Art in the kitchen

"The thought came to me of a kettle that told you stories while you made your tea in the morning." Alison Page

The AFR's weekend luxury magazine Life and Leisure normally takes about a minute to skim, because it's aimed at rich people and just creates envy and minor despair in the hearts of those who look at it - namely me. I am never going to buy dresses that cost thousands of dollars or travel to exotic places that don't even say how much it costs to stay there. Nevertheless it does sometimes have interesting on articles on things associated with food and drink - well other things too, but I'm not really much into cars, watches or tech stuff. And last weekend it had an article about a new initiative from Breville - a limited edition range of their appliances that have been decorated by a small group of Aboriginal artists, mostly from Central Australia. The associated website is rather beautiful and full of statements from the heart as it were.


The idea has been long in gestation in the head of Alison Page, Head of the National Aboriginal Design Agency and an Associate Professor in Design at UTS. She is an Aboriginal woman herself, and in a chance meeting with Richard Hoare, Breville's Director of Design and Innovation at a wedding she told him about it. It was set aside but revived ten years later and now the project is complete and the appliances are on sale. More expensive than the normal I suppose - the kettle is $349, but not outrageously so if you want something special and/or different.

Of course each individual item is not individually painted - the originals were taken to the chosen artists and painted in their studios. This is Warlimpirrnga Tjapaltjarri doing the design for the smaller coffee machine. Breville later worked out a new process to imprint the original work on to the machines. The artists get copyright, a fee for the work and an ongoing cut as the items are sold. Also the entire profits for Breville are being donated to Aboriginal projects. And the customer also wins in that they get a pretty unique piece of kitchen equipment and:


"In the heavyweight coffee table book that comes free with each purchase from the range, readers are encouraged to think of their morning coffee as a similarly meaningful ritual." Dan F. Stapleton - AFR


"Similarly' here referring to the rituals depicted in the artists' works.


But my intent was not really to give a free plug for Breville - besides I haven't got thousands of readers, so any plugging I might do will go to a tiny audience. Also, although I do like Aboriginal art - well some of it, I'm not particularly enamoured of this lot. Maybe the toaster. No it was more that it made me reflect on the place of art in the kitchen, and also a tiny bit on that ritual thing.


Let's deal with the ritual first, because I think this will be brief. You see I don't have that many food related rituals, and what I do have - my cup of coffee and toast and jam in bed in the morning are really the result of my lovely husband's ritual preparation and gift of it. I merely receive and enjoy - and wake up. I do have other rituals in the day but I don't think any of them are food related. Although I do find peace and satisfaction in the preparation of food, with the satisfaction increased if the result is as hoped for and also appreciated. I think I had more of that sort of thing when I was a mum and a worker. Rituals are so often tied to other people are they not? And now I have only one person with whom to share the ritual.


Do I need to have a piece of art to assist in this though? And is there a place for art in the kitchen anyway?


Well first define the kind of art. Do we mean art on the wall? I suspect we don't often put art on the wall in the kitchen. I know I had every intention of getting some of my favourite food related photographs enlarged and hung on the kitchen walls, when we renovated the kitchen. The two below - my favourites from the home page, were prime contenders. But I have never mastered how to get enlargements produced in the digital age. Which is a huge confession to make. I know - just go to Office Works. Apple used to have a wonderful publishing service - we made several beautiful photo books from it, but they have abandoned it - as they have abandoned so many of the favourite bits of Apple software that I have used in the past.

I also made the mistake of asking David's opinion as to which photographs to choose but that was obviously a road to disagreement, and so it all got put on hold. Writing this post today though has made me think that I really should do this. I bought a whole lot of photo frames specifically for the purpose, and they are gradually being purloined by my husband, and occasionally my son for their purposes.


We don't often put photographs or paintings up in our kitchens do we? Maybe there is a small concern about grease and dirt, but that is just a matter of housework really. Pictures do make a difference. It's a long time ago now that I have moved house, but I know I always felt that we had finally moved into a new home when the pictures were on the wall. So yes, I should have another go.


What about art on the things we use in the kitchen though? I don't have many of those either. A mug or two is all I have I think. These are the things that are most chosen by the commercial world for decoration. I have now checked out kitchen appliances and utensils, and with a few exceptions - a Laura Ashley collection, a few items from Smeg, and aprons, oven gloves and tea towels galore from just about every art exhibition there has ever been, I did not find much. Well the craftworkers of Etsy have done a few things. Mostly to kettle for some reason. It must be the tea and/or coffee ritual thing.


The pots and pans, and sometimes appliances, are sometimes works of art in themselves of course. From the lavish gold, and silver, and otherwise crafted cutlery, crockery, implements and glass of the rich and famous, to the everyday knockoffs of Avanti designs.


And the artists themselves. They don't often paint kitchens, or kitchen things do they? Well there are still lives that use some kitchen things. And increasingly it seems, here I turn to Van Gogh, because if we are talking about the fusion of the kitchen, its objects and of art and its power to convey and inspire emotion then go no further than Van Gogh, who can put emotion into a simple painting of an earthenware pot - simply because of the juxtaposition of clogs, an almost empty bottle of wine and either a cloth or some bread. Poverty and depression I suppose, although the earthenware pot looks comforting. It shines with warmth. And the one below shows a whole life.

Apologies. I have rambled and not really said what I think I wanted to say, or anything profound anyway. I won't be buying an Aboriginally decorated Breville appliance, but I approve wholeheartedly if it helps solve the great unsolvable problem of Australia. If only for a few.


However I shall think about photo enlargements for my kitchen.



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