J. Alfred Prufrock, the title character in T.S. Eliot’s poem about the existential doldrums of a life lived under crushing routine, moans that he has “known the evenings, mornings, afternoons / I have measured out my life with coffee spoons.”
Consider, perhaps, the possibility of revolution contained in that coffee spoon. What if social resistance could foment in a teacup, a sugar bowl, or a dessert tray?
This weekend the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia will host a workshop of politicized pottery, describing the rise of independent fervor in the domestic household, mostly by women.
Take, for example, the pickle stand: an arcane serving dish made of porcelain designed to show off pickled meats and seafood as ostensibly as possible. The multi-tier ceramic tower had small platforms, usually in the shape of seashells.
In the 18th century, porcelain was still largely an exotic, Asian material relatively new to the Western world. Difficult to manufacture on a large scale, colonists who wanted it in their homes had to have it imported.
The company Bonnin and Morris built a factory in South Philadelphia — the American China Manufactory — to manufacture high-quality porcelain, including pickle bowls, for the colonial market.
“There were highly ritualized dining practices in the 18th century. To own American porcelain was a symbol of your empathy for the cause,” said Michelle Erickson, a ceramic artist specializing in historic pottery. “It…