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March Issue 2003
McKissick Museum in Columbia, SC, Features Graniteware
Did your mother or grandmother cook with and serve from speckled-gray or mottled-blue metal pans, bowls and coffeepots? Today, it is more likely to stumble across chipped examples of the enamelware or graniteware in flea markets and antique shops because of its popularity as a collectible.
Through Mar. 9, 2003, the best place to see examples of graniteware - both American and European examples - is at the University of South Carolina's McKissick Museum in Columbia, SC.
Enamelware: Art for All is one of the first exhibits of enamelware in the US, and it features more than 100 pieces from the private collections of Ilona and Charles Mack, who began collecting it as well as Bunzlauer pottery, during a trip to Germany in 1992. The Macks' favorite pieces on display are European examples from their collection, which include a large teakettle with Dutch scene and lilies, a delft-scene coffee pot, a little sugar bowl with Dutch children and a charming blue creamer with white flowers.
"We started out just getting a few representative pieces on trips back to Germany and from antique shops and malls in the United States," said Mack, who added that Ilona is the primary collector of the enamelware, while he concentrates on the pottery. "It rapidly became a collecting passion."
Called graniteware because of its color pattern and durability, the cookware appeared on the cooking scene in the early 19th century as a product of "Industrial Age" technologies and mass production. While Americans favored the simplicity of the speckled-gray or mottled-blue surfaces, Europeans preferred elaborate decorations. Early in the 20th century, floral and curvilinear motifs of the art-nouveau movement dominated. In the 1920s and 1930s, decoration took the more geometric forms of art deco. By the 1950s, enamelware had fallen out of favor when newer materials, such as plastic and aluminum, became popular for kitchen bowls and pans.
Why is American enamelware so plain next to its European counterpart? Mack suggests that it is in part because of Europe's tradition of fine ceramics, such as Sevres and Meissen, which laid the groundwork for mass-produced enameled metalware. He also says it may have to do with the availability of talented decorators in Europe to paint the designs on the sheet-metal forms.
"Here, in the United States, the emphasis was purely upon function, as if aesthetic considerations were un-American," said Mack.
For more information check our SC Institutional Gallery listings, call the museum at 803/777-7251, or on the web at (www.cla.sc.edu/MCKS).
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