With his squat yet elongated silver sugar bowl, Charles Robert Ashbee (1863–1942) created a vivid embodiment of the mindset of the Guild of Handicraft that he had inspired. Despite its sleek overall shape, the bowl boasts precious details crafted meticulously by hand.
The silver objects produced by the multitalented English designer Charles Robert Ashbee for the tables of the haute bourgeoisie consist of elaborate creations such as this elegant sugar bowl. The main attraction for both hand and eye is the lid with its knob in the shape of a hollowed-out poppy capsule. A mother-of-pearl inlay enriches this knob with a bright crown, which stands out as particularly decorative against the lid’s enameled inlay through which creased silver foil shines through. The oversize handles that jut far out to either side arise organically from the round base and flow back into the upper edge of the bowl. Their upward bulge fits perfectly in the hand. An inlay of green glass protects the interior of the metal vessel from oxidative substances such as sugar. Exterior fingerprints and other markings were unavoidable and only removable through polishing. Trained as an architect, Ashbee worked as an interior designer, silversmith, craftsman, art theoretician, and poet. In 1888, he encouraged the founding of the School of Handicraft and the affiliated Guild of Handicraft as a way for English craftsmen to cooperate in the production and dissemination of modern, high-quality handmade objects of daily use as counterparts to industrial mass-produced goods. Similar organizations on the European continent followed the model of this craft guild, such as the Wiener Werkstätte and the Manufaktur Amstelhoek in Omval near Amsterdam. (Sabine Flaschberger)