If anything was ever too delicate and precious to travel, it’s porcelain tea cups. More fragile than egg shells and potentially quite valuable, they spend an entire lifetime locked away behind the glass, only brought out for very special occasions. That is, if anyone even dares to use them at all. It’s a case of “Hands of! Don’t touch AND no ball throwing or even running near the precious china cabinet!! These antique old ladies are incredibly precious. Just look at them and they might break.
Being so fragile, I was actually quite surprised to find out that china tea cups could travel. Indeed, that they’re available on eBay. This opened up quite a smorgasbord of choice and opportunity and I was soon buying tea cups from as far away as Canada and the United Kingdom. They arrived on my doorstep wrapped up in layers of bubble wrap, nesting inside cute cardboard boxes plastered with postage stamps.
My journey with collecting tea cups began many, many years ago when my grandmothers were given tea cups, which they kept in precious china cabinets.
My maternal grandmother had worked in Aunty Rose”s exclusive Brisbane hair and beauty salon prior to marriage. Their clients included the wife of Sir Douglas MacArthur Supreme Commander, Southwest Pacific Area who was based in Brisbane in 1942, the year she married my grandfather. My grandmother had a series of very precious tea cups, which had been gifts from clients for her “glory box” which, by the way, was wrapped securely in hessian and dispatched by train across the Darling Downs to Dalby, where my grandfather worked as a Lutheran Pastor. I never recall seeing my grandmother use any of these precious cups but Mum and her sister always used to have a cup of tea out of a particular Shelley tea cup whenever they went North for a visit. My grandmother had all sorts of gifted treasures which were carefully put away and never used.
My Dad’s mother also had a cupboard full of china tea cups, although hers were nowhere near as precious and visitors helped themselves to their choice of cup or indeed, their cup for the mandatory cup of tea on arrival. I don’t know if she had any matching pairs because at least by the time I came around, they all seemed quite different.. an eclectic, kaleidoscope of floral patterns, gold rims and delicate handles.
I was in love!!
So in love, indeed, and wanting to hold onto my precious memories of my grandparents and a distant past, I needed a collection of my own. My own china cupboard filled with my own precious china girls. Now, the tea cups have busted out of the cabinet and have formed a row overhead and have also wandered out into the dining room onto the sideboard. I’m starting to down size my tea cups a little to get things into perspective. We only have so much space and as you would have gathered by now, it’s squashed. A thing of beauty can not be a joy forever in a cluttered jungle. It needs a bit of space.
However, for some of my tea cups their travels didn’t stop at the gate. In the same way that people take garden gnomes away on their travels, I started photographing my tea cups and while this started at home, we ventured further afield to Katoomba in the Blue Mountains and up North to Byron Bay. Indeed, my tea cups were launched on a life of adventure.
Not my best tea cups, mind you. While I might be willing to give my tea cups a little bit of freedom, I certainly wasn’t about to risk my good Shelley tea cups…my “old ladies”. Like their human contemporaries plagued by osteoporosis, arthritis and the like, they really are fragile and certainly not easily replaced. I’ve had a few casualties some out on the road and others at home and while I do put them in perspective, I’d rather they didn’t happen.
Although my favourite tea cups are Shelley’s more art deco designs, I also have quite a few from Royal Albert. Although the design also informs my choice. My Dad’s father once gave me a daffodil for my birthday so I have a few daffodil designs. Even though my Mum’s mum introduced me to Shelley china, I also found a cup “May”, my grandmother’s middle name and also decorated with Lilly of the Valley, which she had in her wedding bouquet. I must admit I was stoked when I found that set in a local Salvation Army Opportunity Shop. My son’s cup is has scene’s from the Blue Mountains. My favourite tea cup is Shelley’s Sunset in the Tall Trees, an art deco style designed by Clarice Clift.
“Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.”
― T.S. Eliot
Unlike the rest of the household clutter which is forced to justify its existence, china tea cups have never had to be useful and somehow get away with being exquisitely beautiful and purely decorative. That is, at least in our family. Given that I’ve been able to buy these tea cups, someone else had different ideas. Personally, I can’t understand that…particularly my Shelley ones. They’re exquisite.
Any way, hope you enjoy our tea cup tour. Do you have a tea cup collection at all? Memories? Do share.
This have been T for Traveling Tea Cups for the Blogging from A-Z April Challenge.