Traveling tea set

Designer: Christopher Dresser (British, Glasgow, Scotland 1834–1904 Mulhouse)

Maker: for the firm of Hukin & Heath (British, Birmingham, 1855–1953)

Date: ca. 1879

Culture: British, Birmingham

Medium: Gilt and silver-plated brass; split bamboo; leather covered wood with velvet on the underside and glazed cotton linings

Dimensions: Height (tea kettle): 4 3/8 in. (11.1 cm);
Height (spirit lamp): 1 3/8 in. (3.5 cm);
Height (stand): 3 3/8 in. (8.6 cm);
Height (teapot): 3 1/2 in. (8.9 cm);
Height (sugar bowl): 2 1/8 in. (5.4 cm);
Height (milk jug): 2 in. (5.1 cm);
Height (tea caddy): 2 3/8 in. (6 cm)

Classification: Metalwork-Silverplate

Credit Line: Anonymous Gift, in memory of Walter E. Stait, 2000

Accession Number: 2000.594.1a, b–.8


This gilt silver-plated tea set was designed in the late 1870s by Christopher Dresser following his return from Japan. The concept for the smaller pieces fitting inside the kettle and teapot comes from the Japanese tradition of nesting boxes. The notion of economy of space follows Dresser's other design tenets that require economy of material, cost, and manufacture. Another Asian reference is the woven bamboo on the handle, which protects the hands when the vessels are heated. The influence of Dresser's Japanese experience is most noticeable in his new interest in form rather than pattern, which had preoccupied him in the 1860s and into the 1870s. Many of his metalwork designs reflect his penchant for simple forms inspired by Japanese wood, iron, and bronze examples. This set, a popular model, was produced in both sterling silver and electroplate for at least a decade.