Sunday, June 20, 2010

Mad Hatter's Tea Party

It's been a gloriously sunny day here and the heat has made me as Mad as a Hatter. We've all gone a little bit Alice in Wonderland crazy since a certain weird and wonderful Tim Burton film was released earlier this year. To celebrate all things Alice we have created our own version the infamous Tea Party china. There's a two tier cake stand, teapot, cream jug and sugar bowl and six cups and saucers and side plates. All that's missing are some magic potions and the Queen of Heart's tarts.

Mad Hatter's Tea Party setThese vintage pieces have in fact been carefully chosen. Mismatching patterns isn't quite as easy as it sounds. No kidding! The whole point of a shabby chic mixed set is that none of it is supposed to match exactly, but it's so tempting to stick to one colourway and be conventional. After much swapping and changing and umming and oohing I was finally satisfied with the finished set. The colour and pattern combinations do share some similar tones and motifs such as cute little pink roses. There's a definite floral theme bringing it all together.

mix and match teacups saucers and side platesThere are a few rare pieces in the set too. One of my particular favourites is the Royal Albert Crown China "Autumn Crocus" from the 1920's. A gorgeous tulip shaped cup with a splash of primrose yellow decoration. Definitely more springtime than autumnal I reckon. The service represents the best of English bone china from the Art Deco period through to the 1950's. Featuring an eclectic selection from Royal Stafford, Colclough, Queen Anne, Jackson and Gosling, Paragon and Duchess. To name but a few.

teapot fit for a dormouseThere's also a lovely teapot easily large enough to squeeze a dormouse into. It's made by Arthur Wood and Son of Staffordshire and decorated with the prettiest purple violets. There's plenty of space in there to brew up a big pot of Darjeeling and with sufficient cups and tea plates for six party guests that's a lot of tea and cake!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Granny's Attic

Visiting an antiques warehouse recently it was a revelation to see a great number of trendy and fashion conscious twenty something females placing pieces of great grandma's china into their baskets. Now you'd think that a hip young thing would be selecting her dinnerware from Ikea or John Lewis for example, and not seeking out a second hand bit of vintage from the dust covered shelves of an eclectic antiques emporium. Think again. The demand for all things shabby chic is huge and it's the hard working party girl generation who is eager for the old stuff. With sixty year old china this pretty however, it ought to have come out from the back of the store cupboard or granny's attic years ago.

Our famous Potteries sadly will never produce the beautiful wares of their heyday again. They're closing down fast and those which remain in business are moving out to Indonesia and far flung places across the globe. The result is that vintage Staffordshire is becoming increasingly hard to find and the price is rising. Life perhaps started to move a whole lot faster in the latter half of the 20th century and the lovely English tradition of taking afternoon tea simply withered away. Just like platform shoes and shoulder pads, now cupcakes are back in fashion and so too are pretty patterns and dainty tea plates to pick up the crumbs. A little bit of wear around the edges then all the better. There's something wonderfully nostalgic about recycling great granny's best tea set and giving it a new lease of life.

Ideally, to add a really individual touch of vintage glamour to your table, you want to mismatch your pieces and make up your own quirky tea set. Be bold and brave and use your imagination by mixing up all that gorgeous china into a unique service. We're all conscious now of the need to fix and mend rather than throw away. If you have a little lost saucer or a lonely tea cup too well loved to dispose of then they're a match made in heaven. Put them together and use them! Show them off and be proud of your heritage. We've filled a picnic basket with a variety of teacup trios. You could really go off the rails and mix them all up.

Have a little of everything and lots of it. Fabulous shabby chic!

Anyone for Afternoon Tea?

If creating cake stands wasn't enough we're now making scented teacup candles too. It's been a bit tricky to perfect the art mind you. After much trial and error and a fair amount of wax clogging up the dustbin and over my apron, finally, a candle in a teacup. Who knew that wick sizes and wax mixes and adding colours and scents was such alchemy? The results now are very pleasing, and we're greeted with a gorgeous aroma of highland heather and jasmine whenever we open the door to the workshop. The beauty of candles in vintage teacups is that when you've finished enjoying the scent and the ambiance you can use them again for a nice cup of tea with a slice of cake. Now that's what I call environmentally friendly. Tasty too.

The above cake stand is created from lovely powder pink Salisbury china plates dated from the 1950's. It was a fantastic find at a local antiques warehouse. Had to grab it before someone else did. We decided that the set should be kept together rather than split up to match with others. It has possibly spent the best part of sixty years displayed in the 'best china' cabinet after all. Someone else thought it was rather nice too and it quickly left us for a new home. I really hope they will love it as much as we did. The smell of that rose candle was delicious too. Perhaps they'll be eating cream scones from those plates with a good helping of strawberries on the side? High tea in time for Wimbledon. What could be more civilised and fashionable than that one wonders?


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