Jonathan Ro-Schofield is an awesome ceramicist, sculptor retail store window, theatrical prop and product designer — and much more. He recently created a product that can best be described as explosive. Well, not literally. He’s made World War I & II era German and Austrian grenade facsimiles (known as potato mashers or stick grenades — Stielhandgranate) that are actually salt and pepper shakers. Some may find this eerie — even disturbing — and they’d have a point. I see them as darkly satiric and also amazingly crafted. The product materials: The handle is hard maple for salt and mahogany for pepper. The adjusting cap is 6061 aluminum. You can judge appropriateness for yourself. But the eccentric absurdity of the work cannot be denied. I talked to the artist/designer about these and other curiously comic war-related product “sculptures.”
You are an incredibly talented artist and craftsman. In fact, you were known as Jonny Cardboard for facility in transforming this material into virtually anything – from buildings to desks. What attracted you to this military theme?
I have always been interested in military themes. It wasn’t until college when I considered it as a subject form. My first large scale cardboard sculptures where of oversized revolvers covered in floral wallpaper and for my thesis I built a full size cardboard tank which eventually went on tour in the UK. I wanted people to see the aesthetics of the hardware and appreciate its form. I also had fun re-interpreting modern engineering into cardboard structures.
I know you flew planes, but were you in the military?
I was not in the military but I always wanted to be a pilot. I did earn my wings and had many fun times flying aerobatics.
For those who do not know what a potato masher is, it is a hand grenade used by German soldiers in World War I and II. Is it not a bit eerie to make them into salt and pepper shakers?
It happened to be the perfect shape for a pepper grinder and that it’s almost ridiculous that a bomb can become a table accessory! Once ominously known as the potato masher these Salzgranate and Pfeffergranate are no longer destructive devices but now just add a little flavor to your favorite dish.
I get that much of this is tongue-in-cheek, especially your ceramic duck and rabbit tanks. Do you have a message you’re trying to convey?
There is no serious message other than that some of my sculptures combine military hardware and animals. The French tank FT17, used at the end of World War I, kind of looks like a duck!
How long did it take you to make these wares and what do you hope to do with them?
I have been developing them for three years designing, re-designing, meeting fabrication companies, testing and adapting. I visited some great companies who all supply parts for the final product. In the end the salt and pepper grinders are all hand assembled and finished. This set (Gruppe I/19) is my first pre-production run and I intend to make increasingly larger batches and sell to a growing audience of people who appreciate a dash of humor with their meal.