I have been caught up on notion of how ceramic tableware is used when tablecloths are present; particularly as there is a distinct lack of both ceramic and tablecloth in convenience restaurants.
The History of the Tablecloth website makes some very clear points about the tablecloths continuing importance in dining culture. Key points to take from this are :
- Recording of first tablecloth mentioned in c.103 AD.
- Used for catching spills- some tables were too ornate to be disguised by fabric.
- Tablecloths were used by all from Middle Ages onwards.
- White tablecloths were a sign of status- having enough staff to keep them clean and bright.
- The rich would have bespoke tablecloths to fit their grand tables.
- …although multi clothes were used to cover very large tables.
- Linen was expensive, often obtaining the stature of a family heirloom.
- In later centuries the tablecloth was decorated with luxury fabrics like lace and embroidery.
Having looked also at this ceramic piece from the Holburne collection for another project I am working on, I was interested to find out that the tablecloth would be removed before dessert.
Was this for cleanliness? Or an opportunity to show off your table and your linen? Does the length of the tablecloth have a historical/social significance?
As ceramics disappears from all manors of eating establishments, it is interesting that ceramic tableware and tablecloths remain united in fine dining establishments and at home. Could this link be made even more inextricable or combined even?
In a bit to understand this further I have begun to create a ceramic tablecloth – an object that could harness the decadence and practicalities of ceramics and tablecloth combined.
In order to achieve this successfully the signifiers for a tablecloth are:
- Creases (sometimes)
- Draping over the surface edge
This maquette for a larger tablecloth has provided a clear insight into the practical difficulties in achieving a clay version of fabric.
- Crispness/ironed effect
What’s also interesting is that the wet clay will record any human interaction. The idea of creating a raw tablecloth, using it for a dining experience and making this record permanent through firing may provide evidence into the social motions and movements of our tableware as we eat.
Are there patterns to our dining culture? Is lunch different to dinner and so on?
Update – 5 May 2016
Using a porcelain slab I wondered whether it would be possible to create a tablecloth and plate combined, uniting both functions in one.