I have always loved blue and white. There is something about the combination of blue and white that captures my imagination. I seem to find it soothing yet also captivating. When I went to Santorini in the Greek Islands in 2002, the stunning combination of blue and white made my heart sing. I had never seen so much blue and white in one place. The white washed walls of the buildings combined with the azure blue of the Agean sea was simply breathtaking.
As a girl, I fell in love with my mother’s Willow pattern dinner set. It was always brought out for celebration meals and for dinner parties. I learned to associate it with special occasions. I think this where my love of blue and white porcelain began.
My mum has always had an appreciation for fine china. I was barely out of my teens when Mum started buying me small pieces of Wedgwood Jasperware which is also blue and white (it does come in other colours but the blue and white is by far the most popular). I was 22 when I first packed my backpack and set off on a solo trip to Europe. This was in the days before mobile phones and email (I can almost hear the young people hyperventilating at the thought of being so unconnected. I wrote postcards, long letters and made reverse phone calls once a month. Imagine that!). Whilst in London I spent money on Wedgwood as a souvenir; I figured I would have something to show at the end of my travels unlike many of my antipodean contemporaries who appeared to be spending any loose change on alcohol. Lots of alcohol. And so my collection started.
Back in 1999, I was living in London. Aaron (who was then my boyfriend) was studying law in Leiden in the Netherlands and was unable to be with me for my birthday. Aaron was a little late and rushed in purchasing a gift for me and as a result it seems he didn’t give quite enough consideration as to how he packed the antique blue and white Delft plate.
My diary entry from that day reads:
My present arrived from Aaron. It was an antique Delft plate. I stress ‘was’ as it is now in many pieces. My dear, sweet boy has learned an expensive lesson – one can’t send fragile things through the mail without proper packaging and insurance.
I cried. I think Aaron almost cried too. He was a 22 year old student who had spent $150 on a present. Incidentally I still have the broken plate. One day I hope to do some sort of mosaic project with it. I’m not overly arty or crafty so we will have to see if that ever eventuates.
Aaron, to make up for his thoughtless packing, bought me another Delft plate. We visited Delft while he was living in Leiden and it is a stunning town. That plate used to hang in my kitchen but is now hanging in the new version of our house.
Aaron collated a good portion of my blue and white porcelain and has hung it on the wall of my butler’s pantry (which is also the laundry but butler’s pantry sounds dead posh). I like the mix of styles. There is of course the Delft plate in the centre but there is also a Spode plate that my mother bought me and also a Spode Blue Italian soap dish, there is a tile from Denia in Spain where I stayed at my cousin, Karen’s villa and a small English bowl. My latest acquisition came from my mother-in-law. It is a plate from Skimming Stones and the design is called ‘Big Metal Tree’. The Hills Hoist clothes line was an Australian invention and has really become an icon of Australian suburbia. Every yard in the 1950s and 1960s would have had one. Most Australian kids have memories of swinging on the clothesline in the garden. Aaron’s grandpa in Queensland has an amazing one. It is so big, you can get multiple loads of washing on at once. This plate was designed in Melbourne but made in Arita, Japan.
As I prepare school lunches or sort washing, this collection should hopefully bring me just a little bit of calm, tranquility and a chance to reflect on the stories and people behind these plates.