|The Briggs Family Tea Service represents the marriage of George Briggs, a free settler to Tasmania, to Woretermoeteyenner of the Pairrebeenne people, and the four children they had together. The tea service brings together the materials common for water holding to each culture: porcelain in Britain and bull kelp in Tasmania, representing the beginnings of a hybrid culture.||
Trent Jansen’s tea service consists of a teapot, milk jug, sugar bowl and three cups. Each piece of the set represents a member of the Briggs Family, which was formed during the turbulent early decades of Van Diemen’s Land. For Jansen, the Briggs family depicts a microcosm of the many varied relationships colonial and Aboriginal people forged during this period of Australian history.
The teapot and sugar bowl represent the parents, father George Briggs of Dunstable in Bedfordshire and mother, Woretermoeteyenner of the Pairrebeenne people of north-east Van Diemen’s Land.
The physical characteristics of these two objects are defined by the hybrid life that Briggs and Woretermoeteyenner were forced to adopt, in order to survive the abrupt cultural collision that defined Van Diemen’s Land early in the colonial period.
Woretermoeteyenner, born in the mid 1790s, was an important member of the Pairrebeenne people of north-east Van Diemen’s Land – her father was Mannalargenna, the leader of the Pairrebeenne. By 1810 Woretermoeteyenner was living with George Briggs, bearing five children to him within the ten years that followed. Woretermoeteyenner was forced to adapt to a way of life that merged her traditional cultural values with the new priorities of the sealer colonies. After finding foster families for her children, Woretermoeteyenner spent her life trying to maintain contact with them.
George Briggs was born in Dunstable, Bedfordshire in 1791, and migrated to Van Diemen’s Land, a free settler at the age of fifteen. It is hard to imagine now exactly what kind of young adult George Briggs would have been, but clearly he was adventurous and wild.
Briggs was one of the original Eastern Straits-men, living rough and exposed to the elements on Clarke Island. Briggs learned to speak the language of the local Pairrebeenne people, trading tea, flour and sugar for kangaroo, wallaby and seal skins. Through their frequent exchanges and proximity it is thought that Briggs and the leader of the Pairrebeenne, Mannalargenna, became friends, and eventually Briggs was partnered with his daughter Woretermoeteyenner. It is difficult to know how this partnership was formed, but some suggest that Woretermoeteyenner was traded for dogs, flour, seal carcasses, Mutton Birds and sugar – some of the most valuable commodities of the day.
Dolly Mountgarret Briggs is represented through the milk jug and the three teacups are representations of John, Eliza and Mary Briggs.
Dolly was born at Port Dalrymple in 1812, and is said to be the first mixed race child with an Indigenous Australian parent born in the colony. Before she was two years old, Dolly was given to Dr. Jacob Mountgarret and his wife Bridget. Growing up, Dolly was said to have seen her mother regularly, and was taught much of her family’s Pairrebeenne traditions.
While John lived a relatively fortunate life, Eliza and Mary spent their early childhood moving from one foster home to the next. Both spent periods on the street, with Eliza ending up in a benevolent hospital and Mary finding herself in prison for vagrancy. John grew to be an old man, but both Eliza and Mary died as young as twenty-one years of age.
The form of each cup reflects Jansen’s interpretation of the first years of each child’s life, and their ability to find happiness in their later years.
Jansen pursued relationships with the best makers of traditional processes for all elements of the tea service. By working with Rod Bamford on the ceramic elements, Oliver Smith for the brass and copper and Vicki West – an artist who makes objects using the traditional methods of her Tasmanian Aboriginal ancestors – for the bull kelp elements, the Briggs Family Tea Service brings together experts in the materials used by both cultures.
The peculiar process of starting with a historical story as the foundation for a design outcome, which is at the heart of Broached Commissions, is perfectly suited to Trent Jansen’s narrative driven design practice. Little stories – everything from lovers kissing to the relationship between mother and child – are at the heart of everything Jansen creates.
Trent Jansen graduated from the College of Fine Arts in Sydney Australia and trained under Marcel Wanders in 2004. Jansen’s work is strongly influenced by his time with the Marcel Wanders studio, and its focus on narrative derived design. The Pregnant Chair, designed for Moooi in the Netherlands, is an excellent example of how Jansen translates a personal story to a simple functional object.
Creating a number of highly popular stools and bike products from reclaimed materials has provided a mechanism for Jansen to deliver on his passion for sustainability.
Jansen’s design expertise has been commissioned by Edra in Italy, the State of Design Festival in Australia, The Substation in Singapore, Kaohsiung Design Festival in Taiwan and a number of private clients for the creation of bespoke made pieces.
Rod Bamford has created all of the ceramic elements of the Briggs Family Tea Service. Widely regarded as a pre-eminent Australian ceramicist, the quality of Bamford's ceramic casting has brought an appreciation of the details of this complex piece that no one else practicing in Australia could have attained.
With a long track record designing his own ceramics, Rod Bamford's artwork has explored the aesthetics of tension between development, redundancy and waste, in exhibitions such as Insensible Landscape at the Kohler Company in the USA, in 1989 and Urban Debris at the National Gallery of Australia in 1992. Bamford has been awarded commissions, residencies, and awards - in 1999 his studio received an Australian Designex award - and participated in exhibitions and presented lectures internationally. Bamford's work is represented in major collections, including Sydney's Powerhouse Museum, the National Gallery of Australia, the National Gallery of Victoria, and museum collections in Europe, Asia, and the USA. As President of the Crafts Council of NSW, he led the establishment of the respected journal Object magazine.
Oliver Smith is a leading Australian gold and silversmith. With a family background in jewellery and metalwork, Oliver Smith began his tertiary studies in the Jewellery and Object Studio at Sydney College of the Arts, The University of Sydney, and completed his Bachelor of Visual Arts in 1995.
This was followed by a period of work experience - modeled on the traditional journeymanship - which saw him work for significant silversmiths and metalworkers in Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, Germany and England.
Returning to formal study in the Gold and Silversmithing Workshop at The Australian National University's School of Art, Smith gained First Class Honours in 2000, and a Master of Philosophy in 2003. The recipient of numerous awards and with a growing international profile, he now combines a vigorous craft and design practice with lecturing at Sydney College of the Arts.
Vicki West, born in 1960, is a Launceston based artist. Utilising a variety of mediums to create contemporary art, Vicki's work ranges from small individual forms to large-scale, often political installations. Vicki has exhibited extensively throughout Australia over the past decade and is represented in numerous public collections.
West grew up with her maternal, non-Aboriginal, grandmother Constance Milbourne who was a renowned craftswomen, learning many skills including weaving and basketry from an early age. She was first introduced to the tradition of Tasmanian Aboriginal basket weaving through a cultural workshop in the early 1990s.
A strong advocate for the sharing of traditional skills and knowledge within the Tasmanian Aboriginal community, West has been an active participant in a broad range of cultural projects, both in the Aboriginal community and more broadly over the past ten years, including her work as a tutor, mentor and artist within the tayenebe project.
From the outset, it was critical to Trent Jansen's vision for this piece that the elements of the tea set that represented Woretermoeteyenner and her children were created in concert with an Aboriginal Tasmanian artist or craftsperson. In Vicki West this design process found the perfect collaborator. West worked with Jansen on all bull kelp elements for the Tea Service, and was critical in deepening Jansen's understanding of the Briggs-Woretermoeteyenner story.