The Way We Eat Now – Holburne Museum, Bath. October 2016

The Way We Eat Now was a tongue in cheek take on contemporary eating habits. Inspired by an eighteenth ceramic asparagus server from the Holburne’s collection an exuberant table setting was created to serve takeaways and ready to go foods.

As ceramic products are replaced more readily by paper, cardboard and plastic packaging, The Way We Eat Now responded to this by creating permanent ceramic tableware on which to serve a variety of ready to go products.

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Eating Vs Dining

The famous Victorian, Mrs Beeton once said ‘creatures of inferior races eat and drink; man only dines’. Though wildly politically incorrect in a contemporary setting, there is some truth to this statement; Id prefer to say that all creatures great and small do eat, but the human race alone has the potential to dine.

This got me to thinking about what is dining really, how is it signified and separated from eating? What rituals, values and particularly objects must be present for a dining experience to have occurred?

I started to compile a list.

Eating:

  • Food
  • Chewed
  • Swallowed
  • Nourish
  • Solo action (for most)
  • Anywhere

Dining:

  • Occasion
  • Enjoyment
  • Plates/bowls/cutlery/setting/napkin
  • Candle light
  • Courses- starter/main/dessert
  • Alcohol
  • Evening
  • Social
  • Music
  • Dim lighting
  • Table
  • And suggested by Mrs Beeton, ‘order’ and ‘graces’.

When I think of dining I imagine subdued lighting and candles. This seems to epitomise the idea of dinner as an occasion, rather than simply providing nourishment. Imagine the scene below with bright light and no candles…somewhere to eat, or somewhere to dine?

hipstamaticphoto-498425508-882777

So if I define dinner as eating at a table with candlelight, how many people in the UK dine? How many don’t dine? As a youth we always ate at the table, apart from Saturday evenings where we ate from our laps or from the nest of tables. I recall my mum’s decadent silver plate candelabra being used only once and never for a family meal.

The following articles provide info about the rise of TV dinners in the UK and the demise of the family unit where a lack of eating together occurs.

According to a poll in 2013, 60% of families rely on ready meals and 49% of families eat their evening meal at the dinner table everyday. With these statistics in mind, perhaps the modern day dining table looks like this:

IKEA KLIPSK bed tray Foldable legs make the bed tray easy to store without taking up extra space.IKEA KLIPSK bed tray Foldable legs make the bed tray easy to store without taking up extra space.

Imagine that tray with a candlestick…is that dining?

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-21443166

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2487647/Unstoppable-rise-TV-dinner-Less-half-UKs-families-regularly-sit-table-eat.html

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/mother-tongue/9882717/British-familes-dont-eat-together-and-if-they-do-its-often-in-front-of-the-TV.html

Max Lamb – Product Designer

Max Lamb is a British Product Designer. I first saw his work when he produced My Grandfather Tree, a series of ash logs felled from one tree on his grandfathers land. The logs had no predesignated purpose, only that the purchaser could use them for any fitting purpose. This methodology reminds me of Takehsi Yasuda, who also makes his works and leaves their purpose to be created by purchaser, but always to be used, never admired behind glass.

This video helps to provide a scaffold on which to peg some of the snags/snapshots of thoughts about my current making process. Lamb says ‘it has to be about the learning and the discovery’ and this resonates with me completely.

His approach to using the beach as a casting work shop is exciting and inspirational, as seen in the following video.

I try to be true to a material, generally using the material alone and in its elemental form. […] I want to celebrate and exploit each material for its inherent visual and functional characteristics, properties and qualities … I never try to force a material, but rather to steer it into a form that is functional yet appears to have happened spontaneously, as if by nature. (Le Vin Chin, 2008)

Developing a new methodology

My recent work for The Holburne Museum, Bath has rooted out a new working methodology.

These works were produced by taking a preexisting object (a plastic ready to go jelly pot) and casting it, replicating it, distorting it to create a new work/sculpture. The approach used to make these sculptures echoes the processes used to make the original plastic cast jelly pot.

Gillian Rose (2012) in Visual Research talks about the three sites of production when creating images, or in this case, 3D works.

Interpretations of visual images broadly concur that there are three sites at which the meaning of an image are made: the site(s) of the production of an image, the site of the image itself, and the site(s) where it is seen by various audiences. 

So far I have begun to unpack the site of production. I have used the context of the jelly pot to inform my making process. I see this as being truthful to the production, or history of the object; essentially seeking the truth.

Preliminary drawings and plaster maquettes helped me to assess the visual content of the image itself. Experimenting with individual components was a suitable approach to establishing the most successful combinations.

And the audience site of the work will occur in a museum cafe on a banqueting table, which is highly appropriate.

This approach to making and showing work has been extremely useful in building on my preexisting knowledge and methodology. Concerning myself with the three sites of production will enable me to make work that is truthful, visually strong and is seen in the right space.