Please Do Not Eat These Vegetables! by Square With Flair™

{Editor’s Note: I have an old friend whose brother has a famous restaurant in Chicago. It is well known that a diner is not permitted to wear scent into the restaurant and there are no flower arrangements on the tables. The fragarence would interfere with the aromas of your perfect meal. There are many who choose not to dress the table with floral arrangements for just this same reason. Square with Flair™ has a solution for those of you who would still like to bring nature inside.}

When I was at the farmer’s market today, I noticed the first peaches out. What a golden time of the year we are entering as the bounty of fruits and vegetables captivate us with colour, scent, and flavour! This got me thinking about porcelain produce, that is not to be eaten, but simply to look at and admire.

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(Paris Porcelain Cabbage covered box)

In the beginning of the 18th century, the medium and artistry of porcelain caused a sensation when the formula was newly discovered at Meissen, Germany. The race to discover the formula of porcelain, or white gold as it was known, is a fascinating story wrought with treachery, bribery, murder, deceit, violence and tragedy. Prior to this, the only porcelain available was shipped from the orient with much difficulty and at great expense.

meissencabbageplate
(Cabbage design plate by Meissen)

In this period, the height of prestige and elegance was to drink tea from porcelain cups imported from the orient, or at the beginning of the 18th century, from cups made of Saxon porcelain from Meissen. Many Royal houses began their own manufactories that exist to this day, such as Meissen, Nymphenburg, Derby, and Sèvres.

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[Porcelain asparagus boxes by Herend (large) and Limoges (small)]

Because porcelain was a new medium, an air of inventiveness, whimsy, and charm is evident in many of the creations. Pieces were often incredibly detailed without concern for breakage or technical limitations. Porcelain firing was an unpredictable, difficult, and costly endeavour, and minute flaws such as glaze pops or firing cracks were often charmingly concealed with small ladybugs, insects, snails, or floral sprays.

spodeleafcache
(Leaf cachepot by Spode)

Table decorations and services of the rich and aristocratic were often decorated with pieces of porcelain that mimicked actual foods. Among these were tureens modelled as cabbages, tureens with lemons as finials, and plates formed as leaves with stems for handles. Porcelain vegetables such as bundles of asparagus or a melon were modelled as small tureens, saucières, or simply as decorative accents.

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Ever since the 18th century, these delightful objets have been prized by connoisseurs and collectors alike. Famous collectors of these porcelain vegetables are designers Mario Buatta and Sister Parish, Andy Warhol It Girl, Brigid Berlin, designer-socialite Lady Mendel (Elsie de Wolfe), the Duchess of Windsor at her country mill house, and celebrity health guru/ nutritionist Gaylord Hauser.

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(Porcelain vegetables in the chinoiserie secrétaire of the Duchess of Windsor in their country house, “Le Moulin de la Tuilerie,” The Mill, outside of Paris, photo from “The Windsor Style” by Suzy Menkes)

The antique models by Bow, Chelsea, Meissen, Mennecy, Worcester, and St-Cloud are prohibitively expensive and a lot of sleuthing is necessary to track them down at auction houses such as Drouot, Christie’s and Sotheby’s. But perfectly lovely examples exist in the modern day porcelain creations of Dodie Thayer of Palm Beach, Herend, Katherine Houston, Penkridge Ceramics of England, and Vladimir Collection. The prestige manufactory of Meissen will possibly re-issue special edition models based on 18th century originals, but be warned, they are limited and prohibitively expensive.

houstonpeapod
(Peapod by Katherine Houston)

If you are at all creatively inclined, you can even make your own. I’ve made a few myself at a ceramics studio. Start with a little blush coloured crab apple or a peapod…really very simple and fun to do.

Not only are ceramic vegetables appealingly decorative, they are a visible reminder of the natural world and how important it is to us. As we all move further away from meat based diets, ceramic vegetables seem that much more of a reflection of our lives. And in the last three generations, we’ve moved from agricultural, rural lifestyles, to crowded and polluted cities. Who doesn’t want to look at more refreshing green? Ceramic vegetables are wonderful! And they don’t need to be refrigerated.

These may not be eaten for dinner, but they are indeed a feast for the eyes!

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