A Victorian Dining Accessory

Recovery Curriculum Resources from Leeds Museum and Galleries

This resource is designed to support a recovery curriculum and can be used in any education setting. It complements the ‘Supporting the Return to School for All Pupils’ guidance in Leeds and the PACE approach of playfulness, acceptance, curiosity and empathy.

Burmantofts' Pottery Frog Spoon-warmer

Playful

Spoon warmers were popular in Victorian houses as a way of keeping serving spoons warm. In large Victorian houses kitchens were often well away from dining rooms to keep unpleasant cooking smells away, so spoon warmers were used to help keep food warm.

The Leeds Fireclay Company or Burmantofts as it was known, made a variety of animals into spoon warmers.

  • What animals would your pupils choose? What properties does their animal need to have - wide mouth, long beak, big jaws?
  • Draw or sculpt their animal in the pose of a spoon warmer, with its mouth wide open. Burmantofts were well known for trying out new things. Experiment with different art techniques to make the animal’s texture of fur, feathers or scales. Gather a range of simple resources and let pupils pick how they are going to do this.

 

Acceptance

Burmantofts developed new styles of pottery but also took inspiration from other companies and cultures. This frog is thought to be inspired by frogs in traditional Japanese paintings and pottery. Frogs are considered lucky in Japanese culture as their name means return. Japanese frogs do not look like this in real life, but this is how Japanese artists portrayed them. Have a look at frogs or another animal in the art of different cultures and at different times. Every culture and time period has its own idea of art and beauty and that is ok!

 

Curiosity

  • Why do you think artists decided to give the frog a curly tail? Did potters in Leeds really think that Japanese frogs had tails? Or was it a joke?
  • Ask your pupils to write or perform a comedy sketch or funny monologue where Victorian potters try to convince each other to make more and more ridiculous animals.

Burmantofts bull frog planters have three legs - two at the front and one at the back. Any idea why?

  • Ask your class to move like an animal with three legs in these positions? How would such an animal dance?
  • Challenge your pupils to choreograph a short dance on three legs. What kind of music would a three legged frog dance to?
  • Try listening to some traditional Japanese music. Does that work? Or would a three-legged frog like reggae or Beyonce?

 

Empathy

This Burmantofts frog is known as a grotesque. The dictionary definition of grotesque is 'comically or repulsively ugly or distorted'. The most famous examples of grotesques are gargoyles which were designed to frighten evil spirits away from churches. This frog may have once been thought to be ugly or funny but now it is valuable and very desirable. How would the frog feel if it knew? Create a story about how the frog is feeling.