There it was – same pattern, same color, same china! On a recent tour of the Community Archives & Research Center I found treasure sitting amongst an isle of beautiful vintage and antique china and crystal pieces. But this specific set of china, consisting of miscellaneous dishes, caught my eye. Not only was I attracted to the contrasting patterns on the plate design, but I recognized this particular design as being the same pattern of china in a collection I inherited from my grandmother, who inherited it from her mother.
I first recognize the colors. Muted greens and pinks decorate the inside perimeter of each ivory, crazed plate. Crazing, as I researched, is the term used to describe hairline cracks in the glazing of fine china, mostly dating from the late 1800’s to the early 1900’s and is a sure-tell sign of the highest quality. The contrast of pattern that I so admire reminds me of early art deco decorations from the 1920’s and Depression era. The geometric print encompasses symmetrical diamond, triangle, and oval shapes, that while extremely detailed, is actually quite simple, at least next to the whimsical, floral pattern that is printed below it. The floral pattern is also symmetrical, but extremely small and intricate; a floral lace. The entire plate is then completed with gold plated trimming. The pieces in my set are showing soft signs of wear and age as this gold trim is now fading slightly, though I feel this adds distinctive qualities of beauty to the collection.
In my collection, each plate has an original manufacture stamp. “T.S.T. -IONA- China” is written inside a small outline of a creamer and/or gravy boat shape with the numbers 1 5 22 stamped underneath this logo. T.S.T. stands for Taylor, Smith, and Taylor, one of the most popular brands of collectible antique and vintage dinnerware in America. The company, named after Charles Taylor, John Smith, and William Taylor, began producing fine china in 1899 in West Virginia up until 1971 when T.S.T. was purchased by Anchor Hocking and all original T.S.T. patterns (such as this one) were discontinued in the early 1980’s.
Due to the discontinuation of these patterns, I have been unable to connect these possible pattern numbers to a specific set (Anchor Hocking no longer has extensive T.S.T. patterns on file), which makes this collection that much more valuable. I am told the pieces within the Public Museum’s collection were originally used by the Voigt family, whose family home remains an original Victorian museum, one that I visited almost every year growing up in Grand Rapids through school field trips or family outings.
I was always captivated by the extensive amount of home decor that the Voigts had on display, whether from exotic travels (oriental carpets, tapestries, porcelain figurines, fashion items, etc) or ornate furniture pieces from the booming industry in Grand Rapids. This made it easy for me to understand how this china collection may have been used or displayed. Perhaps the set was stored inside a china cabinet when not in use, or possibly the pieces were displayed as hanging art. The Voigt family may have even displayed their china in the same manner that my great grandparents, John VanderJagt and Nell DeWinter, displayed theirs – as formal place settings on a dining table in the morning room. My mother remembers the morning room being quiet; a peaceful sitting room used for small gatherings to socialize or for leisurely afternoon reading. I close my eyes and feel as though I am there, sitting on a bench near a large bay window, overlooking gardens that compliment the floral lace design of the china table setting.
Being inside the Voigt house I feel a sense of identification, a feeling of knowing how my great grandparents, emigrants from the Netherlands, also lived. I have personally experienced and enjoyed splendor of the same china collection that the Voigt family experienced. By recognizing this simple pattern from shelves upon shelves of patterned china in the Public Museum’s archives, I was able to piece together bits of information that have helped me connect to the roots and culture of this community.
Note: It can be extremely difficult to research discontinued, antique chinaware. For more information on the manufacturing company, this may be a helpful reference: Taylor, Smith, and Taylor China Company: Guide to Shapes and Values by Mark Gonzalez.
Born and raised in Grand Rapids, MI, Kim Buchholz earned a BFA in Interior Design in 2010 and a BS in Art History in 2012, both from Kendall College of Art & Design. In 2013 she will attend Lawrence Technological University to pursue a graduate degree in architecture as well as a masters degree in business. Particularly interested in historical preservation, urbanism, and ecology, Kim intends on becoming a LEED Green Associate accredited professional in the fall of 2012. For the past two years Kim has been a freelance designer and an avid member of the Collections Committee of the Gand Rapids Public Museum where she is able to integrate her passion for community development and history. Kim also enjoys working in her vegetable garden, spending time with friends, and exploring the city on long walks with her dog, Ginger.