Monday, November 30, 2009

The Perfect Piece: Blue Willow Platter circa 1830

After a rather perfect Thanksgiving, two Thanksgiving dinners in one day to be precise, I have discovered what is missing from many Thanksgiving tables.

Why is it that all of the Thanksgiving commercials we see on television have long holiday tables, laden with food and beautiful china, when we most often (as I have deduced from looking through countless Thanksgiving photographs on facebook, yes, you may laugh) opt to set up a Thanksgiving buffet, laden with plain pyrex dishes and in some cases, less than lovely aluminum pans?

What is missing from Thanksgiving, you ask? The Blue Willow Platter. What better piece of history and artwork to hold your turkey than an antique Blue Willow platter? The Blue Willow pattern was influenced by Chinese pottery discovered by the British when they began trading with China. As the British made strides in their own pottery making, their trade with China ended; however, the British created the Blue Willow pattern and continue to produce this pottery using the transfer method.

The transfer technique was first practiced in England in the 1750s. The transfer method is a type of decoration that allows one to use the same design or pattern multiple times. A transferred decoration can be applied over or under the glaze and is a more productive and less expensive method than hand-painting. It was not until the 1760s that the English mastered the transfer technique under the glaze, a more permanent process.

The story of the Blue Willow pattern begins with a Mandarin man and his beautiful daughter, Koong-se. The Mandarin man’s secretary, Chang, falls in love with Koong-se and is banished from the estate. With the help of her maid, Koong-se is reunited with Chang and the two hide from her father until they are finally discovered. Chang is caught and killed and Koong-se kills herself so that the two are not separated by death. The gods who are touched by their deep love for each other, turn Koong-se and Chang into immortal doves who fly eternally together.

The Blue Willow pattern shows the estate and the fence built around it to keep Chang, an unworthy man, away from Koong-se. On the left, you see the willow tree and the boat that Chang and Koong-se use to escape together. Below the willow tree is a bridge with three men marching over it. And finally, flying high above are the two lovers, reincarnated as doves. The pattern has exquisite details. Each little space is covered with tiny, perfect patterns. There have been many adaptations to the patterns by different potteries; however, this platter features the traditional Blue Willow Pattern.

Coming in all sizes, the Blue Willow platter is a more than adequate centerpiece for your holiday table. Imagine, this beautiful platter holding a turkey surrounded by all of its trimmings. It is just the right depth for holding a little au jus and the rich cobalt blue tones in the pattern are a wonderful match to the golden brown of the turkey. It is as if the Blue Willow platter was made simply for the holiday table. While I do not believe the original Thanksgiving table was set with fine china, crystal, and silver, what better way to honor our forefathers than to pull out all the stops. The Blue Willow platter is the perfect centerpiece for your holiday table. And the best news of all…it’s not too late to find a blue willow platter for your holiday table.

For information about this Perfect Piece and others like it please e-mail Elizabeth at

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Perfect Piece: French Eight-Day Tall Case Clock circa 1870

Doesn’t it remind you of the scene from The Nutcracker, when Herr Drosselmeier, cloaked in black and wearing an eye patch, enters the stage just as the grandfather clock has begun to chime? How many movies, plays, musicals, and ballets have we seen where a grandfather clock plays such an important role?

The tall case clock, known more commonly in the United States as the grandfather clock, is quite symbolic. In movies or plays it can symbolize the brevity of life or serve as a signal that time is running out. In The Nutcracker it plays the role of signaling an important moment in the ballet, as Herr Drosselmeier introduces his latest inventions. In a home or office, a tall case clock can also play an important role. Though it may not stand tall in the corner solely to remind you that time is ticking away, a tall case clock can act as an anchor in a beautiful formal dining room, or a plush office.

Tall case clocks come in many sizes and shapes. The clock pictured stands nearly 8 feet tall and is slender and curvy, while other tall case clocks may stand only 6 feet tall and be very square in stature. There are tall case clocks with painted faces, and tall case clocks with gilded faces. Clocks made of French pine are common, but clocks of chestnut are also common in France. In England, clocks of mahogany, oak, and English pine, can also be found.

This eight-day tall case clock is made of French pine. It is hand painted with a subtle and timeless floral motif that echoes the gilded floral ornamentation that surrounds the face of the clock. When the proper time is set and the pendulum has begun to swing, the tiny tinkling bell of the chime can be heard every hour. The quiet tic-toc of this grandfather clock is delicate and comforting.

Do you need something that is simple, rustic and casual, or a piece that is elegant, masculine, and bold? Tall case clocks come in styles to fit every room and are cast to play the leading role as the perfect piece.

For information regarding this piece and others like it, please e-mail Elizabeth at

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Perfect Piece: Spanish Olive Oil Jars circa 1840

How do I begin to describe the magnificent presence of a beautifully glazed Spanish Olive Oil Jar? These wonderful pieces where originally made to fulfill a strictly utilitarian purpose. One cannot help but think of what a lovely coincidence it is that an item intended for functionality could, at the same time, be so stunning.

This Spanish olive oil jar and others from an area in Spain that borders France, have been crafted for storing olive oil using the same design and technique for over 250 years. The glaze that is spilled over the stop of the jar is also found coating the interior in fantastic colors. When each shipment arrives, it is not uncommon for us to find a thin layer of olive oil in the bottom of each vessel. The slight scent of the olive oil still lingers after the jars have been washed, serving as a perfect reminder of the past lives of each pot.

While the original intention for these olive oil jars was for storage, I believe they can serve a variety of purposes. Ranging in sizes, olive oil jars can be perfect planters in a container garden. They are simply wonderful filled with fresh cut flowers or standing alone as a centerpiece on a dinner table. They add power and majesty to a home when placed on either side of a front door. They add rich color and reflect dancing flames when positioned on the hearth. They seem to fit and complete whatever space they are chosen for in the most simplistic and satisfying way, just as the perfect piece should.

This particular olive oil jar, with its undulating lines, has a glaze that is particularly eye-catching. A predominantly orange glaze with streaks and dribbles of mustard yellow is warm, but the hints of green add a striking and complementary element to this already perfect piece.

For information on this item and others like it e-mail Elizabeth at

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Perfect Piece

As you walk through your home, your eyes are drawn to that one little empty space that is waiting for the perfect piece. Whether it be a large or small void, you've spent hours searching for just the right thing. Is it vintage or modern, antique or reproduction, you just won't know until you've laid eyes on it!

You're looking for the piece that has been perfectly loved by its previous owner or labored over in a workshop somewhere in the heart of England. Is it a French chest of drawers or an English Oak coffer? Is it a set of vintage enamel mixing bowls or an antique Blue Willow soup tureen? Whether it be strictly utilitarian or frivolous and decorative it’s out there waiting for you.

It’s the thrill of the hunt that I love most about antiquing. We’ve trudged through mucky fields in England and spent hours in warehouses poring over inventory to select a unique and timeless collection. And now, we want to share it with you in our new blog. Each week, starting this Monday we will feature a “Perfect Piece”. With a little history and background you’re sure to fall in love with something and maybe fill that little space you’ve been eyeing…