The composition of this tile directly relates to a Japanese blue and white ceramic flowerpot that was exhibited at the 1862 International Exhibition in London, showing the explicit influence of Japanese wares on Mintons’ production, an alliance that was reinforced with Dresser’s input. The Mintons factory archive holds two designs of flying cranes signed by Dresser.
For much of his career as an industrial designer, Christopher Dresser believed that symmetry was the perfect expression of natural order. Visits to Japan led to a new appreciation of asymmetry. Below this copper kettle, intertwined vine-like forms curl around the stand. This spontaneous line breaks from the rigidity of Dresser’s earlier style, as seen in the toast rack nearby.
Artist Richard Redgrave was the headmaster of the Government School of Design in London where he trained designers for industry and taught “art botany” to Christopher Dresser. Redgrave designed this carafe for Felix Summerly’s Art Manufactures, a company run by Henry Cole, who would work with Paxton on the Great Exhibition a few years later. The decoration follows the principles of design reform and thus reflects the functionality of the object—the painted plants seem to emerge from a spring when the carafe is filled with water.
The clean, angular form of this toast rack is characteristic of Dresser’s innovative designs—simple lines create the form and replace ornament. Dresser, unlike other design reformers of his era, used industrial methods to make good design more affordable: here, silver electroplating makes the precious material available to a broader range of consumers.
Dresser believed in an underlying order, unity, and symmetry derived from nature, and the stems and rivets of this toast rack are remarkably similar to his studies on branch growth, as seen in the facsimile drawing nearby. This is one of many silver and electroplated wares Dresser designed for Birmingham silversmiths Hukin & Heath. Dresser’s functional objects reveal not only his scientific background, but also his concern with limiting ornamentation to make objects affordable and suitable for serial production