Bowl, chopsticks and standManufacturer:
A R Wentworth (Sheffield) Ltd
Material and Medium: pewter
Department: Decorative Art
Accession Number: Virtual2007.110-113 204-205
This set of a pewter rice bowl, two pairs of chopsticks and a chopstick stand are part of a set named Oriental Dinner Service. The service was designed by Yassaman Tazehbahar, an Iranian designer who at the time was studying at Manchester Metropolitan University. It was manufactured by A R Wentworth (Sheffield) Ltd.
The bowl and matching chopsticks are called Sky and the chopsticks with the stand are called Omega. The bowl has integrated storage space for the chopsticks. This takes the form of four square shaped slots cut into the base of the dish. Tazehbahar's design won the prestigious Pewter Live Award and the Liberty Pewter Prize in 1997.
The design went on sale exclusively at Liberty's and Ernest Jones. Production ceased in 2000.
The Pewter Live Competition was, at the time this object won, jointly supported by Wentworth's and the Worshipful Company of Pewterers. It was open to second year undergraduates. From the initial round of entries, a short list of six designs was selected. The designers would create the prototype themselves. The winning designs would then be produced commercially.
Today, firms such as Wentworth's tend to select designers to work with, rather than particular products, through the Pewter Live competition process.
Revealing the object's Hidden History…
As part of the DCF funded Living Metal project, we visited Richard Abdy at AR Wentworth (Sheffield) Ltd to find out more about the Oriental Dinner Service. Wentworth's are one of the most important firms manufacturing pewter goods in Sheffield today.
Hidden History: how was it made?
The bowl was spun on a lathe from a flat circle of pewter. The rim was centrifugally cast as a strip, which was then bent round to fit the bowl and soldered into place. The three feet of the bowl were cast separately, aligned and soldered into place. This was a rather complex method, so to simplify the process the feet were later produced as a single casting.
The chopsticks and stand were also cast. Two chopsticks were produced at a time in each casting. The chopsticks and stand were then cleaned and polished. On the side of the stand is the designer's name 'Yassi' in stylised Arabic lettering.
Hidden History: what other designs did Tazehbahar produce with Wentworth's?
Wentworth's made another series of bowls with the designer that was also retailed exclusively at Liberty's. It included a honey dipper and bowl, a covered sugar bowl and a tea caddy.
Hidden History: Richard Abdy's thoughts on the contemporary pewter market…
The production of designer goods in pewter is a constantly growing market. Wentworth's was among the first pewter manufacturers to work with named designers to create contemporary products that push the boundaries of the industry.
There is strong competition from the Far East for the manufacture of traditional goods, such as tankards and flasks, which can be produced and sold very cheaply due to very low labour costs. However, the Far East cannot compete in the designer end of the market.
Richard believes that the designer pewter market "will become increasingly important". Despite this he finds that "it is difficult to strike the balance to move things forward", as firms, craftsmen and sellers are so used to traditional pewter products rather than modern designs.
Hidden History: about Richard Abdy…
"I have been around ARW [AR Wentworth (Sheffield) Ltd] since my childhood, my father having worked for and later owning Wentworth's. After leaving University in 1996 I came to Wentworth's "before getting a proper job" and I never left. My job covers all aspects of the pewter trade with the pursuit of new design in pewter being the best part of the job".
When did chopsticks begin to be used in China?
Chopsticks have a very long history in China. Evidence suggests that they were in wide use by 400 BC. In China the word for chopsticks can be loosely translates as "quick little fellows". Chinese and Japanese meals are most often composed of small, bite-size pieces in addition to rice, meaning that the food cools quickly. The advantage of chopsticks means meals can be served piping hot and eaten relatively quickly.
Most Chinese chopsticks are 25 to 30 cm in length and are about the same thickness as a pencil. Children begin to be trained in the use of chopsticks at age four or five. Prior to that, they are permitted to use a spoon. Children's chopsticks are smaller than those used by adults and can be as short as 12 cm. Chopsticks of up to 50 cm in length are sometimes used by a host or hostess to pass food to guests at a meal.
A large number of materials have been used to make chopsticks over time, ranging from bamboo and wood, to more precious materials such as jade, ivory, gold and silver. In China, wealthy families sometimes used ivory chopsticks tipped at the ends with silver. The reason for this choice was that it was thought silver would turn black if it came into contact with a harmful substance, thus offering protection against poisoning.
On a table setting, chopsticks are placed either to the right or below a small, central plate. The soup bowl is placed to the upper right of the plate with the soup spoon placed within it. A bowl of rice is placed directly onto the plate. The same pair of chopsticks is retained throughout a meal. A small rest is often used to prevent soiling of the table or tablecloth. The bowl is held in the left hand, oriented towards your face and the chopsticks are used to quickly pass food to your mouth.
Chopsticks can also be used to signal different stages of a meal. At the start of the meal, the host raises his or her chopsticks over their rice bowl as an invitation to others to start eating. At the end of a meal, chopsticks should be placed parallel to each other on the top of the rice bowl to indicate that you are finished eating, in a gesture reminiscent of the placing of a fork and knife onto an empty plate at the end of a meal.
Evidence suggests that chopsticks began to be used in Japan around 500 AD. They are called hashi (bridge) as the sticks were viewed as a symbolic bridge between the bowl and mouth. Unlike Chinese chopsticks which have rounded ends, Japanese chopsticks have a tapered end. They are most often made of lacquered wood and some examples are inlaid with mother of pearl or gilt. Japanese chopsticks are shorter than those used in China. If food reaches beyond the lower 2 cm of the chopsticks, it is thought to be an indication of sloppy eating and bad etiquette.
The use of chopsticks in Japanese Buddhist cremation ceremonies has lead to certain dining rituals and taboos. One example is that a diner will never pass food to another person with his own chopsticks. This is seen as reminiscent of the Buddhist ritual in which bone fragments of the deceased are picked from the funeral pyre with ceremonial chopsticks and passed among the family members. Chopsticks are never placed upright in a bowl of rice, as this has links with death. A mourning family will place a bowl of uncooked rice by the family altar as an offering to the deceased and will stand the deceased's chopsticks upright in the bowl. If on a picnic, wooden, disposable chopsticks are taken along and broken when finished eating to avoid them being used for mischief.
It is also considered to be bad form to hover over bowls of food with your chopsticks whilst deciding what to eat. You must first decide what you wish to take and then move your chopsticks accordingly. Other examples of bad etiquette in Japan are licking chopsticks, using your mouth to remove rice that has stuck to your chopsticks, not eating a mouthful of rice between every two bites of meat or vegetables and putting food back into a serving dish from your plate. Rice must also never be left in the bowl at the end of the meal.