Spoon holder

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

Manufactory: Hukin & Heath (British, Birmingham, 1855–1953) (London and Birmingham)

Date: ca. 1878–81

Culture: British, Birmingham or London

Medium: Silver-plated brass, ebony

Dimensions: 5 11/16 × 6 1/8 in. (14.4 × 15.6 cm)

Classification: Metalwork-Silverplate

Credit Line: Purchase, Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, by exchange, 1988

Accession Number: 1988.164


In his long and varied career, Christopher Dresser was an ornamentalist, a lecturer in botany, and a designer of silver, ceramics, glass, furniture, and textile patterns. Like his contemporary William Morris (1834–1896), he believed that it took an artist, not just a craftsman, to create good design. However, unlike Morris, who shunned industrial production, Dresser had his designs manufactured by firms scattered between London and Glasgow. Although this spoon holder has not been traced to a particular design by Dresser, it is typical of the streamlined models produced for him by Hukin & Heath.

Like much of Dresser's output for Hukin & Heath, as well as for Elkington's and James Dixon & Sons, other silversmithing and electroplating firms, the spoon holder (spoon warmer or egg coddler) reflects Dresser's penchant for Japanese metalwork. The simple form with applied legs and feet expresses an economy in manufacture, and the modest material adheres to Dresser's desire to produce well-designed, affordable objects. The straight ebony handle and "crow's feet," elements that Dresser frequently employed, reflect his dependence upon Japanese prototypes for aesthetic direction.