Setting the Table

Setting the Table

By G. S. Norwood

I love pottery.  Jan and I grew up in a house where Mom used Roseville to store the bacon drippings she kept on the stove.  We used to go to street fairs and art festivals like other families went shopping for shoes. 

Dreams and conventional solutions

I bought my first tea mug when I was in college.  Shortly after, I bought a really cool cookie jar, and after that it was off to the races.  I’d buy interesting pieces whenever I found them, but I always focused on the practical stuff.  Stuff I could use, not artsy-fartsy vases and jars that would just take up space.

But when I graduated from college, I went a more conventional route, buying eight place settings of factory-made Noritake stoneware.  They called the pattern Painted Desert, but seriously, it was beige. 

In the depths of my heart I secretly dreamed of having eight complete place settings of hand made pottery, but such things are expensive, and I had more important goals on my list, like moving to Texas, getting a job, buying a car, getting married . . . the usual things a young woman wants to do when she sets out to conquer the world.

Thirty years later: new dishes?

Some thirty years later, I’d moved to a different part of Texas, gotten yet another new job, traded my way up the car ladder, and lost my husband to old war-related ailments.  I was standing in the living room of the house I’d just rented and mentioned to my friend Deb that I might want to buy myself a new set of dishes. 

“Dishes?” she asked, as if she’d never heard the word before.

“Yeah, dishes.  You know, china.  Plates and stuff.”

“China?  You?”  Clearly, she found the concept alien.

“Okay, not flowery porcelain dishes, but y’know . . . Actually, I always wanted a complete set of handmade pottery dishes but that’s so expensive . . .”

At which point Deb grabbed my arm and marched me into the kitchen, where she opened up one of my newly filled cabinets.

“What makes a place setting?” she asked me.

“Uh, well . . . A dinner plate, a salad plate, a bowl, and a cup, I guess.”  That’s what it was in my trusty Noritake.

“And what do you have in here?”

What she found in her cabinet

Well, I’d never thought of it that way, since I’d bought all my pieces one by one over the past thirty years.  But I counted it up and I needed only four dinner plates and six salad plates to have eight complete place settings of handmade pottery dishes.

Of course, none of it matched.  But I came to realize that it all more or less went together, because it had all been selected by me, in colors I liked and shapes I responded to. 

What’s on her table?

Now I have a full eight place settings, plus some extras, and lots fun combining and recombining my pieces as I find matches between old favorites.  Here is only one of my place settings.  Either you get the aesthetic, or you don’t, but believe me: these days, dinner at my table is never beige.

The dinner plate by John Houston is a squarish shape, with a modernistic design of lines and squares in it.
Dinner plate by John Houston, a potter from Fort Worth, Texas.
The hexagonal salad plate with a repeating wave design is by Maria Macias.
Salad plate by Maria Macias, matriarch of a family of potters Deb introduced me to at the McKinney, Texas, Farmers’ Market.
Bowl by a potter who used to have a shop at La Villita, at the San Antonio Riverwalk, name unknown. It is blue, brown, and tan striped.
Bowl by a potter who used to have a shop at La Villita, the artisan village on the banks of San Antonio’s Riverwalk.  I bought it in 2011, didn’t get the potter’s name, and the shop isn’t there anymore, but he sold the kind of complete sets I had once dreamed of.  By that point they looked kind of boring to me, but I did like the bowl. 
Mug by Robbie Bell, a potter from north Carolina. It's green, tan and brown with a design of crossed branches.
Mug by Robbie Bell, a member of the artists’ collective that runs the excellent Mica Gallery in Bakersville, North Carolina.  I was taken there by friends while on a completely different artistic quest, but we’ll talk about that in another blog post.
The table started life as an ugly orange thing, but Julia Schloss painted it with freeform, fanciful patterns of flowers leaves, and other motifs.
Oh!  And what about the table?  It started life as an ugly orange thing, but my talented friend Julia Schloss painted it for me when I needed a breakfast nook table that wasn’t brown.  Julia is one of those magical people who creates art wherever she goes, and encourages other artists, and is just a marvelous breath of artistic inspiration to everybody she meets.

What about you, my readers?  How do you set your table?

IMAGE CREDITS: All photos are ©2020 by G. S. Norwood, of her personal possessions. Re-post or re-blog them if you wish, but please only do so with an attribution to the photographer, and a link back to this post. Thanks!

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