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Cheers to a new year: on becoming a stuff person – favorite things

Welcome back!  It’s a beautiful, sunny, albeit cold, day here in the Pacific Northwest.  As I clean and organize shelves, making room for a new set of violet themed salad plates and lavender bullion bowls (another recent purchase from The Key Antiques in Lakewood — my super power is also my kryptonite —, it has me reflecting on some of my favorite things. 

Now that you have an ear-worm (sorry about that), consider the things that bring happiness, joy, and beauty.  These could also be items that are a reminder of a person, place, or time or a simple way to preserve the past through traditions, or long ago hard-earned purchases.  Years ago, items were not mass produced, making them more expensive in an era where disposable income was not an option for everyone.  As I’ve mentioned in an earlier posts, I consider myself as a stuff person, to be a keeper of things – that also makes me a keeper of history.  As I also mentioned, it saddens me to think that so many once cherished items could be so casually tossed aside, or split apart.  I think this is what makes me such an avid collector and keeper: preserving memories and traditions when items like a china set, a teapot, silver flatware, or a collection of crystal glasses was an endeavor for many- often being purchased over years, rather than a one-time event.   

The beauty about collecting items is that it doesn’t require a great deal of space, or even landing on “something” to collect.  It could simply be one, two, or three tiny items that bring you happiness: hence favorite things.  As I considered “what one, two, or three things (OK four in my case) I’d be hard-pressed to leave behind” these are the items came to mind:

L – R: a small pin dish; toothpick holder; salt shaker; egg cup

What a random collection of things, but there is a story to each one of these items, let’s take a stroll down memory lane.

My first bribe and first official piece of china:  circa 1973, kindergarten.  My mom was desperate to have me stop sucking my thumb.  We frequented Gunderson’s Jewelry store in downtown Tacoma (now antique row) – across the street from the Pantages Theater at 9th and Broadway.  The building is still there, now a coffee shop, and it had the most amazing grand staircase if you entered from the 11th street side. It was quite common for jewelers to sell China and silver flatware at that time.  This was my early dabble into china and where I first saw Lenox The Autumn, and most likely the start of my china love affair.   During one visit, they had these tiny pin dishes on display, so bright, colorful, and cheerful – and I desperately wanted one! 

Backstamp reads: “handmade in Austria Arta 60”

Arise, the golden opportunity!  A week later, we returned: I was on the road to a life-long addiction, and no longer a thumb-sucker.

The remaining three items were my grandmothers.  I spent a lot of time at my grandparents house, its where I learned to set a proper table by the ripe old age of four.  She would tie a ribbon around my left-wrist so I would remember which side the forks went.  This little toothpick holder was always included in the table setting.  Sadly, it broke several years ago, so it is no longer something I use, but it remains a favorite item. 

Look at the detail! Each has such detailed little faces and kimonos. The fine lines that you see are called crazing, and are very common in older porcelain. It does not mean necessarily that the item is structurally weak, but may stain. Larger cracks however (like the ones towards the top), may indeed weaken smaller items like this one.

This is the bottom, presumably with the artist signature.  At first glance, it looks like a sticker, but is painted.

Unlike most things that I got from my grandmother, I do not know the story of this little gal. It was in my grandmother’s china cabinet for as long as I can recall; I coveted it for that entire time!  Must be the pink rose, something that still appeals to me.  This is called the deco-rose and I actually used this as a pattern for two stained-glass panels that my grandfather made for me.  They now sit in a converted media cabinet where I keep glasses and pitchers.   Giving more thought to this little salt shaker inspired me to dig a little deeper.  The manufacturer was Oscar & Edgar Gutherz, a small china producer in Austria (1884 – 1918), they even had a china pattern called Marie Antoinette, with her beautiful MA monogram. 

This cute little egg-cup is Royal Albert Blossom time. It’s such a happy pattern with its springtime cherry blossoms, and park like setting.   Every Friday morning, my grandmother would take this off the kitchen window sill, fill it with ammonia (yuck!), and plunk in her two rings for a good soaking.  Like the toothpick holder above, it was a staple and in constant use for as long as she was alive. 

Royal Albert Blossom Time, definitely a cheery pattern

These favorite things of mine are pieces of history that tell a story of art and the progression of time from an era where dinners in the dining room – or at least around a table with conversation – were a daily event for most. In this cultural renaissance, look for something to admire, use something in a new way, learn the history of a particular item, appreciate the art in products that were not mass-produced, or find one that tells a story about someone special. And, oh…if these pieces could talk what stories would they tell?

Thank you for visiting today, I hope you enjoyed my little walk down memory lane, reflecting on how stuff can bring happiness, joy, and beauty.  How do you bring the past into the present?  A friend recently told me that she was inspired to use an antique butter dish, something passed down from a great aunt.  Inside the dish, she found the story of how it was acquired all those years ago!  Please share a story in the comments section about some of your favorite things.  Hope to see you back in February for two valentine inspired posts!   Until then, enjoy something lovely, ~d

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