My name is Therese and I collect mid-century crockery. I’ve said it. I admit I’m a recovering addict of sorts, obsessive, if you will.
My obsession began when I made my first breathless purchase, a gift to myself for getting my fashion degree, in the late 1980s. There was a cool little shop selling retro fashion and knick-knacks on my route between the town centre and the college campus, and I ogled the window as I passed by every day. During the frantic weeks of preparation before the final collections were due, I promised myself the gorgeous set of 1950’s ceramic storage containers in the window if I achieved my goal. I willed myself on and prayed the set would not be sold before the final results were received. I can still taste the thrill of possessing that first set. I see it every day and I still love it.
I can remember where each piece came from, and how I felt when my eyes settled on it. Each piece feels like treasure to me, though most of it is worth absolutely nothing in money terms. I have found pieces at antiques fairs, charity shops, retro-vintage stores and garage sales. I have pieces designed in England, Scandinavia, Japan and Australia. I have sets collected bit by bit, from all over the place, stand-alone statement pieces, and several odd saucers – I love them all.
Most of the collection is from the UK and was eagerly sent for from storage in my sister-in-law’s attic after we settled in Australia in 1997. It felt much more like home once they were here, like having my family around me. I feel oddly emotional about my crockery collection.
I had 2 tiny matching saucers that didn’t make it out to Australia with the rest. Bought in a second-hand shop, they had been at the back of the cupboard under the sink in my parent’s kitchen since 1991, when Mr.B and I left for Hong Kong. They were hand painted with a charming leaf design called Palma Nova, and made by Broadhurst of Staffordshire in the late 1950s. Over the years I would covet them whenever I was visiting. Mum often said I should take them home with me to Australia. Last year when the whole family were together at my parents house I decided I would this time. They made their final appearance during afternoon tea in the garden, when Dad, bless him, got his foot stuck under the table whilst handing out biscuits. One of those precious saucers flew high into the air, in slow motion, and smashed into smithereens in front of my horrified family. I tried to make light of it for my Dad’s sake, but I brought every tiny particle back with me, wrapped in bubble wrap – a bit late for that. I tried to stick it back together, without success. I don’t know why I should be so upset, I hadn’t had it with me for over 20 years and it probably cost about 10p.
Although I’m not a purist and I don’t follow particular designers or manufacturers there does seem to be a common aesthetic to my collection. I’m not sure what it is – maybe colour, pattern, shape?
They come out sometimes if we’re having dinner guests, or more often when there are tasty comestibles being served with drinks. They are not contemporary, minimalist or chic and I sometimes wonder if people think we can’t afford nice things, or have terrible taste. Not everyone appreciates their quirky beauty.
These days the collecting has slowed down to almost nothing, mostly due to lack of space and hunter-gathering time. Maybe it’s because I haven’t spied the perfect piece lately. Whatever the reason, it’s a tantalising thought that I could find something amazing in any place at any time. Maybe I have my addiction under control . . . and maybe not quite.
Originally published 19/06/2014.