Sunday, 9 May 2010

Mismatched French vintage china

The tragedy of china is that it breaks. The question is: does this matter?

When it happens, yes, hugely. I've lost all sorts of wonderful plates, and most particularly coffee cups, hence my never-ending obsession with them.

But after the rainstorm passes, sunshine often follows. There is another life awaiting all the left-over cups, saucers and plates that otherwise might face life alone. The trick though, is being a good matchmaker.

The theme I've stuck to here, that is echoed in every piece, is gold and white. Any colour variations on individual plates don't matter. The other important element is type of china, here I've gone for all porcelain, or half-porcelain. The quality of the plate, the feel and look of each one is the same, whatever the colour or design.

Once you start adding a tea cup into the equation, the whole thing takes off and you start wanting tea, and cake, and possibly a cucumber sandwich. Broken china is forgotten, and a new ensemble is born.

Personally, with tea cup trios, I think it's the cup that's the most important thing and this one is very pretty and will match up with a lot of plate and saucer partners.

Friday, 7 May 2010

The joy of Arcopal

There's just something about glass. But combine glass, with colour, and you have a stunning result that's fresh and always remains contemporary.

These blissfully beautiful tea cups, made by the French firm Arcopal, look as though they have been made from old fashioned boiled sweets.

When I look at these teacups, I think, Fox's Glacier Mints, Barley Twists, Mint Imperials, Humbugs and those lovely sugar dusted Pineapple Chunks. The silky sheen, that is the essence of each cup and saucer, is beautifully finished off by a gold trim.

Arcopal was a line of glassware made by Arc International, sadly discontinued. These tea cups and saucers, most likely made in the late 50's and early 60's, are now hard to find and although a lot of your basic Arcopal dinnerware is still out there, they aren't making any more of it. 

Arcopal was marketed as being five times stronger than ordinary chinaware. Consequently, a lot of canteens and catering outfits, used the dinnerware because of that durability... and people with large extended families did likewise. I have fond holiday memories of Arcopal plates, cups and other tableware used by various French and Spanish aunts, as they attempted to continually feed us, without breaking the bank or the plates.

This stuff is durable and practical, but in the 1960's and 70's, owning some Arcopal also meant you were making a fresh and brave modern statement. It meant you had turned your back on heavy old fashioned china crockery, and were forging bravely on into the future, with clean, cool Arcopal. And you know, to the touch, it has the quality of fine porcelain, without the price tag.

Arcopal, made literally millions of plates, cups,  mugs and bowls that were affordable, modern and lasted. These tea cups and saucers though, were an attempt to create an extra special Arcopal thing of beauty.

For me, these cups and saucers would be best used not for 'a cup of builders' but a refreshing 'tisane' or herb tea. A translucent and aromatic Cammomile infusion would be the perfect fit here.