Rachel established a ceramic design practice in 1994 in Tāmaki Makaurau, Aotearoa while studying architecture. The collection developed from an interest in collecting, revising and re-casting rejected tablewares. The intention was to create a ceramics collection that brought together a motley aggregate of 'waifs and strays', providing an afterlife for demoted objects. This curation focus was informed by further postgraduate studies in architecture on the work of the celebrated contemporary British sculptor Rachel Whiteread. After years of hard slog, a doctoral thesis was finally completed. Entitled 'Whiteread’s Soundings of Architecture' the thesis explored the complex ways the artist enlists architectural drawing and modelling practices to shed light on the rich interior lives of quotidian spaces and typological structures frequently overlooked.
Whiteread’s practice influenced the development of this ceramics collection, one that rescues and revives an assortment of tablewares. Transformed through the casting process these pieces are re-circulated in homeware and food stores, used by food writers in the production of cookbooks, enlisted by stylists in national and international design magazines, and represented by a range of fine artists through the mediums of painting and print. Now they are being offered for sale in an online store in the hope that they will be freighted to new homes further afield!
The pieces can be mixed and matched in a multitude of ways to create diverse chromatic compositions on the dining table. These different combinatories enhance the aesthetic appeal of both the container and the contents. The vessels are designed to collaborate with food rather than act as a distancing, background foil to it. Why not question the ubiquity of white tableware and glory in polychromatic splendour instead?
The tableware introduces variation to the dining experience, juxtaposing square petit four dishes with a constellation of star plates, the bibendum-like curves of a plump rose bowl, or the scalloped edges of lotus bowls. Composition, scale and proportions are not uniform. Small dishes replace dinner plates encouraging grazing and informality.
A sustainable imperative informs the design practice. The ceramics are proudly made in Aotearoa, and have become collectable so are less likely to be part of a disposable ‘throwaway’ culture. They are designed to be used through breakfast, elevenses, lunch, and dinner, becoming intimately connected with the food rituals and tea and coffee ceremonies of everyday life.
Two glaze finishes are used on the ceramics: one is opaque, the other translucent. The opaque glaze palette, including duck egg, butter, lilac, cloud, clementine, powder pink, pistachio, tiffany, french vanilla and white are prone to flattening the articulated details found on the vessels. In comparison, the translucent glazes in celadon, lime, light peony and golden syrup draw away from the faceted or scalloped edges, highlighting the desiccated white china clay substrate beneath.
The ceramics can be collected in a number of ways. While some might choose to build up a monochromatic collection, many elect to have a pick and mix assemblage containing an array of colours that can be used and displayed in a number of ways.
For example, those who want to complement their existing china collections have many choices within the range. Fans of Poole Potteries Twintone can select pale pinks, pistachio, and tiffany greens to sit alongside their semi-matt dove grey/seagull cups and saucers with pink, magnolia, ice green, mushroom, peach bloom and lime yellow interiors. A collector of Delft or Cornish ware can accumulate a suite of duck egg and white pieces. The vegetal forms and crustacea dishes made by Carlton Ware go well with lime green and butter platters and plates. The delicate contemporary cups and saucers from the Sous le Soliel collection by Porcelaine LEGLE produced in Limoges are a perfect partner for petit four plates. Devotees of New Zealand’s Crown Lynn Pottery can find a range of cream rose bowls and satin glazed vases in the collection to accompany their Swan and Conch Shell Vases.
I hope the ceramics find themselves at home at your place, irrupting verisimilitude and introducing diversity to the dining table.