Artifact: Table 82.1.3.
Author: Amy and Steve Ruis

Remember setting the table as a child? A chore, right? Most of the time I didn’t think so. Odd, right?

As a child my family ate together around our table every night. I remember it. It had tapered brown wood legs and the top was a fake wood grain laminate. It was round most of the time but had two leaves just in case. There were only four of us, mom & dad, sister & me. Every night someone set the table, every night we ate a delicious meal after both of my parents worked all day. Every night we prayed before we ate and had a Bible story after we ate. In the middle we talked about what we did that day…and about the sailboat or about building a deck or what was growing in the garden. We talked a lot. It often took a while. Our friends were often annoyed especially those who were invited to eat with us and also those that waited outside to play again.

As an adult I developed a zest for cooking, for the tools that go with it, and the books & magazines with pictures and the delicious recipes with which to make real meals. As my husband, Steve, and I began our lives together we would entertain. Taught by our parents and aunts & uncles to have dinner parties and gather people into home spaces, we set that table.

When we began our life together, said table was from Kohls. It was fakey beech wood topped and white legged. It had chairs to match. It sat four comfortably, six not so comfortably. The whole set probably cost $129.99. It was cheap and held together for many years. It also held family together. I remember setting this table hundreds of time for friends and family. Sometimes with placemats. Sometimes with tablecloths. Sometimes off to the side as a serving buffet. But each time that table was used, it had a purpose.

Now we have an old antique table with pullout leaves from below. Seats 10 rather well. Matching carved chairs, likely from an amateur carver we surmise. Rather comfortable, rather newly reupholstered, and used again and again to eat elaborate meals and tonight’s soup. It’s been used again and again to talk about deep subjects, to laugh over a delicious meal and to sign a contract or two.

Wandering around the museum archives was a trip. A figurative trip to the past where I recognized so many things – but the thing that struck me most was the varied tables. I started to imagine the families that sat at those tables. I started to imagine what era they were from and how they looked and what utensils they used to cook with and whether it was used for family or friends or for doing homework.

As I created my store, Art of the Table, I really stuck close to the theme of gathering. Gatherings, no matter the size almost demand tables. They also demand the right plates, flatware, glassware, food and wine. What gathering is complete without a majority of those things, right?

What I really surmised while looking at tables is that sadly, many families today don’t think of tables as a gathering place. Meals are eaten in front of the TV, standing in the kitchen or gobbling things down in the car on the way to X, Y & Z. I often lament the loss of traditional family gatherings at tables. Every day I hope that my store will encourage people to enjoy active gathering at tables. No matter what it looks like; square, tall, round, glass, old, stained…every day I hope that you and I and many others are encouraged to have and are afforded food, drink & fellowship around crafted boards we call a table.