25 December 2011

Festivus Continues!

Clear and cold the day dawned today in our region, with plentiful frost below and a magnificent sky above -- a very nice beginning to this Festivus Day! We just passed the Solstice, then it was on to Hanukkah, Christmas, the advent of Kwanzaa, and it's nearly Tet and our Gregorian New Year... golly whose festival have I missed? Please do not take offense if I skipped mentioning your favorite celebration -- it's just that there are so many holidays on the books right now that even I, Tea Maven to the Stars, get muddled. Happy Everything, Everybody!! Much love, and tea, and excellent health and cozy abundance to you all.

Trixie set me up a swell Festivus breakfast tray today, as you can see in the pics at left... clementines, Friend-made cookies, and sweets of many kinds, ooh la la! And she found me this groovy antique cup and saucer set by Copeland Spode, in the much-loved India Tree {Rust} pattern, which I am so honored to accept as a present today. India Tree comes in a wealth of variations and has been made by oodles of potteries -- originally by Coalport -- so many that it can stagger even a venerable tea maven... but this set is Copeland Spode and of very fine quality, so I am feeling very pampered and adored by Trix today. Thank you to the always-treating tea maiden!

Most India Tree (also called Indian Tree or Tree of India by other potteries) has a black transfer base design with multicolored enamels hand-painted thereon... this also has a black transfer base decoration, but with a palette of hand-painted vermillion, deep red, and tan luster enamels to fill in the pattern. Cup and saucer are both edged in the deep red enamel, and the effect suggests an Indian Paisley, rather than the more Chinese-looking multicolor version (you might sense and describe it very differently, but this is how it strikes me, dear ones).

Because today is Christmas Day, it seemed right and good to splash out the reds! Red denotes auspicious beginnings in some cultures, and we like that a lot, besides it adds another layer to the meaning of the cup and saucer today. Layer it on, people! That's what tea time is all about, say we.

I'm not altogether sure the saucer and cup are from the same set -- the well of the saucer indicates a different cup, the shape with a wider diameter and a squat circular pedestal foot, whereas this cup is smaller and has no foot* -- either way, tea tastes great from it and both pieces cheer me immensely (another thing that tea time is all about!). I just love the tan luster enamel, it catches and amplifies the light so subtly and warmly... they thought of everything, those Stoke-on-Trent potters.

Did you know that on our Facebook page you can not only post comments (which we LOVE), but you can, if you wish, post photographs? Absolutely. Trix and I really want to know what you get up to when drinking tea, so please consider sharing pics with us when the mood strikes you.

Raising my lovely new-to-me cup in your honor today, lovelies, and wishing you every good thing today and always,
xo, Dustin {with a wave from Trixie}

* additional research shows me that multiple cup shapes/sizes were matched with the same saucer. Hmm.

11 December 2011

Luck of the Draw

Some time back, we found an absolutely beautiful large creamer or small sauce boat (you get to decide which it is... we use it for cream, sauce, even the occasional posy!), all hand painted with bouquets of flowers along the red-orange-purple continuum. To spare you scrolling through the archives, a picture of the bulbous beauty can be seen at the bottom of this post. Why mention it today? Because we have been very, very lucky and stumbled over a cup and saucer set in the very same pattern -- the name of which we have yet to ascertain -- whose images you can see splashed along the left side of these words.

These handsome pieces were made by Grosvenor, at that time part of Jackson & Gosling Ltd, in the middle of the 20th Century for a company called Sheraton Designs. The cup size is generous, with a wide-open bowl and an elegant tall foot. The saucer curves upward, suggesting old-fashioned saucers, which were bowl-like and used for actually drinking tea from, rather than just being supports for the cups. Although painted with fine brushes and ringed with delicate images, these are sturdy pieces that we are confident to hold and use.

If you recall when we told you about our Grosvenor-Copeland(s) "Craigavon" set (about a hundred-thousand years ago), it may mean something when we say that these are the exact same shapes -- same potteries, same molds, same delicacy and accuracy of decorating skill... definitely swoon-worthy.

Prices vary widely around the vintage marketplace for Grosvenor/Sheraton/Copeland(s) items, as some vendors know they are the best quality and charge accordingly, while others don't seem to recognize the names and underprice to our advantage. The avid teaware hunter with the luck of the draw is amply rewarded!

We shall certainly let you know when we finally find out the name of this pattern and Sheraton Designs itself... in the meanwhile you can find us drinking tea, pouring sauce, looking at posies, and otherwise entertaining ourselves in the company of these pretty pieces.
May your Festivus celebrations continue with joy and abandon! Blowing you tea-stained kisses {Trixie adding her enthusiastic wave from behind my shoulder},
xo, Dustin

04 December 2011

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like... Festivus!!

Isn't it just? Everywhere we turn, it's Holiday, Holiday, Holiday, so why not get into the swim? thought we... consider us well and truly swimming. Our lovely friends help immensely by baking seasonal cookies {see pictures}; our job is to select coordinating teaware with which to honor their sweet labors. Oh and then to eat the cookies.

I hope that we selected well today: what you see here is a cup and saucer set by Royal Worcester and a cake plate by Mintons. Regular readers of our weblog know that these venerable ceramics houses send (or sent) their goods forth from the Potteries in Stoke-on-Trent, the industrial heart of England. When these items were made, armies of craftspeople sat at benches all the day long, tiny brushes in hand, carefully dabbing enamel glazes onto transferware pieces with alarming precision.

To look at them now, in our era of machine production, is to look back to a time of intense human effort and focus, a time of reverence for quality and craft. Those days were by no means easy or simple, and the people who made these items could hardly afford to own them (the 99% and the 1% struggled even then!), but the labor of individuals was of value, and people who had things did tend to take good care of them and not toss them away every year.

Are we better people because we seem to have embraced some acceptance of impermanence of material goods? Were those who went before us better because they revered the products of human manufacture? Yes, no, maybe... chewy stuff to think about while drinking beautiful tea (itself a product -- then as now -- of amazing human manufacture!) and admiring teaware such as this.

I can tell you this much: I am prepared to accept the impermanence of the cookies on the plate... for they are already being happily, gratefully digested by Trixie and myself, along with cupsful of a soothing infusion of New Vithanakande Estate FBOPF-Ex Silvertip "Spider Leg" (our beloved V-Tea Spider!). Home-baked cookies deserve no less.

Blowing you tea-stained kisses, and sending fervent wishes for Festivus happiness your way,
xo, Dustin