JOURNAL — Trays RSS



A Clean Start

Between the World Wars, modern design existed in an aesthetic "sweet spot"—a handsome (and useful) blending of Art Deco crispness and Industrial streamlined practicality.  The growing use of mass production methods allowed for good design to be manufactured quickly, consistently and inexpensively. This tiled and chromed "wash station" might have hung next to a shop sink or in a public bathroom.  The whole unit hangs on the wall.  A hook at top is for holding a washing cloth or nail brush.  A bar of soap would rest in the removable ironstone dish, below.  The tile back is surrounded by handsome chromed edging.  Click on the photo above to learn more about it.

Continue reading



Spring Suggestions - VI

Hand-hammered brass, softly gleaming, makes for a handy and handsome drinks tray.  It was made in Germany during the Jugendstil movement.  The hammered "peening" softens the reflected light and the gallery of "pillows" around the edge will keep your glasses from sliding off. It would also make a useful "kitchen tray" to corral oil bottles and spice jars.

Continue reading



Spring Suggestions - II

Warm and softly-radiant, brass often reminds me of Spring. And this German Jugendstil hand-hammered brass tray is (a bit) reminiscent of the sun. It's modestly sized—perfect for tea-for-two or drinks for six.  It would also be the perfect dresser or kitchen tray—holding bottles and jars.

Continue reading



On a Pedestal

A nice tray can be used to present food in its best possible light. But putting something atop a pedestal adds a whole new dimension to the exhibition.  Place a cake or muffins or even cookies upon a raised plate (like this one, shown above) and you've elevated the presentation.  This Arts & Crafts cake plate is made of hammered and silver-plated. It was made by Derby of Meriden, Connecticut.

Continue reading



The Tray of Vine and Berries

This journal entry title may not be obvious—and it is quite far from clever.  (I was attempting a reference to the 1962 film "The Days of Wine and Roses" and its haunting theme song by Henry Mancini.)  But! There is an association!  The film, made by Blake Edwards and starring Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick, is the tale of a couple and their relationship to alcohol.     This German Jugendstil tray, made by WMF in the 1910's, is decorated with a delicate repouseé of entwined vines, palmate leaves, and clusters of delicate berries.  Though I have not, yet, identified the variety of berry, I have leapt to the conclusion that the Germans may have used these same fruit to make wine...

Continue reading



Delicate Beauty

This little English Arts & Crafts copper tray is decorated with a hand-tooled radiant botanical design.  It's not very big—just over nine inches across—but it has great style.  It would look perfect hanging on the wall (in that "perfect little spot") or it would serve beautifully as a dresser tray, organizing all those bottles, tubes and jars which are part of one's daily ablutions.

Continue reading



More Remembrance

Yesterday we talked about the poppy as a symbol of remembrance, specifically of those who gave their lives in war for Britain. This English Arts & Crafts copper plate shows a trio of poppy pods—yet to be opened.  Additionally, it shows a trio of wild geese, flying around the rim of the plate. For Celtic Christians, the wild goose is a symbol of the Holy Spirit, much as the dove is for the broader church. And don't underestimate the intentionality of "threes" (either geese or poppies).  A trio, in Christian symbolism, is a reference to the Trinity.  This handsome plate conveys a symbolic meaning—hidden within its the skillful repoussé work of its maker.

Continue reading



Shocking!

For most of human history, the world was dominated by a small number of monarchs, the aristocratic one percent, and all the rest of us—the 99% who served those monarchs and aristocrats.  "Luxury" was out-of-reach for all but the tippy-top. And then came the Industrial Revolution.   While the Industrial Revolution did create many problems—pollution, exploitation, and the relegation of human labor as an interchangeable commodity—it also allowed for the growth of a modern Middle Class.  And this new middle class had something heretofore unknown to them: discretionary income.  For the first time, a growing middle class could afford to buy things that they wanted, not just what they needed.  But they were still not rich enough to match the...

Continue reading



The Fairest of Them All?

After 26 years of collecting and selling English trays, this one may be the nicest I've ever owned. And, although it could be used to serve food, it would be much better suited to hanging upon the wall as a work of art.  Actually, it could serve as an architectural feature!  Four whorls of scrolling botanicals luxuriate in each corner of the tray which is surrounded by a crimped-edge gallery. And the soft, warm reflection of light off the brass surface will gently brighten any spot in your home.  (Why am I selling this?)

Continue reading



Tea with Miss Marple

Victorian England was absolutely encrusted in ceramic tiling.  Pubs, kitchens, churches, shops and train stations: nearly every new British building in the second half of the Nineteenth Century could find multiple uses for lots and lots of glazed ceramic tile.  And although British tilework was hardly novel in the 1850's, the Industrial Age was new—and modern, high-volume production methods allowed British factories to turn-out enormous quantities of beautiful, heavy, high-quality tile (and other glazed ceramic or terra-cotta architectural components).  

Continue reading




Nothing Fresher

Hand-painted trees, heavy with ripe oranges, surround the octagonal perimeter of this English Art Deco platter by Norman Keates for Crown Ducal.  At the time this platter was made, circa 1925, oranges were still a small luxury in middle class England—thus the decorative embellishment might have promoted a touch of wistful aspiration.  Oranges were first cultivated in China; Medieval traders and explorers brought them back to the West where they were grown in temperate (Mediterranean) locales. At the time, however, only the richest of aristocrats could afford to purchase the expensive, imported fruit.  In the late Nineteenth Century, when Christmas gift-giving became customary, an orange might be left in the toe of a child's Christmas stocking (and, at this point, oranges...

Continue reading



More From The Middle East

Here's another Middle Eastern beauty, this time in hand-tooled copper.  A crenelated gallery surrounds the interior graphic elements:  triangular "teeth," scrolling botanicals, and a corollate center.  The bold simplicity of the design—almost "folk art" in aesthetic—brings this tray closer to the sensibility of traditional Arts & Crafts than most Middle Eastern works.  Still, the competence of the metalsmith is apparent.  This tray, hanging in an Arts & Crafts interior, would provide wonderfully warm punctuation.

Continue reading



Middle Eastern Brass

Here's another handsome piece of metalwork: a Middle Eastern hand-tooled brass tray. It serves wonderfully as a tray.  I like it even more when hanging on the wall—where it provides a warm glow of reflected light and beautiful punctuation in an Arts & Crafts interior.  It's interesting to point-out that period Aesthetic Movement and Arts & Crafts designers or craftsmen would sometimes imitate "exotic" aesthetics and decorative elements into their work. This was their way of bringing the beauty of another culture to those who might not have the opportunity or wherewithal to travel so far away.  And the wealthiest collectors competed with one another to have more and better Asian ceramics, Persian tilework or Middle Eastern metalcrafts.  Some of these...

Continue reading



Beauty is Universal

I love hammered metalwork—an appreciation which transcends place and period.  Though, in fact, most of my collecting has been in the West: Europe, Britain and the United States.  Thus, my ability to identify these places and periods is (a little bit) better developed. So, over the years, I have focused principally on acquiring Western metal crafts for my shop.  (As a merchant, I must balance the issues of physical space and cash-on-hand.)  

Continue reading



German Brass

This simple tray was made by the Württembergische Metallwarenfabrik, more commonly known as WMF.  It was founded in Geislingen, Germany in 1853.  The company was well up-and-running (40 years old) by the time the German Jugendstil Movement was born—and WMF was well-positioned to take advantage of the trend.  In fact, WMF enjoyed its heyday during the Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries.  It is possible that this tray once held a glass dish or "liner" of some sort.  It holds a 12 inch plate nicely.  Without a plate, it is just right as a drinks tray and would make a smart dresser or kitchen tray, too.

Continue reading



A Late Age Career Change

Cornish office clerk, Charles Thomas Eustace, returned to work after a long illness to discover that his position had been given to another person.  The 59 year old father of 13 children needed to do something—and quick!  He and his brother, John, opened a small copper crafts workshop in Hayle, Cornwall, their hometown.  Although he knew nothing of metalsmithing, he learned the craft quickly, becaming quite proficient.  Eustace admired the Keswick School of Industrial Arts and drew inspiration from their Arts & Crafts designs, despite the fact that it was now the 1930’s and the Arts & Crafts movement had pretty much ended with World War One.  Fortunately, Cornwall had a community of small copper crafters which probably helped Eustace get his...

Continue reading



Wine is Served

During these chilly Winter days, we are featuring a selection of trays now in-stock at LEO Design. We look-forward to the time (the sooner, the better) when we can use these trays to serve family, friends and other loved ones. The company which would evolve into Joseph Sankey and Sons was established in 1854, making simple tin trays.  In the late Nineteenth Century, Sankey was joined by his brothers, by which time the company had developed a broader line of products, many of them intended for an elegant upper middle class market.  With the advent of the English Arts & Crafts (Art Nouveau) movement, Sankey produced a large number of sophisticated household service pieces: trays, tankards, kettles and planters.  These were made in brass, copper...

Continue reading



More Transition

With the sweet smell of Transition still perfuming the air, we share this English hand-hammered pewter tray, made in the 1920's or 1930's.  The Gothic elongate-quatrefoil silhouette and the textured peening of the metal places this tray within the English Arts & Crafts sensibility. The handles, however, provide a whisper of Art Deco style—which moves this handsome tray into the "transitional" period between the two Early Twentieth Century movements.

Continue reading