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Cup and saucer


I am quite obsessed by tea cups. I’ve already written about this one. I can’t help heading straight for the crockery section whenever I go to a second-hand store, and turning over all the tea cups to see whether I’ve unearthed a treasure.

In the nineties, I bought Poole china, because I liked the colours and the shapes. I knew that they were ‘collectable’, which was part of the appeal, but it wasn’t as if I was going to start trading them in for lots of money.

My sister told me that Mikasa was going to become valuable, so I was always on the look-out for that too. I don’t know why – I am not the entrepreneurial type, and I’m never organised enough to photograph stuff to sell on Trademe. But its colours and heft pleased me, and I liked to imagine that I could cash it in for a trip to Italy.

The Kon-tiki I particularly loved – I found the set in its original box in a junk shop in the far north. It had that cocktail-hour fifties motif that was enjoying a revival in the nineties. Unfortunately all the glaze cracked the moment that we poured coffee into the cups, but we drank out of them anyway, imagining ourselves to be sophisticated and European.

I found the tea cup on the left in a little shop on Tinakori Road, a road I always associate with Katherine Mansfield, and my friend Helen sent me the Queen Anne cup and saucer in one of her famous parcels. She often sends me presents of green and turquoise, and I’m pleased to have that association for her.

Helen also sent me the rose Meakin set on the left, but I found the Poole demi-tasses myself.

I claimed the Shelley cup and saucer from my mother-in-law’s china cabinet after she died. It is the most brilliant buttercup yellow, with flower motifs inside, and a black trim. I wish I had a whole set. My sister gave me the turquoise Crown Lynn for a birthday present – see, she associates me with that colour too. These are our new every day cups and saucers, although we’ve broken a few of those too. Luckily, there’s a place in St Kevin’s Arcade that always has spares.

I think if I had another job, I would like to be a crockery designer. Not the people on the factory floor, driven batty by a thousand painted poppies. The ones, like Clarice Cliff, who got to decide how everything looked. Cliff was one of the first career women, and she got quite famous, even though she was shy of publicity. I don’t own any Clarice Cliff. My sister does. She bought it in a flea market in Australia, and she said it didn’t cost much. Perhaps it was cracked, or the glaze was coming off. It doesn’t really matter – it’s beautiful, and she wouldn’t sell it anyway.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. melissa laing permalink
    14/08/2012 4:14 pm

    No flaws (well it was only the plates dinner, entree and bread and butter plus two tea cups sans saucers) and the seller agreed it was cheap, I really don’t know it was though. However teh clarice cliff fan site says “As a general ‘Rule of Thumb’, unless a piece has one of these words in the backstamp: Bizarre, Fantasque, Inspiration, Latona, Appliqué It is unlikely to be of any great value.” I just love those titles.

    I really got you the crown lynn because the turqoise had this strange yellow under dye which I am pleased to see you have painted in this blog

  2. 14/08/2012 4:35 pm

    Oh I love! Wish I was talented enough to illustrate my wee Poole collection. I don’t stick to tea cups, even though I love them. I have a mish mash orf colours but it is the turquiose & stone I love the best – since this is the colourway of my grandmother’s full dinner set which one day I will inherit – this is where my love of Poole comes from, I guess. Beautiful illustrations and stories, Sarah.

  3. Kirsten permalink
    14/08/2012 6:20 pm

    Lovely post. We have a huge collection of turquoise Poole thanks to my partner who has collected it for years (used to pay $2 for a dinner plate). We use it everyday, and it’s the best way to drink coffee or tea. I think if you can eat off lovely plates and drink from lovely cups it enriches your life greatly. Do you know Katherine Smyth’s work? She’s a friend of mine, and I adore drinking tea from her mugs. Anyway, I loved your drawings, delicate like china. Maybe I could buy a Poole drawing? for David. But it would have to be turquoise…

  4. 15/08/2012 3:08 pm

    These drawings need to go in your Etsy shop, pronto.

  5. Paula Green permalink
    16/08/2012 9:58 am


  6. 17/08/2012 8:23 am

    gorgeousness. i love cups and saucers too and have way too many!


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