We Brits love our gardens – just look at our rather eccentric tradition of growing veg just to see who can grow the biggest! And we don’t stop there. We even enjoy bringing the humble vegetable into our homes, and have done so for years, with the help of Wedgwood’s Rococo-style wares, the realistic creations of Victorian Majolica and whimsical pieces of Carlton Ware pottery.
This is one unexpected area of the traditional antiques trade that has surreptitiously snuck its way into our modern day lives – it seems without question! You either love them or hate them... I happen to fall into the first category, and know of plenty of others that agree with me – those decorative-loving, eccentric followers on Instagram for starters! There’s nothing that delivers more of a punch in an arty photo of a 1960s Danish rosewood sideboard, than a pop of green cabbage leaf in my opinion!
It just tickles me – a turnip tureen, a platter design based on a radish, an aubergine offering peanuts. Surely this is the best way to serve the food you love to the people you love? For some reason I’m not attracted to the asparagus, pumpkin or peapods, it’s the cabbage and cauliflower ware that always catches my eye (although I have to say, I do have a bit of a penchant for a beetroot!).
But don’t fear. If an 18th century Chelsea lettuce tureen, stretches beyond your budget, there are some great 21st century options out there. I now turn to the Portuguese legume-lover and ceramic hero that is Bordallo Pinheiro – a famous cartoonist, humourist and illustrator. My Pinheiro cauliflower tureen with matching spoon has been the envy of many a visitor, as have my cabbage hors d’oeuvre dishes – they just make people smile!
In 2015 Sotheby’s sold a 57-piece Lettuce Ware dinner service by Dodie Thayer for over £21,000!. Dodie Thayer, was a self-taught artist, who began casting pottery from real lettuce and cabbage leaves in the 1960s. Each piece took two weeks to make, and came to embody the casual elegance of vintage Palm Springs, California. The chic platters, plates and tureens were snapped up by fashionable hostesses everywhere, including First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and the Duchess of Windsor.
If you’re scouring the fleamarkets for some cheap and cheerful pieces of cabbage ware, such as the ones seen above, you’re very likely to come across pieces by one of the other many Portuguese potteries, such as Vista Alegre, Olfaire, Subtil or Conimbriga – it seems they produced them by the bucket load! But do pay attention to the relief detail of the leaves; some are so much crisper than others, which is a good indication of the quality. So, if you like what you see – get on and veg out!