At Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum Arts and Crafts Museum

Comfort Boxes

Muffin dish designed by C R Ashbee and made by the Guild of Handicraft, around 1900The muffin dish was designed by Ashbee and made by the Guild of Handicraft. It is made from hammered silver-plated metal with a detachable lid mounted with a finial of five silver wirework scrolls. The stone is a pink cabochon-cut stone.

This dish designed for keeping muffins or other breakfast dishes warm sold at £2 5s, or £3 5s with a hot-water jacket in about 1900. It is simple in style but encapsulates so many of the Arts and Crafts Movement principles. The hammered appearance of the metal reflects the hand production of this piece, a metal disk hammered, or planished, over a wooden form.

The metal was then gently annealed, or heated, to relax the tensions, which build in metal if it is continuously worked. If this piece had been mass-produced the metal disk would have been spun on a lathe and pressed over a form giving a smooth finish to the metal, or pressed between two moulds. In Victorian industrial and mass produced terms the more highly polished and smooth the appearance the more highly the piece was prized. Planishing by hand is obviously more time consuming and hammer marks bear witness to the honesty of its production.

The plainness of the dish is the complete opposite of the late nineteenth century over-elaborate and jumbled design styles beloved by the Victorians. The cabochon stone on the finial is a simple rub-over stone for setting in a bezel. A faceted cut gem would have required a much more elaborate claw setting to allow light to reflect through the stone. The cabochon stone shape was often found naturally in nature and was widely used throughout Medieval jewellery design, the technology for cutting facets on stones came much later.

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