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Sugar bowl with spoon (part of three-piece tea service on stand)
Charles Crowley (born in 1958)
Object Place: Waltham, Massachusetts, United States
6.7 x 16.3 cm (2 5/8 x 6 7/16 in.)
Medium or Technique
Not On View
The wide, spun conical form is smallest at the opening and expands to a broad base. A disk soldered to the body has been machined to blend with the acute angle of the form. A narrow cylinder is are used as a sugar spoon, with a hollow triangular form bridging the gap between cylinder and vessel. The vessel has a small circular lid with one flat side. The lid has flanges and rectangular finials soldered along its length, with a notch cut that faces the flat side of the lid.
The handle on the sugar bowl is a flat, solid, hemispherical disk, with a notch removed near the base, and it is seated within a seamed triangular wedge soldered to the body.
Charles Crowley is committed to producing innovative hollowware forms. To do so, he uses milling machines and lathes instead of stake and hammer. He was among the first contemporary studio artists to set aside the ancient traditions of the craft — which have placed a high premium on method and its aesthetic effects — in favor of industrial methods and appearances. What matters to Crowley is the idea; the execution is simply a means to that end. First, he shapes the vessel by machine. Then he uses traditional skills, mastered while a student of the Program in Artisanry at Boston University (B.F.A., 1984), to achieve his vision.
For this tea service on stand, Crowley spun the forms and milled the accompanying frame before proceeding with detailed work. The resulting appearance is one of hovering shapes at rest on slender towers, a delicate equipoise made dynamic by the arching teapot handle and the sleek profiles hinting at speed and modernity. With its highly reflective surface and machined forms, the service is characteristic of the artist’s oeuvre. It addresses a modern sensibility, just as the painted surfaces and playful, sometimes illogical, details (as in the sugar handle masquerading as a spout) aim to amuse and engage.
Recently, metal-based furniture and lighting have taken up more of Crowley’s time, partly because he has not found a ready market for his hollowware. In a lecture presented to the Society of North American Goldsmiths in 2000, Crowley acknowledged the difficulty of contemporary silversmiths to earn a living making hollowware. He challenged artists to find new ways of expressing themselves in hollowware, thereby controlling their future in the field.
Recognition of Crowley’s distinctive interpretation of contemporary silver came early, with a third-place award in Towle’s Sterling Silver Design Competition (1983). Among later honors, Crowley received a fellowship from the Massachusetts Council for the Arts (1986); a first-prize award in the Fortunoff Sterling Silver Design Competition (1990); and a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts (1993). A one-man exhibition, organized by the Wetsman Collection of Birmingham, Michigan, traveled from 1991 to 1992.
This text has been adapted from “Silver of the Americas, 1600-2000,” edited by Jeannine Falino and Gerald W.R. Ward, published in 2008 by the MFA. Complete references can be found in that publication.
“Charlie Crowley / 1987.” in the artist’s script incised on bottom
Created by the artist in 1987 and made a gift to the Museum by the donors.
Gift of Anne and Ronald Abramson