This week, Olive sat in her shiny new high chair and took her first chomps of avocado, carrot and sweet potato. Although we don’t want to wish time away, this is one thing me and Suzi have been really looking forward to. Sitting down at the table in the kitchen and eating our food together.
I’ve been creating a body of work ‘At the Kitchen Table’. I’m not sure yet if it might be a chapter in our book or an exhibition in the future, i just felt it was the right time to start talking about it, and to ask you for your stories, and if you’d like to take part?
It all started a couple of years ago when I did a shoot with jeweller Toby Cotterill and he told me about the history of his work bench. His Dad is a furniture maker, and he made their childhood kitchen table. It became the centre of their family life, as it is to many families. But this kitchen table evolved, and after some alterations, Toby now uses this table as his work bench.
It felt very poignant as my Mum and Dad were just moving out of our childhood home, and I remembered all those times sitting at the table. We had a set time for tea every night. While Mum cooked, me and my sister laid the table and Dad hovered. After tea, we’d clear the plates, and I’d sit down back at the table to do my homework, and Dad would read the paper.
Since doing our family shoots, I’ve noticed how many photos I take of families there. It is so central to life. We usually start shoots at the table, having a chat and a cup of tea before the camera comes out of my bag. It’s good to see the family interacting around the space. I guess I’ve become a bit fascinated by them, these places where we’re nourished both in food and conversation. Since chatting about it on Instagram, I’ve had people sending me stories of their kitchen tables. A common theme are the rules of the table. No phones, all sitting down at the same time to eat, chatting about our days. Family feasts where spare tables are brought down from the loft. This reminded me of our own family get togethers at Grandma & Grandad’s house. The adults would sit at the big table, and the children would sit at the kiddies table. As the oldest cousin, I was still sitting at the kiddies table until I was around 18!
I’d love to hear from you if you’d like to be involved in my project (Yorkshire area for now but there may be a table tour later this year!). What do you use your table for? Is it a place you sit and watch the world go by? Have your tea, work, read? Plan big adventures? Play table tennis, look at your family photographs? Have arm wrestles, play board games, craft, chat? If you’re in the Yorkshire area, I’d love to add to the collection of images I have. Would you like to be a part of the project?
Here are a collection of shots and ideas so far.
The tables themselves also have a story to tell. The grains and stains, the chips, the marker pen that doesn’t quite rub off. We swapped our kitchen table with our friends, and on there are felt tip marks from drawings and crafting projects, we don’t want to get rid of them.
These tables are where we eat together, talk together, take time to be alone. Laugh, play and plan. Would you like to be a part of it? We’d love to hear about you and your table.