Opening Hours

Café, galleries and shop: Tuesday – Sunday 11am – 5pm

House: Tuesday – Sunday 12  – 5pm

Free, timed entry tickets to the House are available at the information desk on arrival or online here.

Last entry to the House is at 4.30pm

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+44 (0)1223 748 100
mail@kettlesyard.cam.ac.uk

 

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Find out What’s On at Kettle’s Yard here.

 

In collaboration with the University of Cambridge Museums, Artist: Unknown brings together works of art from across the University’s collections. A podcast series has been produced to run alongside the exhibition, and we will be taking a closer look at some of the objects discussed.

Eliza Spindel, co-curator of the Artist: Unknown exhibition at Kettle’s Yard, discusses the inclusion of a tea bowl in the fourth Artist: Unknown podcast. Kettle’s Yard is a place full of objects by unknown makers. Jim Ede famously placed stones and found objects alongside works of art by celebrated artists such as Joan Miró, Alfred Wallis and Barbara Hepworth.

When Jim Ede left Kettle’s Yard to the University of Cambridge, he did so with the understanding that it would, as much as possible, remain the same. Subsequently, very little is added to the collection, unless it particularly fits with the House as Jim left it. The tea bowl that is included in the exhibition was added to Kettle’s Yard in 1999 as it was thought to be a William Staite Murray (a 20th-century British potter who already had work inside the House).

However, it was a visitor who later suggested the tea bowl was actually Chinese in origin. Upon further research, it was revealed that the bowl was produced sometime between 1127 and 1279 by the Southern Song Dynasty in China. This is almost 1000 years earlier than the bowl was originally dated.

The rise in popularity of tea drinking during this period led to a huge amount of tea bowls such as this one being produced. Eliza discusses how the bowl in question is perfectly made for the:

“ritual and aesthetics of tea drinking, from the shape and size, designed to fit perfectly in cupped hands, to the thickness of the clay to stop the tea from cooling too quickly.”

The potter who made this tea bowl would have been an expert, using a Hare Fur glaze to create the downward lines and texture that resembles animal fur. Each bowl produced would have been completely unique.

This ceramic could also be thought of as a hybrid object. The rim has been mended and decorated with gold – a popular Japanese technique called kintsugi. This technique only came about in the late 16th century, so was always a later addition. This would suggest that multiple hands had worked on this object, across centuries and perhaps even continents.

But does it matter that this object wasn’t what it was originally thought to be – a genuine Staite Murray ceramic – but instead a tea bowl with an unknown maker? Does that mean it should or shouldn’t remain in the collection at Kettle’s Yard? Make up your mind by listening to the podcast and visiting the exhibition.

Listen to the podcasts here.