The Briggs Family Tea Service aims to represent a family that was forged and defined by the turbulent nature of Van Diemen's Land during the early years of colonisation. This family depicts a microcosm of the many varied aspects of the colonial and Aboriginal relationships that were being forced and forged throughout Australia during this period of our history.
A tea-pot and sugar bowl represent the parents, George Briggs of Dunstable in Bedfordshire and Woretermoeteyenner of the Pairrebeenne people of North East Van Diemen's Land. The physical characteristics of these two objects are defined by the hybrid life that Briggs and Woretermoeteyenner were forced to adopt in order to survive the cultural collision that affected Van Diemen's Land in the early days of a new British colony.
Briggs is a porcelain tea pot, adopting a form that merges the elegant lid and spout of Worcester or Bow Porcelain with a gnarly, organic body and handle, borrowing their form from the roots that Briggs was forced to eat in times of hardship and the kelp that was so widely used by the Aboriginal people of the region. These forms portray the environment that Briggs struggled to survive in and the hard man that he became as a result of this coarse existence.
Woretermoeteyenner's evolution sees the merging of an elegant Pairrebeenne kelp water carrier vessel with a courtly handle and lid derived from the work of French and British Porcelain houses of this period. The grace of this combination represents Woretermoeteyenner as an important member of local royalty, a woman that did all that she could to maintain her family line.
The milk jug and eldest daughter, Dolly Mountgarret Briggs takes on the characteristics of both parents. Dolly's contact with her mother and strong Pairrebeenne heritage is represented through her organically formed wallaby skin body, while her need to adopt elements of her British ancestry is shown through the refined nature of her cast porcelain handles and lid.
The three tea cups represent Eliza, Mary and John Briggs. While John lived a relatively good life, Eliza and Mary spent their early childhood moving from one foster home to the next. Both spent periods on the street, with Eliza ending up in a benevolent hospital and Mary finding herself in prison for vagrancy. John grew to be an old man, but both Eliza and Mary died as young women at 21 years of age.