I recently discovered the wonderful world of Blue Ridge Ceramic dishware quite by accident. A few weeks ago I saw an ad on Craigslist for some oriental carpets that an American expat couple had up for sale. I gave them a call, jotted down their address and drove about an hour through the countryside with my daughter to go take a look. The carpets were lovely and I ended up purchasing two of them, but the couple had something else out for sale that day which immediatly attracted my attention. On a large table, they had set out many stacks of bright ceramic plates, saucers and trays. As I stepped over to get a closer look at the beautiful and obviously hand painted flowers on the plates, the woman began to explain to me what they were. She said they were called Blue Ridge China and they were made in Appalachia from 1930 to 1957.
The plant that had produced these plates and millions of others like them, had been located in Erwin Tennessee. Most of the pieces were stamped on the back with a hallmark that said “Blue Ridge Southern Pottery”. She told me that this beautiful dishware had been very popular and inexpensive. So inexpensive that it could be found in almost every American household back in the day. Her husband recalled that when he was a child, small saucers used to come as free gifts inside boxes of dishwashing soap.
The designs on the dishware were painted by hand and no two plates were exactly alike, even if they were of the same pattern. The many artisans who worked on the plates displayed varying levels of skill so while the design on one piece might be very precise and perfectly painted, another piece with the same pattern might not be so detailed.
There are over four thousand known patterns of Blue Ridge china. Some are named and others are not. The names often came from the artisans themselves who would create a pattern and then name it. Sometimes the design was given the name of the person who invented it. Some patterns were given more than one name. The factory closed in 1957 after melamine dinnerware from Japan was introduced to the United States and quickly became more popular than ceramic dinnerware. Today Blue Ridge plates are very collectible and there are literally thousands of pieces available for practically pennies all over the internet, although some of the patterns can sell for hundreds of dollars.
The woman who was selling these had a complete rare pattern dinner set for sale for $1200 dollars that day! But for the most part, these are a great and still inexpensive beginner ceramic for those who want to start collecting plates and dinnerware that will most likely continue to go up in price as the years go by. I went a little crazy (I go weak in the knees anytime I see china or cristal) and I bought about 100 dollars worth of plates. I got quite a few of them considering that she was practically giving them away, several of them were marked just one dollar.
I now use these as my every day plates because I love how lightweight they are as opposed to the more modern and considerably heavier ceramic dinnerware that is the norm today. They are also just a tad smaller sized than today’s dinner plates, a detail which I happen to love and is a reminder of the old days when nobody would have thought of eating a supersized meal.
I checked Craigslist again today and I saw that they still have many of them left. I’m so tempted to go back and buy
all more of them. Just a few more…….
Joining Show and Tell Friday at: My Romantic Home