Pink Saturday - Beverly, at the blog "How Sweet the Sound" hosts Pink Saturday. Let the color pink inspire you.
This Saturday, this pink tea set makes me remember.
When I was a young woman, like many young people living in the Midwest, I took my brand new bachelor's degree in Theatre and headed to New York City to work in Show Business. I found an apartment in Greenwich Village. Living there was unlike anything I had previously encountered in my Illinois small town or Ohio cul-de-sac suburb.
I rode the subway to work, ate at sidewalk cafes. I bought fresh-baked bread from an Italian baker down the block, and vegetables from produce stands. My upstairs neighbor was a young woman my age, but she couldn't have been more different than me. She was from a wealthy, Upper East Side family with an apartment in town and a house on the Island. She had gone to boarding school in France before studying art. I worked as an office clerk, but Jennifer had no job; she spent her mornings painting big oil paintings and watercolors in the sunny front bedroom of her apartment, and her afternoons and evenings entertaining friends. She had blonde hair and blue eyes, and wore pearl stud earrings.
Her crowd of friends was eclectic. A cousin from Locust Valley. Her best friend from Dalton and her banker date. A grizzled stoner from Art School. A French bicycle racer. A friend from boarding school just returned from an ashram in India. And me, the girl from Ohio who lived downstairs.
Jennifer would invite me upstairs in the mornings for coffee, which she served in beautiful cups - they were big wide cups, made of thick yet light white pottery, decorated with handpainted folk-like figures in blue and yellow and red. I didn't know what they were, but the marks on the bottom said "Quimper" and Jennifer said she had bought them in France.
Young people move around a lot, especially if they work in the theatre. I changed roommates, went on tour, gradually lost touch with Jennifer and her friends. But whenever I looked in antique shops and thrift stores, I kept my eye out for pottery like her coffee cups.
One day I found this teapot, and right away I knew it was Quimper, like Jennifer's. Quimperware is a type of pottery called faience. Faience was probably invented in Mesopotamia or Iraq in the 9th century. A glaze of tin oxide is applied to buff or terracotta pottery - it gives a pure white ground perfect for painting on. This style of pottery was brought to Andalusia by the Moors, and from there it was shipped to Italy. In Italy, the pottery was called "majolica" and it was exported to northern Europe, including the Netherlands, where locals in the city of Delft started copying it, and to Brittany, in France, where the Faienceries of the town of Quimper were founded in 1690.
Quimperware is known for its naive style, often featuring little figures in traditional Breton clothes, and decorated with simple floral and decorative patterns painted on by brush.
My teapot and its creamer and pitcher are in a pattern called Pink Camaïeu, created by the HB Henriot factory. The Henriot factory closed in 1968, but other craftspeople bought the rights to the molds and patterns and continued to produce the pottery.
The one thing I learned when I researched Quimper pottery, is that you can't trust the marks to tell you the age or even the maker of the pottery. True collectors rely on the quality of the craftsmanship, the thickness of the glaze, the brushwork of the decorations to determine the age and value of the piece.
And maybe that's how we should judge things we encounter, as young people making our way in life. I can't tell whether my tea-set is old or new, handcrafted or tourist junk, antique or a modern new commodity.
But it certainly is pretty, and pink, and brings back memories. An apartment full of light, the smell of oil paints, the taste of French roast coffee. The tingle of champagne, filtered sunlight through alianthus leaves. A Venetian mirror, leaned against the wall, sends particles of that light reflecting on the high ceilings. Bryan Ferry's "These Foolish Things," on the stereo. French bicyclists climb up and down the fire escapes, to steal bottles of wine or jump into my roommate's bed. All of us going out, late at night, to listen to Mabel Godwin sing standards at Arthur's piano bar on Grove Street.
When I met Jennifer and her friends, I thought she lived a rich and unique life an ordinary girl like me could never experience. When I look at my Quimper teapot, it reminds me that my life has been pretty interesting, after all.