Vintage simplicity: The charm of plain tea sets

As beautiful as some of the intricate patterns on vintage china are, sometimes I appreciate the simplicity of tea sets that have minimal decoration.  So much beauty can be conveyed in the shape of a tea set.  This reminds me of something I read recently about why Suzie Cooper started her own pottery.  She had been a designer at a number of other potteries but was getting increasingly frustrated that the shapes of some of the pieces she was given to decorate weren’t suitable for her designs.  This prompted her to start her own pottery so that she had control over both the shape and pattern of her items.  This seems to make sense as certain shapes of tea sets seem to work well with certain patterns.  An obvious example is a tea set that has an angular shape which is perfectly suited to an Art Deco pattern.

Colclough's Ballet pink vintage tea set

Linking back to the start of this post, maybe some tea sets are designed such that they look best without any pattern at all.  Modern china often has no or at the most a minimal pattern, why can’t the same be true for vintage china?  It turns out there are many pieces of vintage china with minimal patterns or without any pattern at all.

Falling into this category are the ever popular Colclough tea sets in the ‘ballet’ and ‘harlequin’ designs and their slightly simpler Royal Vale variations.  Bold and pastel colours are embellished with simple gold lines, which makes the tea sets as appealing today as they were over fifty years ago.

Royal Vale pastel coloured tea setsEven simpler than this are white and cream tea sets, which if not finished well might look as if they’d missed a vital stage in the production process. Fortunately, the ones that I’ve seen seem to suit their lack of colour well.

This first set is by Gladstone china, which was named after the politician W E Gladstone in the 1870s. These pieces are from somewhere between 1961 and 1964, which was after the factory ovens had stopped firing in 1960 but the company continued to decorate china after this date.  I think their pattern name is Grecian, which seems quite fitting, as their swirled design reminds me of flowing robes.

A photo of a Gladstone china Grecian tea setThe tea set with the fine blue edging is called Victoria and was made by Cartwright and Edwards.  It has a subtle tulip shape to the cup with a simple relief pattern on the saucer and plates.  I think it has a country look to it, and could work well with some gingham napkins or French linen.

Victoria from Cartwright and Edwards tea setVictoria from Cartwright and Edwards tea setVictoria from Cartwright and Edwards bowlThe final photo of this selection is of a Queen Anne tea set, which has a pearlescent quality to it.  The gold edging and delicate handle give it a hint of luxury.

Queen Anne vintage tea setWhich one is your favourite?

Rach x

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4 responses to “Vintage simplicity: The charm of plain tea sets

  1. I like the Gladstone ones. I don’t fancy the pot, though. The swirls and gold are already almost too distinct on the cups. As I’m kind of in the market for a tea set, the inspiration provided by your post is very helpful, thanks.

    • Thanks Kenneth! I think that the Gladstone cups are just the right balance of swirls and gold too. The teapot in the background is by Sadler and it’s definitely more overtly grand, and admittedly the bright gold isn’t to everyone’s taste 🙂

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