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A Collection of Reviews


Kate Farley creates designs for textiles, paper and beyond. She describes her work as ‘'strong graphic statements'’ and perhaps should not be restricted to the label of designer or artist, but better suits the title of ‘'subversive mark maker'’. Underpinned by modernism, her visual investigations are rooted in her childhood. Unusually for 1970s rural Britain, her parents filled the family home they built themselves with classic design objects meant for the everyday. In her recent
abstract, Kate describes a 3 pronged Focus Flatware fork, designed by Folke Arstrom for Gense, Sweden and how the extraordinary design of this object triggered her critical thinking about functional aesthetics.

Kfarley 300 Construct Check Teal Drawingfork

Kate Farley, Construct 1 

Skip forward to Kate’s current practice and in her recent pattern collection Construct we see a strong link back to the fork. She defines the object as an everyday icon, believing that our lives are improved by beautiful but also useful things, and what could be more everyday than something you physically connect with morning, afternoon and night. Like her other collections, Construct began with a drawing implement and for this series, the tool that seemed most natural for Kate was a handmade fork. Just as the Folke Arstrom piece was ergonomically formed for eating, her drawing tool celebrated simplicity and was bespoke to the right thickness and strength of line required for the quality of Kate’s mark making.

Kfarley 300 Construct Cutout Twist Tool

Kate Farley, Construct: twist, printed cotton and drawing tool, 2016. Image courtesy of the artist.

The Construct pattern, inspired by woven threads, incorporates repeats of swooshes, subtle scrapes, curves, dots and wipes of the fork drawing tool. Dipping the 5 prongs into ink and pushing the uniformed marks around a surface inevitably narrates the form of the tool. It creates a contemporary, dynamic surface design, but this pattern also highlights the function of forks as story telling objects.

It could be argued that forks transcend the act of transporting food into the user’s mouth. People can use the fork to push a glutenous sauce into a clean area of the plate or to swirl up long, slippery fronds of pasta or pick up crisp sheets of lettuce leaves within a salad. At the end of a course, the fork leaves patterns on the dish to archive the history of meals and to map out the everyday identities within eating. In it’s completed forms, Construct communicates these identities across a range of textile objects, but most interestingly a Formica table surface.

As with other Modernist pieces, this classic 20th Century design product is now iconic in today’s design savvy scene. Pattern creators may see the opportunities with tablecloths, runners and placemats all used to protect and savour the surface of these tables to distribute their designs, but Kate subverts this by applying the fork’s eating marks directly to the surface of the table. Here we see marks created by fork, boldly printed across a surface created for the context of eating. This celebrates the beauty, but also honesty of purpose and function within design and as Kate concluded in her recent abstract, this combination should inspire other makers ‘'to challenge the design of the everyday tomorrow’'.

Kfarley 300 Construct Formica Gridgold

Kate Farley, Construct, 2015 2

EATING AT SEA — Sarah Starkey

The Maritime Archives & Library of National Museums Liverpool based in the Merseyside Maritime Museum holds a large number of menus from merchant vessels.  We do not have a collection of menus, because archives do not group material by format, but menus can be found across many of our collections.  In archives context and provenance arekey, so the menus remain with the other documents they came to us with.  The fact they feature in so many collections from seafarers and passengers highlights one of the main points about ship board menus – they are the kind of thing that gets kept.  Unlike in a land based restaurant, on board ship it is perfectly acceptable, even encouraged, to keep the menu as a souvenir and they have often been designed accordingly.  They were designed to be kept and people find them hard to throw away, which is why we get offered so many.  Sometimes it feels as if anyone who ever traveled on a ship kept a menu which their descendants have subsequently found in an attic.

Cedric Steerage

Copy of a third class menu, Cedric, White Star Line, 12 December 1908. 3

Antony Dining

Photographic postcard, dining saloon, Antony, Booth Line, c1907. 4

Food is important on ships in a way that is not found on other means of transport, nobody boards a plane looking forward to the dinner.  While shipping companies did their best with entertainment programming unless you are a member of the crew there isn’t really much to do on a ship, so meals were used as a means of breaking up the monotony.  While for the crew the day is divided by watches, for passengers it was structured around mealtimes and shipping companies went all out to impress or at least to appear impressive within the limits of shipboard catering.  Producing an attractive menu was part of this.

Our collection is not comprehensive but defined by our collecting area, the British Merchant Navy, it is wide ranging.  We have menus from cargo and passenger vessels from most large British shipping companies from the late 1880s to the 2000s.  In comparison with other types of documents they are very easy, pleasurable even, to use.  They are a manageable size, typed so there is no handwriting to decipher, attractive, easy to understand and easy to relate to.  I find it hard to look at one without deciding what I would have chosen to eat.  The main barrier to understanding is the flowery French language favoured by restaurateurs that sometimes features on the menus.

Aquitania Breakfast

Breakfast menu, Aquitania, Cunard Line, 11 December 1923. 5

The menus that we hold are only a partial story.  Often we just hold a menu for one meal on one day of a voyage.  It will only show a certain class of passenger dining and on a transatlantic liner there was a huge difference between the conditions in first class, second class and steerage.  Crew menus are usually for the officers or European crew and do not show what the Chinese or Lascar seafarers that often made up large numbers of the engine and deck crew were eating.  The menus do not show the quality of the food or the opinion of the diners, but reputation was important in the competition for liner and cruise passengers so food standards would usually be high.  The standard of food provided for crews were often as low as the shipping company could get away with.  The menus also don’t show the large numbers of meals that were missed by seasick passengers surviving on beef tea until they found their sea-legs.

When taken as a whole the menus within our collections mainly highlight differences.  Those between various classes of passengers, those over time, and those between meals intended to entertain passengers and those keeping a crew going.  With a little knowledge of social and political history they can be used to reveal a lot more.  Menus read in the context of food rationing in the United Kingdom following the Second World War, or prohibition in the USA in the 1920s, can be a reminder that different rules apply in international waters.  Menus from Christmas Day during wartime are evidence of attempts at moral boosting during dangerous times at sea.

With all the usual caveats about using historic documents, ship board menus are attractive documents that provide an easy insight into the past and evidence of the importance of food on board ship.  Having looked at a lot of the menus in our collections, I have come to the conclusion that a long, leisurely breakfast on a calm sea would have been my favourite meal.

Highland Brigage

Daily menu, Highland Brigade, Royal Mail Lines, 8 May 1945. 6


Domestic Godless are a 3-person collective operating out of Cork, Ireland. Each with their own individual practices, they come together under this moniker to create artistic and culinary mayhem, cause gastronomic havoc and generally play with the idea of what is edible. Their Canaliculus Purgamentorum event, which I saw at Dublin’s Broadstone Studios in January last year, borrows the format of the sushi carousels we know from popular Japanese chain, Yo! Sushi. Except the Domestic Godless version is, in typical tongue-in-cheek fashion, made from sewage ducting (unused, we hope). 

This was an intimate event, repeated on two consecutive nights. The pipes were laid out along a set of blue-and-white tableclothed long tables. Water flowed through the partially open pipes, carrying curious amuse-bouches created for the event. Initially the audience tentatively observed and snapped photos, wary of the strange looking food strewn about the room and floating along the ‘canal’, but gradually as we imbibed the home-made Gripe water and other drinks, everyone relaxed. Curiosity trumped fear. 

Domestic Godless 1

Domestic Godless, Canaliculus Purgamentorum, 2015. 7

The medley of boats and rafts and other receptacles holding the food meandered down the pipes and the antiquarian drawing room made an atmospheric backdrop.  The event was partly inspired by the universal experience (in Ireland at least) of the miserable seaside holiday, though the imagery on offer was not limited by this theme. We were served the stuffing from the seats of a 1974 Ford Cortina and ice-cream mixed with the contents of an Edwardian vanity cabinet. We tried edible fly-paper, curiously coloured communion wafers, and sheep testicles (surprisingly soft). There was also edible self-tanning foam (particularly delicious), and an overflow pipe that leaked blood red liquid into a shell, which guests could drink with a pipette.

Domestic Godless 6

Domestic Godless, Canaliculus Purgamentorum, Dublin, 2015.
Image courtesy of Domestic Godless.

A second reference point was Broadstone Studio’s previous existence as the Asylum for Aged Governesses and Unmarried Ladies in 1870.  An entire ox tongue was laid out obscenely under a rather terrifying portrait of ‘Meredith’, the matriarch from the Asylum. I think it may have actually been Meredith's tongue.  Sprawling cephalopods featured prominently and dramatically; outrageous creatures from the sea (squid, octopus) were strewn on black sand made from quinoa and flavoured with seaweed. We were served singular baked beans, escapees from a Full Irish breakfast. Brussel sprout ‘cake pops’ protruded deceptively from a parsnip.

The whimsical nature of some of the concoctions on offer, and the theatrical means by which they were presented was offset by the dark humour of Domestic Godless. Alongside a keen eye for the macabre, there clearly lies a huge love and understanding of food and its possibilities, in both gastronomic and aesthetic terms. In what felt like their scientific laboratory at the end of the room we were in, I was offered a taste of an amazing ‘coconut jam’, not the eggy ‘kaya’ of Southeast Asia, but their own invention made by slowly reducing and condensing coconut milk with coconut blossom sugar.

Domestic Godless 4

Domestic Godless, Canaliculus Purgamentorum, 2015. 8

Memory, sensation, and in a certain sense nostalgia, is the stock in trade of the Domestic Godless, but with a twist. Rather than faithful copies of actual dishes from the past, Domestic Godless dive into the surreal. Unlike the Futurist’s abstruse and unappetising creations, Domestic Godless make food you want to touch, taste, and devour. While provocative, challenging, and gruesome at times, the end result is always edible and often delicious (well, maybe not the Brussels sprouts cake pops). More importantly its absurdity strikes right at our sense of what it is possible to eat. This visceral challenging of our preconceptions makes us rediscover childlike feelings of wonder and horror, feelings we may have lost in our current overfed and jaded food culture.

End Notes

Go to footnote reference 1.

Construct: check, in teal on Formica laminate, 2016. Image courtesy of the artist.

Go to footnote reference 2.

Kate Farley, Construct: grid, in gold on Formica laminate, 2016. Image courtesy of the artist

Go to footnote reference 3.

Copy of a third class menu, Cedric, White Star Line, 12 December 1908 (Maritime Archives & Library reference SAS/33d/2/23).  The market for emigrant trade was fierce and shipping companies would adverse the provisions that would be made available to passengers.  Such was the desperate state of provisions on some vessels the government had laid down minimum standards.  Prestigious companies such as White Star Line would seek to exceed these.  The mention of gruel to modern eyes speaks volumes.  The fact the stewards have an identification number in case of complaints seems to indicate that the emigrants are not expected to receive the same level of service as in other classes.  Cedric was built with accommodation for 347 passengers in first class, 160 in second class and 2350 in third class.  This division was not uncommon in the days of mass transatlantic migration.  The shipping companies made their reputation for luxury and reliability from first class and their money from third class.

Image © the Maritime Archives & Library of National Museums Liverpool.

Go to footnote reference 4.

Photographic postcard, dining saloon, Antony, Booth Line, c1907 (Maritime Archives & Library reference D/CAN/6/3).  This dining room is typical of the country house style of design used in the passenger rooms of merchant vessels which was designed to impress and reassure the first class passengers.  Although note that the swivel seats are fixed to the floor to withstand the rolling of the vessel when at sea.  Antony sailed between Liverpool and South America.

Image © the Maritime Archives & Library of National Museums Liverpool. 

Go to footnote reference 5.

Breakfast menu, Aquitania, Cunard Line, 11 December 1923 (Maritime Archives & Library reference SAS/35A/1/5). The passenger class of this lengthy and rather tasty looking menu is not known.  Aquitania was a well regarded luxury liner and this menu comes from a voyage from New York to Southampton.

Image © the Maritime Archives & Library of National Museums Liverpool.

Go to footnote reference 6.

Daily menu, Highland Brigade, Royal Mail Lines, 8 May 1945 (Maritime Archives & Library, DX/2581).  Highland Brigade was used as a troop ship during the Second World War, which usually involved piling as many men as possible on board and keeping your fingers crossed that the vessel didn’t meet a U-boat.  Being at sea during the war was incredibly dangerous.  I don’t know if this menu was intended for the ship’s crew or the troops or officers, but note that the day’s meals are called breakfast, dinner and tea, with no mention of lunch, let alone luncheon.

Image © Maritime Archives & Library of National Museums Liverpool. 

Go to footnote reference 7.

Domestic Godless, Canaliculus Purgamentorum, Dublin, 2015.
Image courtesy of Domestic Godless.

Go to footnote reference 8.

Domestic Godless, Canaliculus Purgamentorum, Dublin, 2015.
Image courtesy of Domestic Godless.

Lucy Johnston, Sarah Starkey & Caitriona Devery

Lucy Johnston is a Client Manager at Uniform, a creative agency based in Liverpool. She currently works with a range of clients on film, digital, CGI and brand projects. Before this, Lucy was Assistant Curator within the exhibition team for the 2012 Liverpool Biennial where she produced large scale public artworks.  She also worked as the Gallery Manager at Ceri Hand Gallery for four years.  In 2011 Lucy established the Liverpool Supper Club with a group of close friends. Hosted in a warehouse loft apartment in the industrial docklands of the city, the small team provided creative menus for 16 diners, drawing inspiration from international food with locally sourced, seasonal ingredients.

Sarah Starkey is the Curator of Maritime and Slavery Archives at the Maritime Archives & Library of National Museums Liverpool.  Based at the Merseyside Maritime Museum the Maritime Archives & Library holds paper and photographic collections telling the maritime history of the Port of Liverpool and is open to the public on Mondays and Tuesdays. An archivist by profession Sarah has worked at the Maritime Archives & Library since 2003 and has development an unexpected interest in ship cargo stowage plans.

Caitriona Devery is based in Dublin but originally from the Irish midlands. She currently works at University College Dublin. Caitriona has written for a number of print and online publications about art, theatre, literature and food. She was part of Archipelago, a working artists group who with the support of the Cornerhouse Micro Commission programme realised the project Consulate of Cornerhouse.This project was about participation within art practices and the changing role of art institutions in an increasingly open cultural context. More recently she managed a heritage project on the social history of the peat industry in Turraun, Co. Offaly.