Lusterware side plates

Lustreware side plates [Japan, 1950s]Lusterware harlequin plates,
made in Japan, 1950s

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.

This set of six side plates is for sale: $AU60

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50s harlequin plates [sold]

Johnson Bros harlequin plates [50s]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!

The harlequin plates are for sale: $AU40

Bakelite napkin rings

Bakelite napkin ringsBakelite napkin rings
made in Sydney, Australia 1950s

This set of harlequin octagonal bakelite napkin rings was made by Marquis in the 50s. Harlequin refers to the different colours [indeed, one of the rings is ‘end-of-day’ bakelite.] End-of-day bakelite was the pattern formed when whatever bits of bakelite where left where thrown together into the mould.

In the 50s everything was ‘harlequin’ – think sets of anodised aluminium beakers. This was actually a clever marking ploy- if you lost/broke one piece of a set, it was easily replaced – since nothing matched by colour, pattern or manufacturer.

Marquis was a huge bakelite manufacturer- they made everything that could be made from bakelite- from kitchen utensils, to light switches, to 35mm slide viewers. Indeed, I seem to have quite a few kitchen scoops, butter dishes, teaspoons, salt and pepper shakers and slide viewers made by Marquis in my collection.

I love the form of these napkin rings: octagonal shape on the outside – so the napkin ring sat easily on a table- but circular inside form – so the napkin could be smoothly set in place. Form and function, people! And just look at those beautiful bakelite colours.

Bakelite continues to be a sought after collectible: and this set of eight napkin rings is for sale: $AUD80

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Anodised aluminium egg cups [sold]

Anodised aluminium egg cupsAnodised aluminium egg cups
made in Sydney, Australia 1950s

These anodised aluminium ‘harlequin’ egg cups are Sydney made, and Sydney bought but have no manufacturer’s name or marking. They’ve had one owner who purchased them in the 50s- and never used them for the cupping of eggs. That’s how I know they were made here, despite not having any markings.

Anodised aluminium was made by a number of companies in the 50s and 60s- sets of beakers, flasks, plates and egg cups came with exotic names such as ‘Tahiti’ and ‘Caribbean’; but were made by the more prosaic Stokes & Sons. Other manufacturers included Duchess Aluminium Ware and ETA. All came in a range of fantastic bright aluminium colours – hence the term ‘harlequin’.

For all your retro breakfast needs, these egg cups are for sale: $AUD45

Retro picnic teacups

Selex picnic teacupsSellex bakelite picnic teacups
made in Australia, c.1940s

I have quite a collection of Australian bakelite – and a representative sample has appeared on this blog – pieces ranging from kitchen canisters to picnic ware. There were ten companies producing bakelite domestic ware in Australia in the post-war period, and I have examples of them all!

The ten companies are: Nally Eon, Helix Sellex, Iplex, Nylex [names ending with ‘ex’ presumed particularly modern!] Bristilite and Tilly. Here we have a delightful pair of Sellex picnic cups.

The picnic set from which these teacups came was a ‘harlequin’ set- a range of four colours which could be mixed and matched. These cups and saucers show the four colours- and since they are in excellent condition- they should how vibrant the harlequin set was.

These teacups are for sale: $AUD50

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Retro picnic cups [sold]

retro anodised picnic beakersAnodised harlequin beakers
made in Australia and Hong Kong, c.1950s

The six cups on the left- from the vinyl maroon case- have never been used. Each cup is wrapped in its original tissue paper, and there is a bottle-opener installed in the cap. Research leads me to believe that this set was made in Australia.

Harlequin is a catch-all phrase for multi-coloured items- many of my 50-60s collections are ‘harlequin’.

The five cups on the right where manufactured in Hong Kong [it’s stamped on the base] –and in deference to its age/Asian origin, it is a set of only 5 cups. The bottle opener is housed on the outside of the vinyl case.

Both sets have the obligatory incised rings – these are machine-turned and date the cups to the 50s- a little bit of modernist styling.

All the beakers are in fine fettle, ~ still shiny and colourful aluminium despite their age ~ I suspect they have never been near a picnic. This set is for sale: $AUD75

Retro shot glasses

retro shot glassesRetro shot glasses
made in Australia c.1960

These shot glasses are hand blown and so have a varying base depth. And like so much of the 60s- they are ’harlequin’, = multi-coloured. They look fantastic placed against a window [my photographer and I have been experimenting with photographing the glass collection in a different way.]  And of course, they are fantabulous for drinking shots!

The glasses aren’t marked and all the research I’ve done hasn’t turned up a manufacturer name. I do know the glasses were made in the 60s [apart from the harlequin clue] as the person who sold them to me has had them in their family collection since they were won in a golf tournament. Apparently Uncle Jack was a keen golfer who hit a hole in one [or so family folklore would have it] and these glasses were the prize.

This set is for sale: $AUD55

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Gayware spice containers & tea dispenser [sold]

gayware spice & tea canistersGayware spice containers, and tea dispenser
made by Gay Plastics, Sydney, Australia 1950-1965

This collected set consists for five multi-coloured spice containers and a tea dispenser. The green ‘Nutmeg’ container has lost its ‘N’, but all the rest of the crew have their funky 50s fonts.

The dispenser is hung on the wall and the white protruding section at its base is pushed in to collect a precise teaspoonful of tea. It’s ingenious!

Both sets complement the nested Gayware kitchen canisters, in red, posted below. One could have a completely gay kitchen!

For sale: $AUD75