Monday, February 2, 2009

Christy sugar bowl | Christopher Dresser | Alessi, Italy | 1993

after: Model No. 247 Christopher Dresser Elkington & Co., United Kingdom ca. 1885

Christopher Dresser Christy bowl Christopher Dresser
Alessi, Italy, 1993

Christy Bowl Alessi’s reissue of Dresser’s classic in plastic and fab colors.

Christopher Dresser was born in Glasgow, Scotland on July 4, 1834. He is widely known as being Britain’s first independent industrial designer.

Dresser worked in a variety of materials including ceramics, glass, and metals. His early training at the Government School of Design from 1847 to 1854 prepared him to join art and science and in 1854 he became a lecturer in botany. He gave up botany in 1860 after being turned away from a chair position at the University of London and instead turned to design. He became enamored of Japanese culture and its influence can be seen in the fierce geometric patters of many of his designs. Dresser died on November 24, 1904 in Mulhouse/Alsace, France.

A utilitarian at heart, he would often standardize components to limit manufacturing costs. Such is the case with the sugar bowl, Model No. 247 for Elkington & Co. of Birmingham, England, circa 1885 which has three identical footed legs. Elkington was founded in the 1830s and secured one of the earliest patents for silver electroplate in 1836, thus providing a substitute for the real deal. The bowl was originally manufactured of silver electroplated on metal.

Christy bowl, silverplate

Christopher Dresser Sugar bowl, Model No. 247
Silver-plated metal (electroplate)
David Bonsall, Image Bank Ltd.
Photo: © 2001 Michael Whiteway

Exhibition information here.

Alessi has been said to have been taken by Dresser’s designs. Many remain in production by the company today. Alessi credits the design of Christy to Dresser (1864). There is some discrepancy with the attribution dates I’ve seen which is usually in the 1880s. Look at all the colors, chosen by Centro Studi Alessi! The bowl was produced as Model CD 01 in yellow, rose, green, anthracite, and blue, a “conical sugar bowl with feet in thermoplastic resin.” The bowl is 13 cm in diameter and 8.5 cm tall and holds a volume of 25 cl (8.5 oz) great for sugar as intended or a whole host of other knick-knacks. Surprisingly timeless, few would guess that its contours are well over a century old.

I went a little crazy grabbing this design, mainly because it’s cute, quaint, and works just about anywhere. I’ve got the green in my bathroom (an orange/yellow/green wonderland), the blue on my kitchen counter, and the yellow brand new in the box waiting for an excuse. Here’s the label on the yellow box.

Christy Label

Sadly, no longer in production. I would like to see one in transparent. The sky blue seems to be the most popular on eBay. They run about $30 there, with the sky blue a little more.

I wasn’t even aware that you could get one of these in purple, but when I saw it on eBay recently, I had to add it to my collection!  My final bid was $27.  I’ll update my original post on the Christy bowl to show the purple one as well.

Christy bowl, purple Here is the purple bowl.

 Christy bowl, Alessi marking Here is a scan of one of the zoomorphic legs of the bowl.  Only one of the three has the Alessi Italy marking, and contrast makes it very difficult to capture.

Christy bowl, slate Here is the bowl in slate gray, from the Fine Art Society in London via The Victorian WebImage source.  Unfortunately I don’t have this color…yet!

Selected Bibliography

Charlotte & Peter Fiell, Design of the 20th Century, p. 220.

Christopher Dresser. An Exhibition arranged by Richard Dennis and John Jesse. London: The Fine Art Society, 1972. Compare catalogue number 26.


Design Museum+ British Council, Christopher Dresser. Retrieved January 29, 2009, from Design Museum Web site: http://www.designmuseum.org/design/christopher-dresser

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