The Pestle & Mortar - An Enduring Love

My interest and love for pestles and mortars began several years ago while I was living with a chef. Watching her preparing food and the relationship she had with her tools as well as the food itself, was a joy. She constantly used the pestle and mortar for preparing almost any dish, and for her it seemed to be the most important tool in the kitchen after the knife.

As a sculptor, it was a fascinating object to explore. It is not only another craftsman’s tool, but it is rich in symbolism and aesthetic. To make an object that will be used and has the ability to stimulate all the senses was an opportunity too good to miss.
 Porcelain Ball and Spear Pestle & Mortars

Grinding and crushing tools are some of the earliest and most basic. Pestles and mortars have been used in most cultures up to the present day. They reached their zenith during the Renaissance when the hunger for knowledge and scientific progress gave such tools a noble status. During this time, they became incredibly ornate.

They come in many different forms and materials, depending on what’s available to individual cultures and what ingredients they use. I wanted to start at the beginning with the most basic (two flat stones that you rub together). I then started to explore different materials and forms.

I decided that I wanted to work with stone, and felt that India, which still has a strong tradition with carving granite, as well as a cuisine rich in spices, would be an interesting place to explore. I worked with stone masons and sculptors in Mamallapuram just south of Chennai; traditional craftsmen used to working on architectural pieces and sculptures for their temples. 

Granite Pebble Pestle & Mortar   Black Granite Pestle & Mortar with Stainless Steel Handle

Black Granite Pebble                                               Black Granite with Stainless Steel Handle

New:  Black Granite Spear

I was bombarded in India by their rich culture and powerful images. The one icon that had most relevancy to my pestles and mortars was the lingham. My work started from the pebble form (lingham), and gradually progressed to more considered designs.  

It was not until I returned to London that I began to experiment with hand thrown pestles and mortars in porcelain, a material not traditionally connected with them. The complete collection at JOHN JULIAN has been my personal exploration of this fascinating tool.

Leave a comment

Please note: comments must be approved before they are published.