My name is Christine and I'm a dishoholic.
I'd like to think that my obsession began when I would pick up items for food photography, back in the day when I was a full-time photographer, but that's not at all true. I didn't even have a decent set of dishes back then, just some Corelle that was easily replaceable and some ugly stoneware I got as a wedding gift.
Around the time my son was two, I decided I was tired of living like a college student and took advantage of a china sale at a department store by purchasing 8 place settings of a Noritake china pattern called Adagio (picture of the pattern below.) I managed to get the soup bowls and my brother gave me the sugar and creamer and that's what I owned I went off to law school a few years later. I discovered the pattern had been discontinued when I went to do a gift registry when I married Len.
It was soon after the earthquake that I discovered china replacement services like Replacements, Ltd.* in North Carolina, and I managed to replace the few pieces of Adagio that broke. I also haunted flea markets--a somewhat less satisfying, in terms of deals, alternative to the house auctions I used to attend with my mother when I was growing up and while I still lived back east.
One fine day, I stumbled upon a trove of Adagio place-settings and service pieces. Heaven. $225 for what would have cost me $1100 through Replacements. It gave me place-settings for almost as many people as were coming to dinner for Thanksgiving (the record has been 23.)
The thing that is really most responsible for indulging in my dish obsession came into being around that time: eBay. I was suddenly able to find Adagio in abundance, and, at least in the early days of eBay, it was possible to find real bargains. Over the past 12 or so years, I've acquired the rest of the pieces I need for service for 24 in Adagio and I've got every serving piece except for the coffee server (my two "almost" stories involve dishonest sellers, and although I did not lose any money, I didn't get the piece.) I used to have one of the demitasse cup and saucer sets, but the cup was broken during the house fire and I've never found another one. I've even got napkin rings for 24. My Thanksgiving table looks lovely. Except for a bargain on the coffee server or finding the demitasse sets, there's really nothing more I need or look for in Adagio. I don't really like the etched crystal (incredibly rare) made in the pattern and the only thing I'd love to have are snack plates (also known as tea and toast plates), which might once have been special ordered but were never actually made for general sale.
Ultimately, the pursuit of dishes is All About The Hunt. I've got a number of different dish patterns I collect and I keep an eye out for those collected by my friends. The Hunt is more fun when it is done on foot with friends,
but eBay has had a negative effect on the existence of antique shops
and second-hand shops where china and silverware are sold. Many of them just went on-line. In L.A., there is at least one good flea market every weekend and there are still places like Pasadena and Old Town Orange where there are collections of antique malls (though not nearly as many as 15 years ago.) We used to go to the Rose Bowl Swap Meet almost every month, but it has been years since Len's felt up to the walk or I've felt like facing the parking issue. I do, however, try to go to the Pasadena City College Swap Meet every few months, and I like to hit what is left of the antique shops in the San Diego area when we go down for Comic-con. It is rare that I don't find at least one item to add to my dish collection.
When I was growing up, my mother's everyday dishes were from Stangl. She had the Fruit and Thistle (below) patterns.
Back in the day when antiquing was a regular part of my San Diego Comic-con weekend, I ran across several snack sets in a Stangl pattern called Country Garden, where each dish had a different flower or combination of flowers carved and painted onto the surface.
She seemed particularly concerned with my snack plate obsession. In addition to the Stangl sets (probably 16 of them), I had two different snack set patterns in glass. One was clear glass in a button and bow pressed glass pattern and the other was a milk glass pattern called Orange Blossom. Both were mid-century glass sets made by Indiana Glass.
Good thing I didn't still have the Fan plates I had been accumulating. Those I gave to a friend who already had a large collection when the triangles caught my eye.
While we were in the rental house, I scored some Cottage Garden vases, candy dishes, and a strawberry basket on eBay for bargain prices. Lots of other pieces started showing up and there was something so cheerful about the pattern, I kept up with The Hunt, expanding into place settings. I'm still looking for the snack plate set in the U.S. (I can find them from U.K. sellers, so maybe if I go to London with Len in February, I'll be able to buy them.)
The two months of the year that the Aynsley goes into storage is for the Christmas holidays when my Lenox "Holiday" pattern china comes out.
There is a part of me that might consider swapping out the Aynsley for Lenox's equally cheerful "Butterfly Meadow" pattern.
That doesn't mean I won't dive into something completely different, because I just did.
I went on line a few weeks ago to look for some serving pieces decorated with horses for the Belmont Tea I will host on Saturday. I started hosting a tea for the last of the Triple Crown races during the last decade when it looked like a possibility that some Thoroughbred would finally make it a dozen winners. We're still waiting for that, and it has been four years since I last had an excuse to hold the tea. This will be the first in the new house and with the 73" TV. Almost like being there in person in New York, right?
So, back to the Internet. I think I typed in horse teapot or horse china on eBay, which I've done a few times before, but not with the results I got this time: a beautiful pattern with Arabian horses.
I've purchased a salad plate:
A bread and butter plate:
A candy dish with a mare and foal:
And a beautiful 12" cake platter:
I do want to share something else I saw, but which I cannot in any way even consider buying: Hermes Cheval d'Orient.
* Replacements, Ltd., was founded in 1981 and its owner, Bob Page, came under fire for opposing the passage of Amendment One last month. Please consider supporting this business (I don't recommend going so far as Christine Lavin has by breaking china just to replace it), which was the first of its kind and is the largest replacement service in the U.S. When putting together this post, I discovered they even carry the Galaxy pattern. Maybe Replacements will get my missing creamer in some time, but I just discovered there are matching demitasse cup and saucer sets.