Tea sets! I love to collect them, even if Jim, my fiance, is driven insane by my compulsive collecting of all things pretty, cute, or bafflingly archaic. One of the things I’ve come to introduce him to is my love of tea of several descriptions, and even use of some of my favorite tea sets in the drinking it! My twin and eternal partner-in-crime, Claris, is about as obsessed as myself (as is most of my family, come to think of it) when it comes to tea and its preparation, serving, and consumption. When together it’s an absolute must, and we each have tea for two sets that we’ve found and purchased for each other on occasions to share between us and our significant others.
There’s a loving nostalgia that goes beyond its being served iced and sweetened as the “house wine of the South.” My family would also enjoy it together as readily as and beside our morning coffee, with snacks upon getting home from school, and late nights together talking over every manner of family business as we’ve grown together. It is a constant in our lives that has always offered comfort and pleasure. Of course, having been raised on the stuff in many forms, it has been one of those things that’s been folded into my collecting and research.
With my love of very fine tea sets and a limited budget, I’ve often found that thrift stores and the surprising quick check on Amazon to be helpful toward finding sets within my budget. One site I find I’ve been drawn to time and time again, as it offers very nice sets along with sturdy sets for everyday use at affordable prices. Such wonders as a service for 6 for around $100, give or take a bit for shipping~! Which if you’re looking to start a cute and/or pretty everyday service is a godsend. That site would be The Teacup Gallery, which also offers very cute tea related gifts, kitchen gadgets, and even teddy bears.
I know for many of you, as it is to me, even offering as much as service for 6, $100 can be a pretty hefty investment when you’ve got bills to pay. Even on an inexpensive set from them, take time to study which patterns you’d want to use as you share with friends and family as part of your day to day home operations. Even inexpensive sets make themselves meaningful pieces in our homes, especially as a “lifestyle lolita” or obsessive tea drinker. (Or both.)
I also have had luck finding nicer cups, saucers, and sets by keeping my eyes open in thrift stores. Some cups I only have 1 of, which makes for an interesting mix and match styling to drinking tea with friends. Although, it can be rare, those heart-stopping beauties you can find in the most unusual places. Including the wonderful gift my twin, Claris, had given me a few Yule holidays back: a nearly complete set of cups, saucers, bowls, and dessert plates for 5 of a very cute rose themed pattern. Loved it. Turns out it was Homer Laughlin Eggshell Nautilis! N1577 Ferndale! She found it for $15 in a local thrift shop! Lucky! I’ve since made a quest to complete the set, including companion dinner pieces and extra serving wares! Which I admit will be a long, arduous, and expensive journey through eBay, replacement companies, and Etsy vintage… Much to Jim’s dismay.
Of course, classics like Homer Laughlin sets (including my beloved Ferndale) can be obscure finds for many who are more casual to reading lady’s magazines, fashion and food sites, or lolita and the “kawaii” genre of blogs. That was one my family stumbled into, even though the odds were pretty high to find a vintage Laughlin set in WV. – The company’s been there for the majority of the 20th century and still going with the ever popular Fiestaware line. The company was founded in 1871 in Ohio and grew quickly opening a new manufacturing facility in 1903 in Newell, WV. Late into the 20s production was centred in WV and the Ohio location was abandoned. Still in WV to this day! (There’s your nibble of American industrial and collectors’ history for the day!) – But back to where I was going before that little aside: If you’re wanting to get into some things like this as a hobby, since it can be a very nice way to share your passion with those you love, it’s a good idea to browse around for what you like, even if you find the odd piece and you don’t know anything about it, there’s a wealth of knowledge available to you once you even find that tiny piece that caught your eye in the first place. Much like my exploration into different subcultures within my own interests, it all starts with that first glance for you to fall in love. Flea markets, thrift stores, and Etsy vintage can be among your best friends for finding some nice ones. Also, recently I’ve started looking even at tea sets sold on TaoBao, although I’ve yet to order any I’m not entirely sure how much shipping would be yet. I’ll soon be trying that one and post about the additions to my collection and how it compared to my previous searches for tea sets.
A few other favorite tea sets worth mentioning? Of course, among the most famous, if not the most famous, of lines: Royal Albert’s Old Country Roses. As a child I was given a children’s size copy of this set and it’s among the most nostalgic sets you can find. (And as prolific as that pattern has been, it’s easier to mind it selling for less than other patterns of theirs like Lady Carlyle. Especially when browsing used pieces.) Looking for something a bit less expensive? Teacup Gallery has popular patterns like Cordelia and Charming Rose for a sweet-looking everyday set! Cheers!