I absolutely love bone china.
The Canadian Oxford Dictionary defines it as “fine china made of clay mixed with the ash from bones.” In other words, the really expensive dishes that your grandmother kept behind glass.
Bone china tends to be delicate yet very strong with a high level of chip resistance that engages the senses. I find that a bone china teacup feels much smoother against my skin than a cheap ceramic mug which can strain the fingers. Furthermore, bone china is frequently decorated with beautiful designs that are sometimes hand-painted and embellished with gold.
I have a lot of beautiful pieces of china which lend tea and social gatherings a touch of beauty, continuity and a certain loving dignity that transcends the ages.
It’s a gesture of love and respect on my part when I serve my friends tea in my best china and it’s not lost on me when others do the same. My friend Jacqueline, for example, is a fellow bone china lover.
Whenever I visit her she takes great delight in telling me the stories behind her many beautiful pieces. None were more beautiful and haunting, in my opinion, than her lovely cat pattern china.
“This particular china pattern is a bit of an obsession for me,” says Jacqueline as she carefully pulls a whimsical fine bone china mug from the safety of a corner cupboard.
The cup depicts tasteful and well-executed transfer-printed images of cats: an orange and black tabby on one side and black and white domestic long-hair wearing a cute daisy-chain necklace on the other. The rim and handle of the cup are both embellished with the same daisy-chain motif.
Jacqueline purchased two cups as well as a teapot sold by Marks & Spencer under its St Michael brand at one of their Vancouver locations in the late ‘90s.
“I bought the teapot and two cups for about $120 and spending $120 on china was a lot at that point in my life,” recalls Jacqueline. “But I simply fell in love with them immediately and thought they were the coolest cups and teapot that I’d ever seen.”
Unfortunately the other matching cup as well as the teapot were destroyed long ago. She can’t remember how the other cup was lost but the demise of her the teapot is still a vivid memory 12 years after the fact.
“My boyfriend was sleeping on the couch and he had his feet right near the side table where the teapot was resting,” she says. “Seeing the danger I warned him to be careful and he said, ‘okay, don’t worry!’ He then accidentally kicked the teapot off of the table and it flew across the air and smashed into a bunch of pieces. I was very upset.”
She was in the dining room at the time and unable to save the teapot. She did, however, witness the smash that was heard around the world.
“You have to understand that this was a carpeted apartment we lived in at the time,” she recalls. “There was only one non-carpeted surface in the apartment which was a 3 ft. by 1 ft. tiled area in front of the gas fireplace and that’s where the teapot landed.”
Undeterred, she has doggedly searched for a replacement ever since. She checks eBay “continually” and has even called various Marks & Spencer locations throughout the United Kingdom.
“I called them every six months until finally I was transferred from someone to someone else until finally someone who knew what I was talking about said, ‘oh yes, the daisy chain kitty cups!’” she says. “She knew why I loved them and said they were adorable but had no idea where I might them. That was about five years ago when I finally gave up. I figured that if the one person who knew what I was talking about said I would never find it I might as well give up.”
While Jacqueline still holds out hope that she may find a replacement she is not holding her breath.
“I would like to replace my teapot and have at least one more cup so I can use it someday with friends,” she says. “I can’t spend hours every nothing trolling eBay – it’s a waste of time.”
Have you seen this pattern anywhere?