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The Utensil

  • Harbourfront Centre Toronto 235 Queens Quay West Toronto, ON, M5J 2G8 Canada (map)

Lana Filippone - Teerex Corn Cob Holders, 2012. Porcelain. Photo: Nick Chase

The Utensil
Anne Barros, Bettie Cott & Shane Weaver, Lana Filippone, Iron Design Company, Jay Joo, Teresa O’Grady-Dunlop, Anneke van Bommel and Andrée Wejsmann
Curated by Melanie Egan

September 26 - December 24, 2015

We all have to eat. Human invention and necessity lead to the development of specific utensils – essentially, extensions of our fingers and hands – to assist with eating and preparing food. Hail to the corn-cob holder! Utensils have endeavoured to civilize humanity, and they certainly have shaped the social mores and manners of cultures world-wide.

Knives and spoons are ancient; however, the fork is a relative newcomer to the table. The handy bottle opener arrived on the scene in late 19th century America, and beer drinkers rejoiced. During 16th century England, Queen Elizabeth I ignited a penchant for gingerbread cookies and an appetite for fancy cookie-cutters flourished.

The ubiquitous fork was once considered a sinister device in the late 18th century – an affectation, effeminate and gendered. Cutlery technically refers to cutting implements only, but is now regarded as a catch-all phrase for flatware; and multi-purpose hybrids have been designed for convenience, or perhaps sheer amusement, such as the spork, the spife, the knork, and the sporf.

Taboos are intimately entwined with our use of utensils. As Margaret Visser in her book The Rituals of Dinner asserts, “table manners are…a system of taboos designed to ensure that violence remains out of the question.” After all, knives with sharp points used to be brought to the table. Don’t lick your knife and certainly don’t pick your teeth with your knife!

Over-the-top etiquette rules flaunted by 19th century upper-class Europeans, gave rise to a condition called “fork-anxiety”; used to describe the stress experienced by people confronted by a table laid with a vast array of flatware.

Hopefully these eight artists will alleviate anxiety with an eclectic array of utensils to make our experience with food and eating all the more pleasant.

– Melanie Egan, Head, Craft & Design

More details on the artists.

Harbourfront Centre


Earlier Event: September 26
Glass Beads: Try it!
Later Event: September 26
Pottery for Kids