March 27, 2012

Sophisticated Tableware Artistry

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The tradition of the hounds! Spode China Herring Hunt/The Hunt is a multi-motif pattern depicting various hunt scenes, as riders dressed in their pinks harry the fox over hill and dale. Scallop-shaped, with a hunting scene depicted at the center of the plate and finished with a band of green along the outside edge, Herring Hunt/The Hunt is an iconic pattern. Spode founder Josiah Spode opened the doors of his porcelain factory in 1780. Under his guidance, the factory introduced two important breakthroughs in the development of English ceramics. Using bone ash, Spode was the first English china maker to achieve higher firing temperatures, resulting in beautifully detailed, longer-lasting china. The company's second important achievement was perfecting "underglaze" decorating. Intricate designs could be applied to china that would last for years without chipping, scratching, or fading. Bone ash composition and underglaze decorating were inexpensive - making fine china available to the English middle class at prices they could afford.

The striking Bedford pattern by renowned designer Ralph Lauren features a bold shape with a convex bowl that curves in at the top, a knobbed stem, and a round foot.  This design recalls, in an urbane way, the simple decor of the American past. The pattern sets a beautiful table, and is another example of the design genius of Ralph Lauren.  Lauren was born and raised in the Bronx, New York.  Although he showed a great deal of interest in design at an early age, Lauren attended the City School of Manhattan to study business. He left college just short of receiving his degree, and in 1968, opened Polo Fashions. The fledgling company began by selling ties, and the ensuing years proved enormously successful for Ralph Lauren as he expanded his business to include a full line of men's and women's clothing as well as home furnishings and accessories.  Lauren has achieved tremendous success relying on a formula that combines balance and sophistication with classic patterns and shapes - elements all present in the Bedford crystal pattern. 

First produced in 1940, International Silver Joan of Arc is an enchanting sterling flatware pattern with an elegant and flowing scroll design. International Silver started as a combination of America's greatest silver manufacturers. During the American Colonial period, New England was home to many artisans producing high-quality pewter, sterling, and silverplate, primarily in Connecticut. Around 1808, Ashbile Griswold opened a pewter shop in Meriden, Connecticut. Through mergers with regional companies, Griswold's original shop grew to comprise fourteen silver manufacturers, including Holmes and Edwards (Bridgeport), Meriden Britannia (Meriden), and Rogers Brothers (Hartford). In 1898, the International Silver Company became truly "international," establishing offices in England and Canada. Throughout the years, International Silver products have remained immensely popular.

March 22, 2012

Serious Craftsmanship, Playful Designs



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Nettuno by Vietri is a wonderful pattern featuring a colorful mosaic design with fish, coral, and seashell elements. The Vietri story begins when two sisters, Susan and Frances Gravely, and their mother, Lee Gravely, took a trip to Italy in 1983. While visiting Italy's western coast, the Gravelys became enamored with the handcrafted dinnerware at their hotel. Such was their love for this particular dinnerware that they arranged to meet the artisans who produced it, and subsequently spent three days of their vacation watching the artisans at work. Upon their return to the U.S., the Gravelys decided to import the Italian dinnerware and become wholesalers. In 1983, the three women launched Vietri, Inc., named for Vietri-Sul-Mare, a small Italian fishing village near the Amalfi Coast. The first tableware they imported was Campagna, a whimsical pattern featuring cows, horses, rams, and fish. Today, Vietri is the largest U.S. importer and wholesaler of fine, exclusively Italian and handcrafted ceramics, mouth blown glassware, stainless and pewter flatware, and more. According to Vietri literature, "The Vietri brand combines the richness of European culture with a sophisticated American spirit. Fashion forward, yet classic, Italian home accessories are designed to complement the good life and celebrate Italy and all that it encompasses - a love of life, people, nature, and simply good living."

While the company is best known for its ceramics, Villeroy & Boch introduced spectacular lines of flatware and crystal in the twentieth century. Boston-Amber is a showcase crystal pattern released in 2004. Its dazzling amber color is accented by the crystal's sturdy shape and raised design. Founded near Luxembourg in 1748, the longevity of Villeroy & Boch is not the only rare characteristic of the company in a modern corporate world. Surviving the ravages and devastation of World War I and the World War II, Villeroy & Boch remains a family owned business; the eighth generation of the founders actively creates and produces tableware designs. Villeroy & Boch is the world's largest producer of ceramics. Its wares include egg cups, bathtubs, the tiles in New York City's Holland Tunnel, and table settings for the Vatican in Rome.

Treble Clef by Gourmet Settings is 18/10 stainless flatware featuring contoured handles that curl at the end, and a combination of glossy and blackened finishes. The treble clef, a symbol used in musical notation to indicate the pitch of notes, is a type of G-clef, although the two terms are synonymous. Originally, instead of a clef symbol, the musical staff was labeled with the letter of the note that served as its reference point: G, F, or C. Over time, the shapes of these letters became more stylized, eventually becoming the clef symbols we know today. The flourish at the top of the G-clef/treble clef comes from a cursive "S," which represented "sol," the name for the G note in solfege (the technique of singing each note to a special syllable, e.g., do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, ti). The whimsical design of the Treble Clef pattern is a wonderful complement to the vibrant colors in Nettuno china and the playful contours of Boston-Amber crystal. Gourmet Settings literature states, "At Gourmet Settings, we think that every time you eat with friends and family, your knives, forks and spoons should bring a little dash of joy ... we know it's just flatware, but you use your knives, forks and spoons three times a day, 365 days a year. Why shouldn't every time bring a smile to your face?"

March 13, 2012

"William the Conqueror" by Royal Worcester

The "William the Conqueror" figurine from Royal Worcester's Military Commanders series stands as a fine example of the craftsmanship, creativity, and attention to detail applied by Royal Worcester in the creation of stunning figurines.

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The Military Commanders series was created by artist Bernard Winskill, whose paintings and sculptures have been showcased at the Royal Institute Gallery in London, the Society of Portrait Painters Gallery, and the Royal Glasgow Fine Arts Society. The first subject in the series, Napoleon Bonaparte, was released in 1968. Eight other depictions of history's greatest military leaders followed, including: Duke of Wellington (1969), George Washington (1972), Duke of Marlborough (1973), Alexander the Great (1975), Richard Coeur de Lion (1978), Eugene de Beauharnais (1979), Simon Bolivar (1979), and our feature this month, William the Conqueror (1979).

William was born around 1027 in the Duchy of Normandy (a region most of which is now France). William was an illegitimate child - and only heir - of Robert I, Duke of Normandy. When William was eight years old, Robert died while taking a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, making young William the duke of what was then a powerful territory. Although Robert had enlisted family and friends to guard over William in the event of his death, William's dukedom was immediately tested by those wishing to gain control of Normandy. William barely escaped being murdered at least once, and many of those guarding him died while he was under their protection. When he was just fifteen years old, William was knighted by King Henry I of France, solidifying William's authority as duke. Proving himself to be a strong and capable leader from an early age, William successfully fought off several invasions and reestablished a unified Normandy, which had become fractured following his father's death. His political stature increased even more after his marriage to Matilda, daughter of the Count Baldwin V of Flanders (another powerful French territory at the time).

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When the King of England, Edward the Confessor, died in 1066 without any apparent heirs, William claimed to be his successor, believing Edward had promised the throne to him years earlier. However, there were three other contenders for the English throne: Edward's brother-in-law, Harold Goodwinson; Harold's brother, Tostig; and King Harold Hardrada of Norway. Harold Goodwinson, a powerful English aristocrat, was the most obvious successor, and was elected king by the Witenagemot and crowned by the Archbishop of York. As William amassed soldiers to invade England and claim the throne he felt was rightfully his, Tostig and Hardrada combined forces and invaded England from the north before William could launch his invasion. This forced Harold, who had set up troops along the southern coast of England in anticipation of William's attack, to move his forces north to defend that border. Harold was successful in repelling the northern invasion (both Tostig and Hardrada were killed), but by this time William and his forces had landed in the southern part of England and set up a base of operations there. Harold and his battered troops rushed south to defend against William's invasion (picking up more soldiers in London along the way), and the two sides met at the Battle of Hastings. Harold and his two brothers were killed in battle, and although the English people didn't fully embrace William as their king, there were no strong contenders to resist his succession to the throne. William was crowned King of England on Christmas Day, 1066 in Westminster Abbey, but spent the next several years quelling revolts and consolidating his power.

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Under his rule, the Anglo-Saxon aristocracy was largely replaced by William's Norman supporters (who were also given much of the land previously owned by the native Anglo-Saxon population), and England's Anglo-Saxon culture became inextricably intertwined with that of the Normans. A dialect of French came to be the language of choice among the English upper class for almost 300 years after William's reign; this cultural comingling is also responsible for the introduction of many French and Latin words into the modern English lexicon. William, interested in having an overview of his English territory, commissioned a comprehensive population and property survey in 1085-86. This information was collected and survives as the Doomsday Book, which remains an important historical document providing detailed information about the population of England at the time. William the Conqueror died in 1087, and was survived by four sons and five daughters. In addition to creating an impressive cultural legacy, every English monarch since William's reign has been his direct descendent.

March 08, 2012

Remarkable Craftsmanship, Brilliant Designs

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Wedgwood Chinese Teal is scallop-shaped china featuring a serene bird and floral scene in the center of the plate, flower sprays on the rim, and an embossed edge. Produced in the Queen's Ware line between 1974 and 1988, Chinese Teal is a spectacular Wedgwood pattern! Its vibrant colors complement a variety of linens and centerpieces, and its scalloped shape fits beautifully with a wide range of crystal and silver. In 1759, Josiah Wedgwood established a pottery at the "Ivy House Works" in Burslem, England. During his first ten years of business, Wedgwood made many advances in the refining of porcelain. One of Wedgwood's most important creations was creamware, true fine china that was easy to produce, relatively inexpensive to make, easily decorated, and desired by royalty and commoner alike. In 1765, King George III's wife, Queen Charlotte, solicited Wedgwood to be "Potter to His and Her Majesty." As a result of his new title, Wedgwood changed the official name of his creamware to "Queen's Ware." Jasperware, a non-glazed porcelain featuring classical figures in bas-relief, was another important invention of Wedgwood's, and has become virtually synonymous with the Wedgwood name.

A distinctive shape and curved panels make Imperial Glass-Ohio Old Williamsburg-Clear a perfect complement for Wedgwood Chinese Teal.  With a knobbed, multi-sided stem and concave bowl flaring at the top, Old Williamsburg-Clear was produced from 1959 to 1982, yet pays homage to earlier patterns made famous by Imperial Glass-Ohio in the 1930s. The company, founded in 1901 by Edward Muhleman, a riverboat captain and financier who had enjoyed success in other glass-making ventures, produced widely popular glassware designs for eight decades. Based in Bellaire, OH, Imperial Glass-Ohio was able to pull through the Great Depression due to the success of legendary patterns like Candlewick-Clear and Cape Cod in the late 1930s. Today, Imperial Glass-Ohio pieces are highly sought-after by collectors.

Towle Spanish Provincial is an exquisite sterling pattern with a floral motif, a scalloped tip, a scrolling, floral edge, and a glossy finish. The flowing, elegant floral design of Spanish Provincial works well with the bolder Chinese Teal and Old Williamsburg-Clear patterns. The history of Towle Silver is rooted in the Moulton family of England. Starting with William Moulton II, a tradition of craftsmanship and artistry would be built by six generations of Moultons, including William Moulton IV, who would apprentice a young Anthony F. Towle. After years of diligent study, Anthony decided to start his own business upon the retirement of William IV. Using the knowledge he had acquired working with the Moulton family, Anthony Towle and partner William P. Jones would buy the Moulton family stock to form Towle & Jones, Co. in 1857. The company found firm footing and a warm reception in the silver industry and market at large. Production of the first Towle hollowware lines (tea sets and other pieces) began in 1890, and Towle gained recognition for fine craftsmanship in the many years that followed. Patterns like Candlelight, produced since 1934, and Old Master, produced since 1942, have consistently drawn hordes of dedicated followers. Today, Towle embodies all of the original principles set forth by the Moulton family, and used so wisely by Anthony Towle. The Towle Silver legacy of great craftsmanship, beautiful design, and quality will ensure its continued success in the silver tableware market.

February 21, 2012

Vernon Kilns Lei Lani by Don Blanding

Sometimes the history of tableware offers up the life stories of great characters, and artist, poet, actor, and self-styled vagabond, Don Blanding (1894-1957), who also designed patterns for the legendary American china company, Vernon Kilns, was one of them. These pieces in the Lei Lani pattern by Vernon Kilns are essential representations of Blanding's life and career.

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The "National Cyclopaedia of American Biography" (New York: James T. White and Company, 1963) notes that Blanding was born in 1894 in Kingfisher, Oklahoma territory (Oklahoma had not yet achieved statehood). Blanding would later study at the Art Institute of Chicago (1913-1915), supporting himself by sketching and working as a theater usher. He joined a literary group that included authors Ben Hecht and Sherwood Anderson, and painted a set scene for Hecht's play, "Publico." In Kansas City, MO, Blanding saw a production of the play, "Bird of Paradise," and was so taken by its portrayal of Hawaii that he almost immediately undertook a journey to the islands.

That was the beginning of Blanding's love affair with the Hawaiian Islands. He worked as a cartoonist for a Honolulu newspaper, painted portraits, and produced a play. He would return to the mainland in 1917 to serve in the U.S. Army. He studied art in London and Paris after his military discharge, and traveled in Guatemala, Honduras, and the Yucatan Peninsula. In 1921 he returned to his beloved Hawaiian Islands, working as a commercial artist and writing poems that appeared daily in the "Honolulu Star Bulletin" newspaper. He would go on to publish several volumes of verse and prose, some illustrated with his own art.

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In 1942, at the age of 47, Blanding reenlisted in the U.S. Army (some references say he did so in response to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, December 1941). He served for 11 months and was discharged in 1943 with the rank of corporal.

At the height of his writing career he traveled extensively, sometimes producing articles for the magazine, "Asia," and living in places as far-flung as Honolulu, Hollywood, Carmel, Taos, Florida, and Los Angeles. Late in his career, notes the "National Cyclopaedia of American Biography," while living in Los Angeles, he narrated travel films, lectured widely, and in the last year of his life, delivered some 236 lectures across the U.S.

Blanding began designing for California-based Vernon Kilns in 1936. Lei Lani was inspired by the profusion of magnificent flowers on the Hawaiian Islands. Our featured pieces are the round serving platter (13 3/4 inches) and the pitcher (11 1/2 inches tall). Also shown are the creamer and sugar bowl and lid. Note the "upside-down" handles, called the "Ultra Shape," designed in 1937 by Vernon Kilns art director Gale Turnbull (1889-1962), who began his career in England, emphasizing the power of color in design. (For Vernon Kilns Turnbull worked with other artists as well, including Rockwell Kent and Walt Disney.) Evidently the handles were the idea of Jane Bennison, daughter of Vernon Kilns president, Faye Bennison. The backstamp shows the pattern name, along with the signature, "Aloha Don Blanding." (Later, in 1951, Blanding would write a Saturday column for the "Honolulu Star Bulletin" entitled, "Don Blanding Says 'Aloha'.")

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February 16, 2012

Royal Doulton "Bobby Burns Plate"

The "Bobby Burns Plate" is an outstanding example of the many collections of Series Ware that Royal Doulton produced in celebration of people, places, events, and literature significant to British history.

At the center of the plate is a formal, etched portrait of Robert Burns (1759-1796), also known as "Rabbie" or "Bobby" Burns. He was called "Scotland's favorite son," and often, the "Ploughman Poet" - in the background of the portrait, a ploughman and his team of horses are depicted. Burns's work defined him as a spokesman for the common man, and the political and social commentary in his poems was sometimes blunt.

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Burns is the best-known of the British poets who wrote in Scots dialect. In addition to his original works, he also collected Scottish folk songs, and his work grew in popularity, even after his death. His song, "Auld Lang Syne," is given voice worldwide, and his poems, "A Red, Red Rose" and "A Man's a Man for A'That" are often recited. On the rim of the "Bobby Burns Plate" are beautifully rendered illustrations of some of the major characters in Burns's poems and songs, including Tam O'Shanter, Highland Mary, and Duncan Gray.

Royal Doulton was founded in 1815, when John Doulton partnered with John Watts to create the pottery, Doulton and Watts, which eventually relocated to the town of Lambeth. While they produced pots, jugs, pitchers, and bowls, the company was primarily known for its production of large vessels for storing industrial materials. Over the years John Doulton's sons, who had joined their father in the management of the business, eventually formed companies of their own. But turmoil in the British financial markets forced the businesses to dissolve. In 1853 they reformed as Doulton and Co. Although patriarch John Doulton died in 1873, the company continued to grow and expand. While Doulton and Co. produced industrial materials throughout the second half of the 19th century, there was growing emphasis on the production of quality household ceramics. In 1901, King Edward VII conferred a Royal Warrant for the company's production of ceramic vessels holding porous stones that successfully filtered pollutants from the water of the Thames River, London's primary source for drinking water. With the issue of the Royal Warrant, "Doulton and Co." became "Royal Doulton."

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The plate backstamp, a crowned lion rampant standing atop a crown (obviously, the grant of the "Royal" warrant was a powerful marketing tool), was the standard impressed mark used by Royal Doulton 1902-1922 and 1927-1936. This stamp was applied to wares made both at the original factory in Lambeth and in their second location, the Burslem works, Stoke-on-Trent. At the bottom of the backstamp are the letter "D.," indicating "Doulton," and the numbers "6344.," indicating the original Doulton pattern number.

February 02, 2012

Bob White by Red Wing Potteries

The Bob White pattern produced by Red Wing Potteries includes whimsical depictions of a mother bobwhite quail and her chicks rendered in a muted color palette of blues and browns on a speckled background. The Bob White items displayed in our museum include a 2-quart covered casserole with metal stand, a beverage server, a figural hors d'oeuvre holder, and an oval platter with burner stand. Produced from 1954 to 1967, Bob White was the most popular pattern ever produced by Red Wing - during its thirteen-year run, more than fifty different Bob White pieces were produced. This delightful pattern was designed by Charles Murphy, one of the most important figures in Red Wing company history.

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Murphy grew up in East Liverpool, Ohio, an area known for its pottery production. Producing his first pottery designs while still in high school, Murphy went on to study at the Cleveland Art Institute, where his talent won him a scholarship to study abroad for a year. After graduation, Murphy worked as a designer for several pottery companies, including Homer Laughlin. In 1940, Murphy was hired to be the design director at Red Wing, where one of his first acts was implementing a more efficient, assembly-line process for decorating the company's hand-painted products. During WWII, Murphy served as a combat engineer for the U.S. military, earning a gold star for his paintings of battle scenes. Returning to the company after the war, Murphy distinguished himself with his playful and stylish designs for cookie jars, figurines, statues, and dinnerware. In 1949, Murphy left Red Wing, but returned in 1953 and stayed until the company closed in 1967. The designs introduced by Murphy during his tenure at Red Wing helped the company achieve great success, and have left an indelible mark on the art pottery and dinnerware world.

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Nestled by the Mississippi River in the shadow of a river promontory, the city of Red Wing, Minnesota had become an industrial powerhouse in the upper Midwest by the late nineteenth century. Author Ray Reiss in his book, "Red Wing Art Pottery," notes that the city was incorporated in 1864, just six years after Minnesota had been admitted as a state into the Union. Red Wing bustled with manufacturing plants, grain elevators, and extensive docks as a port on the Mississippi. After deposits of clay were discovered nearby, the city ultimately became the largest single producer of utilitarian stoneware in the nation, writes Ray Pahnke in an article, "The Largest Pottery," in the "Red Wing Collectors Society Newsletter."

A potter, German immigrant John Paul (or, as listed in some accounts, Joseph Pohl), is credited with discovering the clay deposits near Red Wing in 1861. Paul sold his handmade wares to friends and neighbors, and small potteries sprang up in the area. Red Wing Potteries, Inc., founded in 1936, emerged from a series of different companies, the first of which being the Red Wing Stoneware Company, founded in 1877. The handmade tradition of Paul's wares was carried forward in the products of Red Wing Potteries. With the development of modern mechanical refrigeration, along with the passage of the Volstead Act and the era of Prohibition, commercial demand for stoneware jugs and crocks declined dramatically. Responding to these marketing changes in the late 1920s, Red Wing Potteries introduced its Art Pottery line, crafting decorative flower pots and kitchenware. In 1932, the company began producing Art Pottery for legendary marketing agent George Rumrill. Pieces from the decorative flower pot, kitchenwares, and Rumrill collections represent important contributions to the history of the Arts and Crafts movement in the U.S.

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At about the same time that the company changed its name to Red Wing Potteries in 1936, it began to produce dinnerware. Bob White was one of the patterns in the company's "Casual" line, introduced in 1955 in response to the changing American lifestyle following the end of World War II. Beginning in the mid to late 1950s, Red Wing began to face stiff competition from foreign markets, and the company was forced to close its doors in 1967 following a labor strike. Today, Red Wing pieces are highly sought after by collectors.

January 31, 2012

Warming Winter Designs

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Nikko Winter Wonderland features a beautiful, folk art tableau of ice skaters on a frozen pond under the light of a crescent moon and a star-filled night sky, surrounded by charming depictions of wintertime houses and trees. Winter Wonderland perfectly complements the accompanying Swirline-Red glassware and Camden flatware. In 1908, Nikko Ceramics was founded in Kanazawa, Japan. The company moved its operation to Hakusan City, Japan in 1961, and founded a subsidiary in the United States in 1968. According to company literature, Nikko creates tableware "with the spirit of craftsmanship and a company culture of high aesthetic sense." Nikko products have won a worldwide reputation for quality and design that endures today.

Swirline-Red, a bold blown glass pattern produced by Pier 1 Crystal, features a brilliant red stripe that swirls gracefully around the clear bowl, a smooth stem, and a round foot. This is a fun and eye-catching glassware design! The Pier 1 company began with a single store in San Mateo, California in 1962. Pier 1 has carried a wide selection of merchandise through the years, and has grown to be the largest specialty retailer of imported home furnishings and decor with over 1,000 locations.

Wallace Silver's Camden is a delightful stainless steel flatware pattern featuring a graceful handle design with floral elements and a glossy finish - Camden is an eye-catching pattern! Wallace Silver, established in Connecticut nearly two centuries ago, has long been recognized for excellence in tableware craftsmanship. The founder of the company, Robert Wallace, was born in 1815 into a family of silversmiths who had immigrated to New England from Scotland. Apprenticed to William Mix, a renowned Connecticut spoon maker, Wallace, after mastering his trade, purchased a dilapidated grist mill and began to produce his own silver flatware in 1833. Camden is just one of many examples of Wallace Silver's high-quality work.

January 24, 2012

Harmonious Designs, Outstanding Artistry

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The Blue Reverie pattern by William Roberts showcases artisanship of the highest order, with a variety of graceful designs in an attractive blue and white color motif. Blue Reverie was first produced in 2005, but possesses a timeless elegance and charm. The various blue hues of this multi-motif pattern are wonderfully vivid, with design elements that include swirls, flowers, dots, and other striking geometric flourishes. This is a wonderful pattern from William Roberts Fine China, a company renowned for its design and manufacturing excellence.

Featuring beautiful criss-cross cuts on a square-shaped bowl that flares at the top, a multisided stem, and a starburst cut on a round foot, Kinsale crystal by Waterford is an exquisite pattern. With its eye-catching design, Kinsale is an especially fine accompaniment to Blue Reverie china and Heiress flatware. Waterford Crystal dates back to the Flint Glass Works, founded in 1783 on the quay in the port town of Waterford when George and William Penrose opened the Flint Glass Works. In 1788, Waterford produced a glassware service as a gift to her Majesty, Charlotte Sophia, wife to King George III. The King and Queen were so charmed by the crystal service that they ordered the set to be displayed at Cheltenham castle. Today "Waterford" is synonymous with fine crystal, and is found in households around the world.

Oneida Heiress is a stylish stainless pattern that features a chic, flowing design, and a glossy finish. Oneida, Ltd. grew out of the original Oneida Community founded in upstate New York by John Humphrey Noyes in 1848. This Christian communal society was based upon the principles of individual self-perfection and shared property. Many products were manufactured by the Oneida Community, including animal traps, silk, chains, and, eventually, some of the world's most recognizable, high-quality, and beautifully designed flatware. During World War I and World War II, Oneida began producing many products for the U.S. military, including ammunition clips, combat knives, surgical instruments, and silverware for the Army and Navy. When stainless steel was introduced to the market in the early twentieth century, it failed to make an immediate impression on the flatware industry. Oneida, however, decided to shift its focus from sterling to stainless flatware production. Strong research and development greatly improved the quality of stainless steel as a dinnerware material, facilitating Oneida's success in the stainless flatware market. Today, Oneida, Ltd. is one of the world's largest marketers of stainless steel flatware, positioned to continue being a leader in the tableware industry for generations to come.

January 03, 2012

Art Deco Design, European Styling

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 Produced by Mikasa, Erte' Plates is a gorgeous series of collectible bone china decorated with Art Deco designs by Erte, the artist and designer widely considered to be the father of the Art Deco movement. This week's featured plate is titled "Le Soleil," and features a stylized drawing of a fashionable woman done in the clean, sharp, lines and bold colors that came to characterize the Art Deco movement. Erte was born in St. Petersburg, Russia on November 23, 1892. At the age of 22, Erte was offered a job creating cover art for Harper's Bazaar; he went on to illustrate 250 covers for the magazine over the course of the next 40 years. His illustrations also appeared in such publications as Cosmopolitan, Ladies' Home Journal, and Vogue. In addition to his illustrations, Erte designed costumes for both movie and theater productions in Hollywood and on Broadway, and produced art in various other mediums. The Erte' Plates series is a wonderful homage to Erte's artistry, and beautifully represents the craftsmanship and production excellence associated with Mikasa.

Featuring a beautiful variety of polished cuts on a v-shaped bowl that flares magnificently at the top, a multisided stem, and a starburst cut on a round foot, Ashbourne crystal by Waterford is an exquisite pattern. With its elaborate, eye-catching design, Ashbourne is an especially fine accompaniment to Erte' Plates china and Elysee flatware. Waterford Crystal dates back to the Flint Glass Works, founded in 1783 on the quay in the port town of Waterford when George and William Penrose opened the Flint Glass Works. In 1788, Waterford produced a glassware service as a gift to her Majesty, Charlotte Sophia, wife to King George III. The King and Queen were so charmed by the crystal service that they ordered the set to be displayed at Cheltenham castle. Today "Waterford" is synonymous with fine crystal, and is found in households around the world.

Elysee (Sterling) by Puiforcat Silver features a glossy finish and a narrow waist that broadens into an ornate handle adorned with graceful designs and a delicate plume at the tip. French silversmith Jean Puiforcat is widely considered to be one of the foremost silver designers of the twentieth century. Descended from generations of silversmiths, Puiforcat entered the family business in 1920. Puiforcat's early works drew inspiration from early nineteenth-century English silver designs and incorporated natural elements, keeping with the art nouveau style popular at the time. As Puiforcat's career progressed, however, his pieces began exhibiting less ornamentation, and moved toward a more streamlined, Art Deco aesthetic. It was around this time that Puiforcat began to develop a profound interest in mathematics. In a 1927 article, Puiforcat stated, "The weakness of certain of my pieces, that I am the first to recognize, comes from my incomplete education in numbers. My evolution follows my studies in geometry, in trigonometry." Puiforcat's fascination with mathematics influenced many of his silver designs; he was especially interested in employing the golden ratio to guide the proportions of his works. Although Puiforcat employed precise calculations in his pieces, he did so while maintaining a warm, sensual aesthetic. His legacy is one of a silversmith who created functional silver that continues to provide a "poetic sense to geometry."