It would be tough for me to think backwards about what was served in each plate or bowl. I could imagine, of course, but I wouldn’t stop myself from thinking that the rectangular tray from the Lufthansa Rosenthal collection makes for a great soap-dish. Or that the Cathay Pacific Noritake bowl can be a watercolour brush dip. That is not my intention to collect these objects. As a designer of accessories, there is a lot to learn from the airline ceramics industry.
Respecting the tight constraints of airplane space, the basic function of eating & plating and the brand identity to be put forth, each airline has in the past and continues to present remarkably new products for dining in the skies. Not just the ceramics for the first and business class but for the entire domain of eating implements and cutlery as well. Add inflight furnishings, grooming and toiletry kits and you have a design category that literally stretches across continents. The fact that most of the ceramics are required to be white would not make the designer’s task any easier. So you come across great examples of form, shape, the occasional colour, texture and subtle print patterns.
Which is why I respect flea markets and even ebay – they teach and speak, if you’re listening. Products, often surprising ones, land up there possibly at the end of their primary life cycles. Books, ceramics such as these, cutlery, tools, watches, gadgets. To think about why they landed up there is only the beginning of imagining what their contributions to their users and owners was like. Almost to the dawn of the understanding that ownership is a hollow term and belief. Everything moves on.
Photo © Harpreet Padam