Spoons Galore

Image: Spoons Galore by Claire Ireland

Playing the spoons

Guest blog by Robert Eagle

William Archibald Spooner (1844-1930) was a rather nervous clergyman from Oxford University who had a funny kind of stammer. He would unwittingly transpose the beginnings of words and end up saying something very different from what he intended to say.

At a wedding, for instance, he is reputed to have asked: Is it kisstomary to cuss the bride? He is alleged to have congratulated a fellow cyclist for having a well boiled icicle. And at a posh event at his college attended by Queen Victoria he is said to have surprised his colleagues by proposing a loyal toast to our queer old dean.

Actually poor Spooner almost certainly never uttered these words himself, but the apocryphal stories have stuck and spoonerism is now a popular verbal sport among shining wits like us folks in the media.

So it was with a trisson of frepidation that I greeted the Editor’s invitation to report on an event at Boston Manor titled “Swanky Spoons”. Could this really mean what the ghost of Dr Spooner was telling me?  Surely not?!?!  But if so, what should I wear? Should I take a partner? And was it going to hurt?

But when I went to do a recce, the nice people at Boston Manor assured me there was nothing to be afraid of, that the only special clothing likely to be necessary would be a smock or an old pair of jeans. And it would be totally suitable for children.

For Swanky Spoons is a have-fun-and-get-your-hands-dirty family event, on Sunday 2 June, that is really about what the title says: making posh, impressive, bizarre, eccentric and just plain crazy spoons.

Boston Manor is currently dedicated to spoonery of all sorts. The person largely to blame for this is resourceful local ceramicist Claire Ireland who has a studio at the Museum of Water and Steam in Brentford.

Back in 2020 she thought it would be fun to get friends and neighbours interested in pottery by making spoons, which were one of the earliest practical sculptural objects to be created by human hand.

During the lockdown this project blossomed into the Brentford Spoon Project; after starting off making spoons from clay, it developed into a multi-media enterprise with spoons being created by over 120 participants from all over the world out of just about every material you can imagine a spoon being made of.

And while some of the spoons still look as if they might still just about serve a practical use as actual spoons, many have moved deeply into art object territory or seem to be designed for some arcane magical purpose.

Since the end of March more than 500 spoons have been on display in the Brentford Spoon Project exhibition at Boston Manor, which is free to visit, as is the whole of this elegant historic house. It continues until September 8th.

Swanky Spoons is just one of a series hands-on events and talks organised by Claire Ireland and her colleagues during this period.

What you can be sure about with spoons is that they are bound to be stirring stuff. And I defy Dr Spooner to mess with that!

Robert Eagle is an art dealer who lives and works in Chiswick.


Book tickets for the Spoons Galore workshop on Sunday 2 June here: Brentford Spoon Project family craft

See detailes of Claire’s talks on Sunday 9 June and Sunday 14 July here: Artist talks at Boston Manor

Brentford Spoons Project Instagram: brentfordspoonproject

Claire Ireland, ceramicist: claireirelandceramics.com

Boston Manor house: bostonmanorhouse.org

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