As an avid collector of all things ceramic, I can’t help but love china teacups, trios and tea services. I have a romantic notion of impressing friends and family with pretty tea sets that no-one can help but admire. Afternoon tea is a social pastime in England which is as popular as ever. The epitome of which is afternoon tea at the Ritz, a high-end London hotel for those of you not in the know! From personal experience I can tell you, it is just divine!
There is much to think about when collecting: does one collect a particular pattern, maker, colour scheme or do we buy just what we love the most? Whatever your motivation, there are a few things to keep in mind…
1. CONDITION is quite probably the most important aspect of collecting china. It is very easy to think something is in good condition when sometimes it is not. Try to look at each piece in natural sunlight, cracks and hairlines can be hard to spot in dim light. Run your fingers over the rims and edges to see if there are any chips. Crazing (a network of fine cracks on the surface) is more acceptable, especially in antique pieces but do check it is not stained.
2. If you have a BUDGET, stick to it! This is particularly true if you are buying at an auction. It is very easy to get swept up in the moment and spend more than you can afford and more than an item is worth.
3. INVESTMENT is an option for those of us who can purchase things and put them in storage. This is almost impossible for me but how wonderful to buy an antique now and put it away for another ten, twenty, fifty years. This is how family heirlooms are created. You may want to research specific makers/designers whose work carries a high price, such as Clarice Cliff.
4. RESEARCH again is another factor which is highly important. You need to know about what it is you are collecting. This knowledge is empowering as well as inspiring. You can tell your friends all about who made the teacup, and when and where.
5. PATIENCE is a virtue and it is so true. If you have decided to collect a particular pattern by a particular maker it can take quite some time to build up a collection. Never lose faith, if you are patient you will always find pieces to buy. You will need to consider a range of sources from local auctions, antique shops and the internet.
6. CARE is very important. I recently received a message from a potential buyer asking me if she could put an eighty year old teapot in the dish washer. The answer is no! Any antique needs to be treated with the utmost care.
7. USE is another point which requires consideration. Antique glazes often contained lead which can be fatal. It is very important that the glaze is not compromised in any way before you use it.
8. Collecting teacups by PERIOD can be an interesting way to build a collection. Certain times in history have specific styles, such as the Art Nouveau period of the 1910s; beautiful swags and elegant lines. Or why not go retro with the bold colour choices and geometric patterns of the 1960s?
9. Maybe I over think things and sometimes we should keep things simple. If your home has a particular scheme, why not build a collection based on COLOUR? Or a combination of colours: duck egg blue and cream, blue and white, blush ivory… Your collection does not need to match exactly, it just needs a cohesive element and colour fits the bill perfectly. This is the easiest and quickest way to build a collection.
10. Finally, FORGET my tips and go with your gut, buy what you love and most of all have fun doing it!