the British Empire grew, based on the tea trade. I particularly liked using the Eastern hemisphere, since it is not the usual representation used in the West when thinking of the world.

In Willow! David Richard Quinter talks about the 'Blueing of America'...

"Animated by the outreach of British imperialism, the Willow Pattern plate was a child of Empire; soon it would travel across Europe and around the globe, to the rhythm of an army's trudge and the slap and thunder of an oak-timbered hull. (The 1935 movies, Mutiny on the Bounty, probably got it just about right in showing Captain William Bligh (Charles Laughton) using in 1789 a Willow Pattern type bowl at shipboard mealtimes).

Wherever the British settled they took Willow Pattern-ware with them, or ordered it delivered to their new lands. Throughout the 19th century the Willow Pattern found as prominent a place in the Canadian or American home, on a New Zealand or Australian sheep station, or in the southern African mansion, as it did – and still does – in a Scottish manse or in an English council flat.

Sometimes it found a resting place where the British were not particularly in evidece – in Mexico, for instance. In the first quarter of the 19th century, shortly after Spain's domination ended, large quantities of British crockery were ordered and shipped to Mexico to grace the tables of a new class, a home-grown elite.

The sundering of political ties between Britain and its former American colonies in the 1770s did not sever the longstanding emotional or familial bonds, and the Willow Patter plate had a busy role in the new American kitchen and dining room as it did across the Atlantic Ocean. Indeed, even that cultivated trend-setter, George Washington, the United States' first president, used, evidently enjoyed and eight times ordered more of the Chinese porcelains, largely blue-and-white Canton- and Naking-style ware – the hand-painted Chinese inspired and derived versions of the Willow Pattern – for his home and official functions at Mount Vernon. "

The Americans began their own trade with China in 1783; 16 months later in May 1785, the Empress of China returned to New York to unload a cargo of fine teas, silks, cotton fabric, cinnamon and 60 tons of porcelain. They had traded furs, pig lead, woolen cloth, coinage, and 30 tons of ginseng (grown in the Appalachian Mountains). The ship's owners made a 25% return on their investment – later to be much more...

to be continued

British Gas vandals

I was passing Creekside Centre yesterday and noticed there was a lot going on in the yard. A lot of people attending a training event on green roofs were enjoying the sunshine outside the classroom, and a couple of vans were parked at the front of the yard. The site is leased from British Gas, and for weeks – on and off – the company has been investigating a gas leak. As I stood at the gate, one of the vans drove right onto my World In Pieces (aka China Blues)...

Hardly able to believe my eyes, I went in...I found Nick Bertram, Creekside Centre staff member, who came out and shouted at the gas workers. One of the chaps apologised, saying he thought it was already broken (well, yes, it is a mosaic of broken ceramic with weeds growing in it). He removed his van (by driving back over it again!)...

Now I don't know whether to repair it or remove it. The Centre staff are fond of it, but it's looking hellishly ropey...

Postscript: decided to tidy it up...