In the mid-nineties, Sue Pryke, a recent graduate of the Royal College of Art, designed the bestselling Ikea 365+ range of dinnerware. Sleek and simple, with square plates and rounded corners Ikea 365+ is still in production today and is considered the “largest selling tableware range in the world.” Linda Bloomfield is known for her expertise in glaze chemistry, and the author of several books on the topic. Both women design and make tableware for restaurants and shops. The two joined to write Design and Create Contemporary Tableware: Making Pottery You Can Use.
Bloomfield tells us that in Japan “different tableware is used for each season – cherry blossoms might feature as decoration on spring tableware and maple leaves in autumn.” Pryke discusses inspiration and the wisdom she received as a young potter: take note of how a twig joins a branch…to think about how a handle can naturally protrude from a mug. We learn that Professor Charles Spence of Oxford University has been studying the effect of color on flavor perception. Indeed, he cites studies that show that popcorn tastes saltier in a blue bowl than a white bowl!
The sensibility of the book is, as they say in their title, contemporary. There are no seventies style stony matte casseroles or rustic country platters or flowery china sets. However, despite their aesthetic, Pryke and Bloomfield are careful not to give design rules. Instead they suggest facets to consider: functionality, intended setting, and inspiration. They discuss considerations such as the rim of a mug and the need for some but not too much cohesiveness in the pieces of a dinner set.
There are sections on throwing, hand building, safety, glazing and firing plus extensive coverage of more industrial methods such as mold and model making, which Pryke in particular, uses. They look at combining clay with metal or wood and other materials.
The photography is lovely. We see potters at work, their processes, and, best of all, the finished pots. The shots are interesting. The authors thank Henry Bloomfeld, Ben Boswell, and Yeshen Venema for the photos though there is no indication of who took which.
I longed to read Bloomfeld’s and Pryke’s opinions. Surely two such accomplished makers of tableware, do what they do in the way they do, because they have opinions about it. I think of Georg Simmel’s famous 1958 essay “The Handle.” He railed against handles that do not protrude from the vessel calling them “discordant” and a “relief ornament.” Looking at early American crocks, the handles pressed against the sides, I disagree with him. I love those handles. Yet, I am grateful for his opinion and I would have been grateful for theirs. Their opinions would stimulate us to think about ours. Oh well, this is a small complaint of an otherwise pleasing book. It could be just me.
Design and Create Contemporary Tableware: Making Pottery You Can Use
Linda Bloomfield and Sue Pryke
Herbert Press, Bloomsbury Publishing, 978-1-78994-073-2