Following the Christmas and New Year break here is a perfect opportunity to mix an inspiring dose of architectural and design culture with a lovely winter walk. I was delighted to find this show, which I had been keen to see for over a year as it travelled around the UK, finally arrive in a local venue. It had been a while since I visited Osterley Park, a magical taste of the countryside on the outskirts of West London.
The Robert Adam designed house and its extensive grounds are well worth a trip in their own right and I made a point of taking some walking boots so I could go for a meander through the fields after the exhibition’s private view in November.
‘Made for the Table’ explores the evolution of silver tableware and dining conventions from 1600 to the present and runs until the 24th of February. Osterley being the final venue, this is your last chance to go – there’s a car park or you can catch the tube and walk up the long drive to the house. You might even stop off at the farm shop on your way back.
The show has been intelligently curated to offer an informative look at both historic and contemporary designs for the table. It has also been adapted for each of the venues in which it has appeared.The Osterley Park team delved into their rarely seen silverware archive and have displayed some of their collection alongside modern counterparts belonging to the Goldsmiths’ Company.
There are interesting pairings such as hand-raised beakers which are over 300 years apart in their making, yet share very similar techniques in their creation. In one cabinet we see a fine example made in silver around 1630 by William Hayden, possibly designed for use in church. This is displayed alongside a Britannia silver beaker by Michael Lloyd, which was created in 1996 and features chased and hand engraved decoration as well as a silver-gilt interior.
An ornate light-filled upstairs room contains these and a large number of other silverware items, both old and new, for serving, eating, drinking and illuminating as well as decorating the table. A separate space reveals other important items from Osterley Park’s collection with volunteers on hand to supply details of their provenance and purpose.
Down the corridor past Robert Adam’s majestic stairwell, a third room, recently stripped back to plaster for the making of a block buster film, offers a more contemporary backdrop for what was for me the key attraction of the show. ‘Made for the Table’, which gives the exhibition its name, is curated by the Goldsmiths’ Company’s Collections department.
The elegant display integrates modern one-of-a-kind designs into a dining room setting, elevating everyday items from the purely practical into covetable bespoke treasures, each signed by a talented maker. A stunning table and chairs in ebonised ash by Tom Vaughan has been laid with the most stylish dinnerware. One-off works with a distinctly sculptural feel created by a number of well known silversmiths mingle with bespoke items in other media such as glass, ceramics and textiles. A hand-dyed and woven hanging by Ptolemy Mann punctuates the set with colour.
With almost a full year ahead before the next winter festivities, this might be an excellent time to research and commission something very special for your next round of presents, or to mark another celebration altogether. Alternatively drop into the exhibition shop, curated by Gregory Parsons and pick up something precious on the spot. You can also purchase a glossy exhibition catalogue with stunning images (see below) by Rosalind Atkinson, published by The Goldsmiths’ Company in 2018.
‘Made for the Table’ is at Osterley Park and House until 24 February 2019.
Fine art, food and lifestyle photographer Rosalind Atkinson will lead a couple of still life workshops at Osterley Park on 6 February. See links below for details.
Works featured in this blog include items by the following makers: Tom Vaughan, Ptolemy Mann, Miriam Hanid, Nan Nan Liu, Yusuke Yamamoto, Malcolm Appleby, Rauni Higson, Adi Toch, Angus McFadyen and Jill Shaddock – see captions for more details.
Exhibition concept, Rosemary Ransome Wallis; curation, Georgia Powell and Stephanie Souroujon; design Manuela Holfert; and consultant Gregory Parsons.
All key photographs, ‘The Silverware Still Lives, 2017’, are by Rosalind Atkinson with art direction and styling by Tasha Marks, AVM Curiosities, courtesy of and © The Goldsmiths’ Company. Text and supporting photography © Emma Boden.