Discover more from Constant Commoner
Plates and Platters and Things That Matter
I'm in love with things most mundane. I'll bet you're not surprised.
As some of you know, after almost 30 years on this island I’m getting ready to move. I know what I want to happen, I know where I want to live, but life—you know this, too—has a habit of throwing monkey wrenches.
We’re in ‘Pause’ right now, but it’ll happen, and I’m trying to get ready for it. I’m at that stage where I’m fondling things more than I’m packing, but I’m okay with that. It’s going to take time and willpower to separate from my old life in order to start anew. Some precious things will go with me, and some will have to be left behind. Maybe most of them.
Along with the fondling comes the remembering. Where did this piece come from? Does it have a story or is it enough that I love, love, dearly love it?
Why can’t I remember where I got it? Can I give it up? What would I do with it if I kept it? Would it fit in any space I might have, or has it outlived its usefulness, even though it always makes me smile.
You would think from the way I’m carrying on that my house is filled with valuable treasures accumulated through galleries and auctions and private collections and maybe incredibly generous gifts. But you would be wrong. (If you’ve seen my kitchen, you know…)
Most of my treasures (those that didn’t come through family or friends, that is) come from thrift stores or antique store sale racks or yard sales or estate sales. Many if not most of the old things in my house were made in factories, spit out on assembly lines, then sold in dime stores and department stores to people who might have seen them in advertisements in the women’s magazines of the day.
Or sold to the tourist trade.
But at least one was made by hand and tossed off in such a way I’m forced to treasure and protect it for all of my days.
I found this child’s rocker at a garage sale. The owner said it was handmade by her grandfather in Kentucky and she remembered him soaking and shaping the willow and tacking in the twigs and then selling them for $5 each. (The handwriting on the bottom says it was made in 1965) When I asked her what she wanted for it she said, “Oh, I don’t know…how about three dollars?”
I snapped it up and took it home and I can safely say in the dozens of years I’ve owned it, I’ve loved it far more than that granddaughter ever did.
This may be the favorite of all of my plates. It’s brown Aesthetic Movement transferware, Japanese style, with cranes and cartouches and any number of things you might not see at first but will if you study it long enough. I have a few pieces of brown aesthetic ware—not nearly enough—but this one I truly love. I paid a few dollars for it at an out-of-the-way flea market many years ago and I remember that my female pals kind of sniffed at it, which was okay with me. No competition. Within seconds it was mine.
But back to Salamina, the woman depicted in the plate at the top. Rockwell Kent was an artist, writer and activist who, in the 1930s, moved to a small hut in Greenland to work in quiet for a year, where he hired Salamina, an Inuit, as his housekeeper. She may have been his mistress, she may have been his muse, but he made her the title subject of a book which later became the catalyst for a line of dinnerware when the owner of Vernon Kilns, a popular American pottery, read the book and convinced Kent that Salamina would make a fine subject for plates and such.
In all of her depictions she’s posed awkwardly but beautifully for no known reason other than she was Salamina and Kent was obsessed by her.
I wonder what Salamina thought about being on plates where steak knives were carving into her body and forks were landing who knows where? I wonder if anyone asked her permission, either about the book or the dinnerware?
I feel lucky to own those plates. I’ve always thought of her as someone strong and resilient, but what do I know? Maybe she didn’t want to be strong and resilient. Maybe she didn’t want to be that Salamina. Maybe she hates that she’s living on plates in my house.
But I can’t leave her behind, I just can’t. She’s going to have live in a place where Will Rogers and Roosevelt and Churchill hang out, too. That’s just the way it is around here.
Well, this is where I have to stop for now. Writing about all of this is an excuse for not sorting, and sorting is what I really have to do. I don’t want to tell you how much of this stuff there is around here. Much of it is left over from my days selling antiques and vintage goods, first in a brick-and-mortar store, then at Ebay, then at Etsy. Packing and shipping got to be a hassle, especially when shipping costs rose, but I thought at some point I might get back to selling.
I won’t. So it’s back to work. Fondling, remembering, sorting. And some of it may even get packed up.
Wish me luck.
Have you subscribed yet? Now’s your chance. Free or paid, I welcome you either way. Paid subscriptions help to keep this site going, but I’m here because you’re here. Come on in!