Teacups and Kitchen Tables
For as long as I can remember, I have loved teacups.
I’m not really sure where that love began– it’s like looking at your high school sweetheart years later and wondering when that love began. You aren’t sure. It just kind of always was.
I remember going to flea markets with my grandma and seeing the tables stacked with piles of glittering dishes. Sometimes there were complete sets, but mostly it was just one or two orphaned pieces from some long forgotten set that someone had once cherished. Little by little I collected those bits of remaining dreams– wedding gifts and hope chest contents. I brought them home and loved them all. The way I saw it, they had to be pretty tough to survive all those years as the last one standing in their original dish family. And they survived being clunked all the way to the flea market, as well as being passed around and handled. Time for them to retire, I thought. I never heard any of them complain when they were assigned a life of peaceful teatime luxury with me.
My favorites were always the blue and white dishes. Vintage transferware from England would draw my eye from across the crowded flea market. To this day, blue and white china always makes me smile to see it. Some of it is new, but most of it is old. All of these pieces have a story, and I remember each one.
Putting orphaned pieces together is like having a family reunion. Some of them get along a little bit better than others. Some of them always stick out no matter how hard we try to get them to fit in. But somehow, they all belong, pasts, quirks, and all.
This was the first blue and white teacup I ever got– Johann Haviland Blue Garland. This is “the one that started it all.” Before this one, I always just used my mother and grandmother’s teacups. This was the first teacup I personally fell in love with– the first one of my own. I remember seeing it at the flea market. I gasped with delight when I saw the delicate little blue flower pattern. “I don’t need that,” I said. I looked, and then looked again. I told myself I didn’t need it. I mean it now. You don’t need this. I told the lady at the table, “No thank you.” I walked all around the flea market, but I couldn’t get that little blue and white teacup out of my head. I went back. She smiled.
“I knew you’d be back for it. I could tell you loved it.”
It came home with me. And a beautiful collection began.
Johnson Brothers Coaching Scenes soon caught my eye. Made in England china is so delicate looking. So . . . BRITISH. I loved it. I first found a tiny, chipped tea saucer in this pattern for 99 cents at a thrift store. Then I found a few teacups with (non-chipped) saucers. It took me a long time to track down a matching teapot.
But eventually I did. It also comes in red. Oh dear. 😉
It’s so lovely, that I might just have to look for red. “When in doubt, always wear red.” I wonder if that applies to teacups?
This pretty little teacup with the blue and pink roses is very special to me. It was owned by my good friend Jacqui’s Aunt Kay. Aunt Kay was a truly stunning woman, both inside and out. She was classy and generous– always “the favorite aunt” who loved to spoil her nieces and nephews with fancy tea parties. A little touch of class and elegance in the everyday was her daily mantra. She treasured her pieces, but she used them rather than consigning them to some dusty china hutch, never to see the light of day again. Each week she got together with her friends and laughed and talked and had tea. Jacqui gave this teacup to me as a token of our friendship. Every time I sip tea from this cup I think about Aunt Kay, about Jacqui, and about all the beautiful ladies who have visited and laughed while holding this cup. It’s a beautiful thing.
I found this blushing blue teacup in a box marked “mixed lot.” Most of the teacups in there were pretty ugly (no matter. I love them anyway), but this treasure was buried in the bottom. The blue cornflowers (always a favorite color of mine) and the delicate gold rim showed me that this beautiful little teacup deserved to be admired.
So I paired it with a doily that my great grandmother made (she taught herself to crochet from a book, the knowledge of which has been passed, mother to daughter, to each successive generation since then). The stories these pieces could tell . . . the many beautiful hands which have created, washed, used them. It’s beautiful.
My love affair with Royal Albert “Forget Me Not” happened by accident. I found one stray piece (a little china creamer) once for $2. “Now isn’t this pretty,” I said. “This doesn’t belong here with the broken down junk. It needs to have a nice, beautiful life with me holding rosebuds.”
“Don’t you think you have enough dishes?” my husband asked.
I stared. “Is that a serious question?”
The creamer came home with me to enjoy a blissful life holding rosebuds and looking beautiful. My husband sighed and decided not to fight it. He soon got me a teacup and saucer to match the little creamer. I was in love with the delicate sprays of blue flowers and the gilt edging. The teapot for this pattern was terribly difficult to find. But, as you know, that didn’t stop me from looking.
I mean, you can stick another blue and white teapot in there. But the teacup knows. “Am I ADOPTED???? I don’t look like anyone else in this family! Are you my mother?” I had to find the Forget Me Not teapot. The teacup and creamer deserved it. I looked for several years.
And I eventually found it. When I first opened the box, the beauty took my breath away. I would say that out of all of my teapots, this one may just be my favorite. Shhhh. Don’t tell the others. Also, the teacup and creamer are very happy to have someone to match.
Both of the sweet little teacups in this picture have a story. The pink one is called “Sunshine,” by Royal Tuscan. I found her sitting sadly in an antique shop, alongside a lot of dusty junk (and you KNOW I wasn’t about to leave her there). Her creamy pink interior reminded me of the inside of a shell. When I saw her, I smiled. I brought the Sunshine home with me.
The classic design “Country Roses” by Royal Albert, in the front, is the original 1962 version (modern day runs of this pattern, which has been one of their most popular and is still in production, do not have a date on the bottom as the 1962 version does). I got this teacup from a friend in England who had purchased it at “a boot sale” (not, as I was disappointed to learn, a gathering of shoe aficionados, but rather a yard sale from the “boots” (trunks) of cars). The lady who was selling it at the boot sale said that it had been her grandmother’s wedding china in the 1960s. Her grandmother had treasured the set, but “I just don’t have room for it.” The teapot and teacup made a trip across the pond, and now reside quite comfortably with me, living a life of luxury “in the colonies.” They occasionally serve coffee, rather than tea. Oh the rebellion! They love it. They say they have never felt younger.
This tea set is very special to my heart. My dear friend Nancy brought this all the way back from Paris for me. It is over 100 years old, and she bought it at a Paris open air flea market because she knew it would make me happy. I’m not sure, but I think the gold edging is real. It is ridiculously beautiful, and knowing that my friend threw away her toothpaste and deodorant to have room to bring it back for me on the flight makes it priceless to me. When I use it I think about decades of classy Parisians sipping tea or coffee from these cups while enjoying their morning croissant and newspaper, with the Eiffel Tower in the background. Using it takes me to Paris, and Paris, as you know, is a place that anyone would love to go. Tea anyone?
Oh there is that little Royal Albert Forget Me Not creamer! See what I did? It told me to forget it not, and I forgot it. I’m sorry, Creamer. It won’t happen again. But I did find your mother, so cut me a break. Oh dear. I guess I shouldn’t say the word “break” to anything made out of china. It makes them nervous.
There are so many things in this photo that make me smile. The container holding the flowers is an 1860s Dundee Marmalade container from England. The doily is handmade from Paris. The tea set is also from Nancy on her Paris trip. The walnut bowl was handmade for me by a sweet friend I met on Instagram. When I asked him about his art he said he would send me one for free, and he did. The beautiful green ceramics dish is from VIB ceramics in Israel, where Vered crafts each of her beauties by hand. The butter knife is from England. The book is a present from my friend Jacqui– a first edition Hawthorne that she picked up “because it looked like an old book you would like” for just a few dollars before we realized what it was. Beautiful friends, beautiful pieces, beautiful photo with so many memories. Is it any wonder I love tea so much?
This stunning turquoise and gold teacup is what teacups look like when they get all dressed up and go to prom. I fell in love with this beautiful creature from the moment I saw it. It came from my (now) friend Sylvia in Canada. I purchased it from her online, and we got to talking. I found out that she is a brilliant writer, artist, and woman. And we have kept in contact ever since. The teacup is beautiful, but the friendship is even more beautiful. I definitely got the deal of a lifetime with this piece, because it came with a beautiful friendship at no extra charge.
Each teacup is beautiful. Each piece has a story. Some of them are humble. Some of them are grand. All of them are special. And when I serve tea, I am surrounded by the spirits of all the ladies through the years who treasured these pieces and brought them out for special company and special tea. I’m sure that these pieces were treasured and carefully washed and dried. They made even an everyday occurrence like “taking tea” a time for celebration and friendship.
And at the end of the day, I can’t imagine a prouder life for a teacup than being used to bring someone joy.
I know that’s what they do for me.
You did it. And I’m just so proud of you.
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