Nourishing Objects: Adam Chau

Nourishing Objects: Adam Chau

Contributors share stories behind meaningful works.
Published on Wednesday, May 19, 2021. This article appears in the Spring 2021 issue of American Craft Magazine.
Author Adam Chau
ceramic tea tray with illustration of mountaib lake with birds and flowers

Photo by Adam Chau.

My father remembers this platter in his mother’s bedroom with a tea set resting on top. While I’ve never experienced the heat of Vietnam, I always knew my grandmother to prefer tea over any other beverage even in the hottest of Connecticut summers, so it doesn’t surprise me that she also drank it in her homeland. My grandmother could not have foreseen that this ceramic platter, originally a gift for her marriage, would travel the world and live in both the most intimate of rooms and the darkest of crawl spaces.

I never knew about this dish when I was growing up. My father, neither a ceramic artist nor a collector like myself, probably thought when this became his own wedding gift that it was just another piece of china—nice, but to him something with 1980s functionality, like the gift of a big-screen TV, would have had more value than a static picture on clay. It wasn’t until the decline of my parents’ marriage and the inevitable reorganizing of my childhood home to put it on the market that I found what would become one of my most precious possessions.

Around the time my parents were arranging for a divorce, I was preparing to get married. I never hid the fact that I dated men all through college, but the idea of gay marriage (in 2015) was a bit of a strain with my pseudo-conservative father in the midst of a Supreme Court ruling on the matter. Around this time, I found the platter, wrapped in newspaper dating from the ’80s, in the basement crawlspace. Surprisingly, my father, in his best attempt to be nonchalant, told me of its journey and gifted it to me—an object that 30 years later, after being hidden from American life spanning the Backstreet Boys to 9/11, surely had a different weight to it. It became our olive branch.

The platter is now in my own bedroom—sometimes displaying cologne bottles and sometimes tucked away in fear that a clumsy husband will knock into it with a vacuum. It nourishes me when I think of the marriages it has seen and all the places it has lived.

Adam Chau is an artist in Cold Spring, New York, and a graduate of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s Designed Objects program. His research looks into the blending of digital manufacturing with traditional studio ceramics. He is a member of the International Academy of Ceramics and was a 2018 NCECA Emerging Artist.

adamchau.com | @adamcharleschau

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Cover of Winter 2022 issue of American Craft