Feb 11, 2011

The China Hutch: Before and....In Progress

I love alliterations.  I almost titled this "Creating Order from Collecting Chaos" but since order has not been fully achieved, I thought better of it.

As a dilettante I dabble in this 'n that, flitting from one flight of fancy to the next.  I tend to leave a hodgepodge of not-quite-finished projects and endeavors in my wake.  There are precious few pursuits I have stuck with for very long, and I have tubs of half-finished projects in the attic to prove it.  One success is my beloved vintage Fiestaware collection, which I occasionally get a wild hair to add to.  But I have taken a serious, deliberate approach to my Fiesta stalking, homing in on pieces and colors I really REALLY love.  (Fortunately there are a lot of pieces I really REALLY love...)

Another collection I started a good while back is antique and vintage china teacups.  Like my Fiestaware, the impetus for my collection came from receiving a few pieces treasured by an elderly relative.  Unlike my Fiestware, this collection has grown haphazardly.  Much like Harriet Beecher Stowe's character, Topsy, "it just growed."  The only hint of a theme among my collection can be found in a few teacups and other pieces with violets, a longtime favorite and not coincidentally, my birth month flower.  The rest are antique and junk store finds that struck my fancy and were in my price range (basically no more than $10 for a teacup and saucer.)  Here they are:

Sorry about the glare, but it wasn't much to look at anyway!
As you can see, mismatched doesn't begin to describe this collection.  An Edwardian period display cabinet houses my menagerie.  Since the teacups only filled one shelf, I used the second shelf for knick-knacks.  But truth be told, I'm not a huge fan of knick-knacks and the arrangement wasn't particularly thoughtful or artful.  The bottom is filled with miniature greenhouses which I've been too lazy to box up each year after Christmas...and for a few years I've been too lazy to even get out and display.  Hmmm.

My lack of focus led to self-doubt:  what if I became that old lady with a monstrous collection of dusty bric-a-brac and hideous what-nots?  Self-doubt led to a long moratorium on additional acquisitions--probably a good thing.

But in a small dining room, floorspace is too precious to squander on anything that is not useful and/or aesthetically pleasing.  It was time to make this a fun, purposeful collection to be used and enjoyed.  To that end, I stepped back and asked myself what I really liked and wanted to collect, display and use.  The answer was staring me in the face:  violets.  Fortunately for me, there are dozens of china patterns featuring my favorite flowers, and many vintage pieces can be had for a song, letting me mix-and-match them easily.

The first step was tactical:  clear out all the unrelated stuff and give the piece a good oiling.  (And hang the picture and shine that poor silver!) Some of the removed pieces are slated for an upcoming yard sale, others are tucked away for swimmer girl when she has her own residence.  The greenhouses are stowed away in their tub in the attic.

The second step was strategic:  assess the going prices for various pieces, and then slice through the eBay jungle like a bushwhacker, spotting bargains and creating enough variety in patterns, styles and eras to avoid any hint of a fussy set of vintage china. 

After an intense foray into eBay territory, I now have a fun and (relatively) frugal collection of violet-strewn teacups and saucers, dainty plates and serving pieces on their way.  Most of the pieces have arrived; a few are en route.  Yes, the back of the cabinet is currently white - it's temporary. I'm waiting on a piece of buttery fabric to arrive.
Getting closer to the desired effect...
When everything is in place, I'll post some "after" pictures along with a few helpful hints to share, and my suggestions for safely displaying collectibles when you don't have cup hooks or plate rails in place.

And what do I plan to do with them, besides display them?  That's the best part of all: I now have the perfect excuse to host some fun parties for girlfriends young and old.  There are dozens of reasons to have tea party, and now I've got all the necessary accoutrements to pull it off with panache and style.  If a piece gets broken, it won't break up a set or break my heart.  In between celebrations, I can smile every time I catch a glimpse of my new little (?) collection.

Happy collecting,

psst, wanna see what happens next? Check out the work-in-progress and the grand finale.