Makers & Brothers

David Mellor Cutlery

"Having trained as a silversmith, I tend to think of myself primarily as a maker. My work as an industrial designer, developing prototypes for quantity production, has been balanced by my work as a craftsman, making special one-off pieces of silver. My approach to design is still, to some extent, that of a craftsman, in my involvement in directing all the detail and in making a design concept work from end to end."

David Mellor, 1984.

Cutlery is at once special and invisible, an everyday tool that enhances the lives of those who use it, adding a quiet joy to the ritual of each meal. It implies the setting of a table, the gathering of friends and loved ones, bringing people together for food and conversation. David Mellor was good at this, bringing different elements together in an almost magical way. His thinking, his attention to detail and sense of craftsmanship are imbued in so much of Britain's urban landscape. Bus shelters, pillar boxes, bollards, traffic lights, hospital cutlery, embassy tableware – all this and so much more passed through his head, heart and hands.

Tableware and cutlery in particular, was the one family of objects he returned to again and again. Each time he would bring forth a new and further refined form, a modern family of tools delicately balanced for the hand and mouth. It started with Pride, a setting he designed and developed for production in 1953 while still a student at the Royal College of Art. An award-winning design, it went straight into production upon his graduation. Next, in 1963, came the Embassy commission which saw him elegantly equip the British embassies of Warsaw and Mexico City with wonderfully modern and refined silver tableware.

"I think of myself as the person who finally abolished the fish knife and fork" 

The embassy commission got the Ministry thinking, and Mellor was next asked to design a basic set of eating implements in stainless steel for use in Civil Service restaurants. The reach of this project, from hospitals to prisons, schools to the national rail, was immense and called for a very different and constrained approach. The challenge brought forth Thrift, a design generally regarded as one of the most aesthetically pleasing as well as socially radical designs of its day. It reduced the then 11-piece Old English setting to 5 implements, a knife, fork, 2 spoons and a tea spoon. It was a design that drew anguish from the traditionalist but was loved by the client and all others. Its form he later adapted for the Café range, cutlery envisaged for everyday use by families, coffee shops and other similarly relaxed gatherings. Robust and relatively inexpensive, it is a classic example of Mellor's belief that good design could operate on every level of the market and this ergonomically formed cutlery is still widely used today. Rose Bakery (a favourite cafe of ours) are fans and Café was our very first set of proper cutlery, a much loved graduation present.

“The dinner table is the centre for the teaching and practicing not just of table manners but of conversation, consideration, tolerance, family feeling, and just about all the other accomplishments of polite society except the minuet.”

Given the history, we are understandably excited to now be able to offer our favourite selection of David Mellor cutlery. The four sets that we have selected are Café, Hoffmann, Minimal and Provençal. Each one has a distinct look and feel, from the robust to the formal, the refined to the fun flare. But more than their aesthetic appeal, each holds an appreciable weight in the hand, is carefully balanced, exceptionally well crafted and noticeably delicate against the lips.

Over the course of his 56-year career David Mellor more than earned his place in the V&A permanent collection but that is not what he was designing for. He was focused on the everyday and that is why we love what he did and his family still do. We hope you enjoy his cutlery as much as we do. Each one, we believe, has the potential to enrich family life for generations to come.

Video and photography courtesy of David Mellor Design
Quote by David Mellor
Quote by Judith Martin


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