Wednesday, February 24, 2016
Finding What Fits
I was one of those little girls who wanted but never had a tea set. Even when I grew up and grew older, I never had "nice" dishes or even dishes that matched but that didn't really worry me. My everyday dishes are still a funny assortment that I've discovered little by little at yard sales and flea markets and the Goodwill. I like them. But, no matter what, I still always longed for a tea set.
And I always loved violets. My grandparents and my father truck-farmed cabbages and pansies. I remember seeing the cabbage washing bath in the barn, and my grandfather showed me how the barn cat often liked to have a swim in it. I've wondered ever since if the cabbages he sent to market had fur on them. I remember Daddy taking me to the pansy fields, letting me pick whichever flowers I chose. He told me to look deep into the flowers to see their gentle faces. It's true: pansies have faces. And so do violets, their small cousins--maybe it's that memory that made me love them.
The first perfume I ever bought (at a KMart in Houston, TX, when I was eight years old) was violet, and to this day I sometimes wear Yardley April Violets, even though I'm better with woodsy fragrances. And the first tiny little china trinket box I ever bought (at a gift shop on Catalina Island when I was ten) was decorated with violets; I cherish it still.
Over time I kept collecting bits of china and various teapots but somehow they were never satisfactory, especially as people tended to give me chipped and cracked things because they thought I was okay with that when, really, I wasn't. Then one day I saw Hammersley Victorian Violets--a china brand that had been out of business for years. That beautiful stuff set me off and running, even though my mother said violets were too delicate to suit me, even though another relative insisted that I must not collect it because she wanted to collect purple things herself. Nothing stopped me. Despite my normal habit of compulsive obedience, this was one matter where I could not be swayed. It was my own small rebellion.
I pursued Hammersley for more than ten years, like a hunter stalking elusive prey; I even bought an antique English vitrine just for the pleasure of displaying my finds.....until I finally had a surfeit of Hammersley, until I finally realized that I don't like "sets" of things. Sets are too confining. Sets own people; people don't own sets. Break just one thing and it's all ruined--it's like living under threat. But it was a beautiful threat, and I enjoyed it for awhile. (I've written about this before, of course, but it's on my mind because this is a big change for me--a new rebellion.)
Here's a front view of the vitrine with some of the Hammersley--I had already reduced the stuff by 25% by the time I took this picture but the vitrine was still crammed full.
This is a time of change. I have listed very nearly all of the Hammersley Violet on eBay, and I've sold a great deal of it already. Now I'm working on putting together an "orphan" tea set that will suit me better. I started with a pansy tea pot that my mother bought me years ago, and I added the Hammersely Harlequin Rosebud tea cups that I bought for her--each cup and saucer is a different color. (Although I tried for several years to sell this quartet of duos, they just wouldn't go--even when they were actually sold, the deals fell through; so I thought that, maybe, they are just meant to be mine. After all, Mother and I enjoyed many happy tea times with those cups.)
Recently I found a pretty Winton candy dish for far below value. And I've added a forlorn English ironstone partial set (doesn't show in the next picture but it's six little sandwich plates, a creamer, and a discolored sugar--that last one fascinates me a bit; somehow I'm just sure that someone used it to pour hot dripping into during WW2 when fats and oils were scarce and everything had to be used; it's not broken, just odd and well-loved). Then I found a couple of lovely Winton ascot decorative plates on eBay, and I already had a couple of pretty platters leftover from store stock. Yes, there is just a bit of Hammersely Violet remaining--four sandwich plates and three trinkets (a clock and a pair of shoes) because I still love it; just not such a lot of it as I had before. That's my original trinket box, by the way, just visible on the shelf above at the right.
Yellow. That's actually my favorite color. I needed more yellow. And green--I love that very nearly as much as I love yellow. And blue and pink but also purple. The mix of colors is refreshing, not so regimented.
Although I had thought that maybe it was time to let the vitrine go, too, I've decided to let it stay. It's in transition, just like my tea set, just like me. It's imperfect, just like me. And I'm really having fun playing with putting various mismatched stuff here and there until I find the effect sufficiently pleasing. I enjoy sitting on my little red stool in front of the cabinet moving bits of china about, like pieces in a doll house. Hey, you're never too old to play with a tea set, and I never did like dolls.
Mismatched. Yeah, that seems to be my style after all. It suits me, don't you think?