Tuesday, 7 February 2012

A quest for good china (may not end in China)

Wedgwood Countryware is my all time favourite
Dinner sets went out of vogue years ago. The upmarket english companies that used to be the market leaders have had to go off shore, merge and adapt to survive. I tried to convince my brothers when they were getting married (late 1990s) that they should put an english made dinner set on to their wedding registries. They both declined. I was working part-time in the china and glass section of a major department store at the time and knew that though pricey, the quality of Wedgwood, Royal Doulton and Royal Albert were unmatched by the cheaper generic ranges and the designs timeless in their appeal.

One brother chose instead an asian made stoneware set with square plates. This in itself was enough to raise questions in my book, but within a very short space of time, the plates 'distinguished' themselves by cracking in half (usually when covered with food, and often when balanced on a lap - OUCH!) Within afew years, the entire set had been discarded.

The problem isn't that the china most people purchase these days is made in Asia (I mean Ming vases were good quality weren't they?) but that the quality of so much of the cheap, mass produced product is so poor. People say their tastes change too rapidly and that they don't want to use the same boring set their whole life, but must everything be so transitory, junky and disposable?

Once upon a time the English dinnerset was considered the purchase of a lifetime. You collected it in your glory box (now there's a lost tradition I think I'll revive for my children) or received it for a significant birthday, anniversary, engagment or  marriage. It would be the 'good set' that was used for life/or not used but displayed or stored.. 

http://www.oldcountryroses.net/
Not using the 'good set' is silly. Working in the department store I heard some horror stories from (elderly) customers who owned, say, "Old Country Roses" (not one I like much, but apparently wildly popular) and kept it on top of a cupboard. 'It was too good to use. My grandson climbed up and pulled the box down, and it all broke.' Ouch again.

So what am I saying here? Firstly that a good dinnerset is still, I think, essential (trends come and trends go, but good quality and design never fades). And of course it should be used REGULARLY because as I've always said, life is too short not to use the Wedgwood!

Ebay (or op shops!) are excellent for quality china at great prices. I've collected many great pieces from both sources. The top picture is of some of my treasured COUNTRYWARE set. It always looks good (it is white, but wonderfully textured in the shape of cabbage leaves). My Grandparents and parents gave me my first set for my 21st birthday - so I love it for that reason too.

A great option is to mix and match pieces (quality, patterns and style) and use old with new too. Go for a quirky look if you don't like uniform, or pops of colour if you usually have all white. Splash out!
Wedgwood is making the exquisite Harlequin collection, it's a mix and match tea set in the art deco style. It will make every time you sit down with a friend for tea or coffee feel like luxury. It is beautiful, has style and quality and is made in Thailand.
I love it. 
http://uk.wwrd.com/en/restofworld/harlequin-collections/harlequin-collections-mixed/icat/ww-harlequin-mixed/

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