Kettle and spirit-burner
Electroplated silver, designed by Christopher Dresser, made by Hukin & Heath, Birmingham, 1878
Dresser's designs for metalwork and ceramics were well ahead of their time. They must have appeared revolutionary to late Victorian eyes. His pieces, such as the example here, made deliberate use of the mechanised production methods which many Arts and Crafts designers found so distasteful.
Christopher Dresser was undoubtedly one of the 19th century's most innovative designers. Born in Glasgow, he went on to attend the Government School of Design in London. Here he was in contact with most of the well-known designers of the day. He began his career as an accomplished botanist, but became interested in design around 1860. His list of employers included such well-known names as Wedgwood, Elkington and Minton.
In 1876 he travelled to Japan to help set up the new Japanese Imperial Museum. After his return from the east, his designs became more conceptual and abstract because of the influences he had seen on his travels. He continued to design in many media - glass, ceramic, fabrics and wallpaper in Europe and the USA, right up to his death.
The kettle is a good example of his approach to object design. It is very functional with a broad base, tapering upwards for stability, an important consideration with burning fuel and boiling liquid. The spout is set at a right angle to the handle, for ease of pouring. Its design stems from the knowledge of how it will be used.
Purchased with the assistance of the National Art Collections Fund, 2000