Have you ever wanted to surgically dissect your dinnerware? If you’re like most people, probably not. You just want to eat off your pretty china in peace, quietly admiring the decoration peeking out under your meal. But if you’re U.K. ceramicist Beccy Ridsdel, you’ve spent a lot of time taking forceps and scalpels to cutesy floral plates and mugs.
In Ridsdel’s macabre installation, like a kitchen edition of Nip/Tuck, an unseen “surgeon” dissects objects of bone china, peeling back their surfaces to see what’s inside. But instead of finding plate guts or teacup blood, he just finds further layers of pretty floral patterns.
The project aims to address the age-old debate over what constitutes art versus craft. “I think craft is technical and art is meaningful,” Ridsdel writes on her website. “For ceramicists, this can be a big issue as ceramics are almost universally seen as craft.” Ceramics are valued as functional aesthetic objects, but we don’t often think of them as meaningful. When the imaginary surgeon tries to see what’s inside Ridsdel’s ceramics, “he finds craft through and through,” Ridsdel writes in her artist statement. “He tries the experiment again and again, piling up the dissected work, hoping to see something different but it is always the same.” By conducting this bloodless surgical experiment, Ridsdel turned a table full of craft objects into an artwork in its own right. “It had a point beyond the technique, beyond the things themselves,” she writes.
The nightmarish combination of wholesome tea-party wares with the grisly act of dissection also wryly comments on our cultural obsession with plastic surgery, the willingness to go through grim procedures to achieve perfect exteriors. You might never look at that heirloom tea set the same way again.