He’s an artist, curator, illustrator and the owner of Cape Town’s Chandler House and its Voorkamer Gallery – and we love Michael Chandler’s work. As soon as we began to discuss this year’s Kitchen Issue, we knew that Michael would be the ideal collaborator for us.
‘I think the one aspect I love about blue and white ceramics the most – apart from the immediate positive stimulation they give me – is their rich and complex history,’ says Michael.
‘Thought to have originated in Islamic decoration, the technology of painting ceramics with cobalt spread to Asia and Europe, where each culture used the method in its own way,’ he says. ‘The Portuguese azulejo tradition and Chinese tableware are only two branches of the cobalt tree. Japanese, Dutch and English craftspeople were soon making their own takes on blue and white, and after transferware reached Stoke-on-Trent in the UK, the Willow pattern created there became the most reproduced image in the world. Almost every culture has taken this form of decoration and used it to bring joy to the everyday.’
1. on shards & fragments
‘Collecting porcelain shards is an obsession of mine,’ says Michael. ‘I have childhood memories of finding these little domestic mishaps and, as an adult, I’ve begun to understand that fragments are laden with meaning. Each shard represents a small piece of a whole that has experienced a traumatic event. As much as people try to throw away shards, they don’t disappear; ceramics don’t rot, rust or decompose. And while each piece tells a small story of its own, it’s when you line them up with others that a more complex narrative emerges. Stories from the past are a lot like shards; they each have their own voice, but can also be “stitched together” to create a fuller understanding of something bigger.’ Follow @sharder_ct.
2. on creating Curate
‘For the Curate shoot (page 29), I wanted to create a banquet of flowers, homeware, art and ceramics – to treat the table as if it were a space or room that reflected the taste of its (metaphorical) owner. And if there were an owner, they would probably resemble a Karoo version of [Charles Dickens’ famous character] Miss Havisham. I have also woven some references to Easter into this story due to the timing of the magazine’s publication, as well as themes that speak of the water crisis-related Day Zero that the Western Cape is facing at the time of going to print,’ says Michael. Follow @mrchandlerhouse.
3. on painting the cover
The cover image for this issue began with Michael painting a set of ceramic tiles with an image inspired by the kitchen in Jacques Erasmus’ home (page 52). The tiles were fired and the complete set photographed to create the cover. ‘All the evidence suggests that the appeal of blue and white is universal and widespread,’ says Michael, ‘and I hope my work makes people happy as well as forming another branch of the spreading canopy that is the glorious cobalt ceramic tradition.’ Michael’s blue and white work includes everything from large murals to dishes, and he recently created his very own Cape Willow pattern plates. Visit chandlerhouse.co.za.