Are you ready for Thanksgiving? Tom and I will be celebrating with my family in Virginia, and there will be quite the spread of food – from the traditional turkey dinner to authentic Chinese dim sum. Have you ever had turkey over sticky rice? Yum 🙂

During this time of year, I always think of the color brown – rich, warm and cozy just like my favorite winter throw. Outside, autumn’s vibrant hues have all turned brown. Speaking of outside, it has been absolutely frigid, the kind of weather perfect for indulging in hot cocoa. I love that shade of deep chocolate! Of course, Thanksgiving would not be complete without a delectable golden-brown turkey with plenty of gravy. And, this is the time of year I bring out my brown transferware.

Wall color in Java by Benjamin Moore

As regular readers know, I have a weakness or, a few might say, a sickness when it comes to collecting antique china. Since yours truly has accumulated so much ironstone, creamware and transferware, rotating the collections is a necessity: bring some out, put some away. It’s the only way to live with such an obsession. When it comes to displaying, I practice what I call “contained clutter.” Pile it on en masse and group the pieces all together. This creates more impact than a scattering of individual pieces.

Presenting my brown-and-white transferware…unpacked, cleaned and piled high on this French enfilade / long server:

Most of these date from the late 1800s during the Aesthetic Movement or Aestheticism, a period that championed the philosophy “Art for Art’s Sake.” Artists believed that beauty alone was reason enough for the creation of their work – a departure from having to justify meaning, purpose and value. In transferware, this freedom of expression resulted in free flowing asymmetrical designs, exotic Oriental influences, and exuberant blooms plucked from nature.

Here is a pretty serving platter in the Petunia pattern by Johnson Brothers of Staffordshire, England. Note its unusual asymmetrical shape. A pair of love birds decorate this vase made for holding hat pins for the fanciful Victorian lady.

ABOVE: Two vegetable or casserole covered tureens from the Aesthetic Movement. The larger one is bordered with festive pinecones – perfect for holiday entertaining. BELOW: A small serving platter featuring a country hunt scene complete with dogs and pheasants.

Popular Aesthetic Movement transferware subject matters include:

-Geometric borders and banners
-Oriental, especially Japanese, motifs such as bamboo trees, chrysanthemum blooms, fans, etc.
-Asymmetrical shapes and patterns
-Gardens, flowers, birds and other animals from nature
-Small postcard-like scenes (called cookies) randomly embedded in the pattern

Though not related to Aestheticism, I love this French ironstone pate keeper with brown lettering. It was made to advertise Maison Quillet’s pate – delicious I would assume!


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I couldn’t write about brown transferware without showing my good friend Ellen Seagraves‘ enviable and eclectic collection. In addition to being a gifted florist, Ellen is a passionate collector. I’ve shown her work before in this post. Enjoy this mini tour of her home.
My favorite piece from Ellen’s fabulous collection is this well-and-tree (for catching juice) meat platter with little postcard-like images overlapping each other – it reminds me of a scrapbook.
ABOVE: A butter pat with a geometric ring hiding a dragonfly.
ABOVE: This prized covered tureen has unusual beading on the handles. BELOW: A display of plates, platters and butter pats create a focal point in the kitchen.

Please say hi to Ellen! Ellen and I met 10 years ago when she wandered into my first shop – we hit it off right away chatting about antiques, flowers and local shops. As mentioned, she is a florist and, obviously, creates many wedding arrangements. Look at her vintage wedding cake toppers. So fun! 🙂

Ellen, gotta run but thank YOU for sharing your cool finds!! xo
Tom and I have been tasked with bringing the turkey to my family’s gathering. And since Tom has never roasted a turkey (and I can’t cook), we decided to do a test run with a 13 pound bird. I picked the platter which was my very first brown-and-white piece found on Portobello Road in England almost 20 years ago.
Ta-da! The turkey came out really good!!! A huge thanks to Tom for making it so dee-lish AND pretty for my little blog :)Have a Happy Thanksgiving! I am very grateful that you read my blog. Many thanks ~

Lots of love,