To Whom It May Concern:
I Had An Idea:
That I wanted to make a tea set to accompany my work titled:
“Would You Like Depth With That?”
The work is to be presented in the form of a bound book containing 31 drawings completed over a month and interspersed with pieces of writing.
For the exhibition of the book I envisage a room set with two comfortable high back library chairs upholstered and buttoned, in perhaps, a mustard-coloured floral linen.
They are positioned slightly away from the fireplace and have their backs to the windows.
The book is set down in front of the reader, on a small attractive polished wood table by the gallery assistant who would then enquire of the page-turner
“Would you like tea with that?”
The tea set I have made, in my mind’s eye, would arrive on a silver salver, and consist of a porcelain teapot with an ornate pouring spout, that bulges as it leaves the pot at the mid area, but tapers to a fine thin elegance as it reaches the end that dispenses the tea into the cup in a fine amber arc.
“If you can imagine something then somewhere in the universe it will exist.”
The pot itself would visibly be an upside down skull. The sunken eyes gently punched into depressions, by thumbs that have applied equal pressure to the clay.
The spout issuing forth from the triangular hole under the nasal bone and following the highest point, would arch elegantly away from the prominent jaw, turning upwards after curving out from the nose bone that juts from between the eyes.
“Old sins cast long shadows.”
At the base of the skull, behind the underside of the chin that now faces upwards, a 6 cm hole would have been neatly incised, in which to nestle the lid.
This is slightly wider than the 2.5 cm hole, which accommodates the spinal cord, but seems more generous for dropping in spoonful’s of tea.
The lid with its circular diameter, would peak in a gentle rise narrowing to a 2.5cm circular platform on top of which would perch a miniaturised vertebrae.
This would enable the lid to be lifted with ease and boiling water to be poured into the skull.
“Those who know do not say
Those who say do not know”
The handle which rises from the back of the skull should incorporate both a Victorian elegance in the finesse of its sweep, but a strength of purpose in the amount of fired clay grasped by the hand of the pourer.
Two cups would be enough to complete the set, again these would be upside down heads but now missing the lower jaw.
The cheekbones flaring out to the side should add a dainty elegance to the shape and would be the best point from which to sip.
The handle in that case would issue from the back of the skull and would start to unfurl from the small point at its base. The handle would then open into a high circle before sweeping down to a few mms from the cranium. I envisage the cup will rest on the table without the comfort of a saucer.
“You are a long time dead.”
A sugar bowl and milk jug would be nice.
The sugar bowl would be a miniature of the teapot but without a spout and with two handles. These would be placed at the sides of the head in the position of the ears.
The cranium hole again serving as a focal point in which to incise the enlarged hole for the lid, which again would be 6 cm tapering to its miniature spinal knob.
“Change the things you can change and don’t change the things you cant.”
The milk jug would be a thing of beauty, as the upside down skull with its prow-like jaw, needs minimal reshaping to make a perfect pouring spout.
With the teeth flattened to a plane that sits over the interior, and a gap left between the front teeth, the nasal bone with its sweet curve would pour milk very well.
As it would be a smaller vessel than the teapot, a handle would be superfluous.
Instead the hand can come around the outside of the cranium from the rear and rest under the flared cheekbones with the fingers finding extra grip where the bone continues down towards the rims of the eye sockets.
“If you give more than you get, you will be blessed”
As the tea set would be made of porcelain, it can be glazed in bright white and painted with fine cobalt blue decorations in the style of majolica.
The teapot’s dented eyes would be darkened to shadows while around them would be patterns of petals and dots.
Between the eyes and at the centre of the forehead would be a painted iris, un-lidded, round and blue.
Around this would be a ribbon line that starts at one side and loops at five points before trailing off, as though a never ending knot is now unravelled.
“Would You Like Depth With That?
Around the lip that will hold the lid, I envisage a simple blue line, repeated also down each side of the handle.
This line would also decorate the base of the lid, and encircle the base of the platform on which rests the shrunken spine.
At the top of the vertebrae a small round yet flattened dome would be gilded with dark shiny gold.
The same cobalt would delineate the prominent exposed grinning teeth of the rictus jaw, with small triangles linked side by side, encircling the gums like a necklace of pointed shark teeth.
“Do what you say
Don’t say what you do.”
It is difficult to describe further painted decoration as from here it would be a matter of adding balance to the whole form, by adding extra patterning where needed.
A line defining the temple and following the undulations down to the position of the ear hole would be the starting point.
Perhaps a flower with a dark pollen centre
“Less is more”
“More or less”
The cups deserve a simpler scheme, with their depressed eyes merely outlined with cobalt and then an encircling outer line of petals with dots between.
Again the handles edges would have a simple fine line of blue. Perhaps the interior of the triangular nasal bone could be painted dark blue?
I would need to see it.
The sugar bowls patterning would match the teapot.
Around the milk jug, a fine line of blue would trace the shape at the rim, from the skull base to the nose bone pourer.
The mouth would be outlined with the triangles side by side forming a chain, and the teeth lightly delineated.
Both the sugar bowl and the milk jug would sit on a small rectangular porcelain serving tray, down the middle of which would be handwritten, the words;
“Would You Like Depth With That?”
The assistant would offer Orange Pekoe tea or Earl Grey, the sugar bowl would hold sugar cubes with small silver tongs hanging from its gilded knob and the milk would be fresh and cold.
“Never grow a wishbone where a backbone ought to be.”
A fine phrase, as I cannot wish this tea set into existence.
In order to make it I will have to learn the skills of porcelain throwing on a potter’s wheel.
I will have to make moulds for the spout and for the handles, large and small.
I will have to perfect the recipe for a pure white glaze suitable for majolica painting and
I will have to test and retest my technique of application on test pieces that I make.
To fire the pieces without breakage is yet another area of difficulty and requires I learn about kiln temperatures for bisque and glazing.
My brushwork with the cobalt is the only existing skill I can bring straight to the tea set.
“So much to do, so little time.”
Although I have begun, these are matters that will take some time to accomplish to the standard that would illustrate the idea of the tea set that is so clearly visible inside my head.
“If you always do what you have always done,
You will always get what you have always got.”
Instead I will have to find something.
An object someone else has made. No doubt imbued with ideas that suited their purpose, but perhaps only superficially pertaining to mine.
“There will still be money when you are dead and gone.”
Functionally I can find objects whose purpose is to pour the tea and milk, and hold the sugar.
I can curate them into the structured exhibition of my book, and in a way, subsume the presence of any previous ownership by my will-full inclusion of them within the formal space.
They can be listed on the manifest of objects I am exhibiting, my name now next to their material presence as an owner of the object.
A title that dematerializes, decommissions, deconstructs, destroys, debates, the fact that someone else, once made the object.
“Life is short and death is long.”
Their name would be beyond forgotten, and the materiality of their objects, reclaimed by ‘I’ the colonizer of these clustered things in a room.
I haven’t yet seen these found objects that I will replace my unmade tea set with, I will have to go out from my studio and find them.
Meanwhile my tea set remains unmade until I have the skills to make these imagined objects, which continue to exist in a super position of certainly uncertain and possibly probable.
“Would you like tea with that?
‘ If I do nothing, if I study nothing, if I cease searching, then, woe is me, I am lost. That is how I look at it — keep going, keep going come what may.
But what is your final goal, you may ask. That goal will become clearer, will emerge slowly but surely, much as the rough draught turns into a sketch, and the sketch into a painting through the serious work done on it, through the elaboration of the original vague idea and through the consolidation of the first fleeting and passing thought.’
Vincent Van Gogh: Letters To Theo