Here is a collection from a friend: lusterware plates, made in Japan in the 50s. My friend inherited them from her parents to whom they were given as a wedding gift. As is the wont of parents, especially parents in Australia in the 50s- the plates were never used, as they were “too good”.
The plates were too good to be used! They were passed down to my friend who has a much more modern sensibility than me [and obviously, her parents] – she didn’t exactly recoil when you showed me the plates, but she thought I might have more love for them than she did. By love I understood her to mean ‘space’ and ‘tolerance of lusterware’. Luckily, I do have both.
I love lusterware, especially Japan 50s lusterware- and I love the whole ‘harlequin’ ideal: each plate is a different colour, but they all have the same neat gilt edge- and are clearly a set. Sure, lusterware is kitschy : but it is also of its time: it represents newly glazing techniques and evokes the metallic & mechanistic ideals of the space age.
Johnson Bros, harlequin plates
made in England 1950s
What is the name for a round-cornered square? These plates are that shape. Wikipedia suggests ‘squircle’ – I wonder what the makers of these beautiful plates would make of that? *Turning in their grave*, comes to mind.
Harlequin is a catch-all phrase for multi-coloured items; you find harlequin glass ware, as well as plates. Multi-coloured harlequin sets was a genius marketing idea borne in the 50s – if you broke a plate then another – in the same or a different colour- was available. One needed abandon an entire dinner service due to the loss of one plate- it was all mix ‘n’ match. The four colours of these plates – tan, maroon, light blue and light green were joined by two other colours – a light grey and grey.
It’s rare to find a backstamp on these early Johnson Bros plates; and because it was printed in white glaze, even if it was printed, it’s rare that the backstamp survives. The green plate in this set is thus quite rare- the backstamp in white is intact, although a little worn.
Indeed, I have collected another set of Johnson Bros ‘squircle’ plates in three sizes – [see post below] and none of those twelve plates had a backstamp. It wasn’t until I found these plates that I discovered the original maker. I knew from the previous collector that the plates originated in England, and were made in the 50s – but the maker was unknown. Until now!