Hong's China Collection: Sentiments, Memories and More
Our First Show & Tell
This is our first post for another on-going series we would like to establish for our blog: Show & Tell. This is the place where we would like to share with you all things beautiful and meaningful. The things we may show could be a little thing or a big thing in all senses. Whether it is a thing in material nature or a thing belonging to the metaphysical world, at the end of the story, it is a precious thing for us and we cherish this opportunity to share with you.
The Origin of Desire
I grew up in a blue class family in which there are six children in ages two years apart from another. Above all importance, my parents have always put their savings into providing us with better quality in education, housing, and food. Thanks to their philosophy, we never had to live in unsafe ghettos or in the wet and dirty basement like some of my childhood friends had experienced. As a result, we never got to enjoy any material luxuries such as nice clothing and collectible items. (The only collection I had growing up was a decent collection of old stamps. This is perhaps a topic worthwhile to reserve for another Show & Tell in the future).
Due to my creative impulse, however, I have always yearned for owning some forms of art--whether they are folk craft or fine art of porcelain or painting. But I never actively pursued any of such art collectibles since most of my savings go to buying books. Unlike my childhood stamps collection, my book collecting is primarily for school and research needs. Presently, I have close to 2000 books of various kinds. This number is perhaps a good indicator of how much money was put into buying books and nothing else.
Ten years ago, I met my husband while going through graduate school and three years ago, we got married. My mother-in-law who is currently living in Japan has a refined taste for many things, including China collections. Having seen just a small part of her magnificent collection, I became inspired to start collecting a few of my own. I have picked out a dozen of these to share with you today.
The Okura Blue China Series
My mother-in-law, Michiko loves collecting China sets made by Okura, a Japanese company found in 1919. This blue set above is one of her many collections given to us. Not being familiar with China, I could still recognize the quality of these sets being one of the best porcelain one could ever own. It is no wonder the choice of dinnerware selected by the Japanese imperial family and which being used for State Guesthouse of Japan. Certainly tea or coffee does taste extraordinarily good in these luxurious items.
Among this blue series, this sunflower set is my favorite. The beauty of this flower hand painted on the cup and saucer is beyond verbal or written description. This is one of a kind fine art. Yet there is more to art and that is life. I have heard pieces of story here and there from my husband about how Michiko gradually collects these items over the years and which ones had been cherished by her and her late husband. I love the fact that these items of art are not the same as those sitting in the museum being admired from afar. These are the art that have been enjoyed and used by a family and now some of them have been passed down to the second generation. Art should be passed around in all directions. Now, we inherit these pieces and the history behind them.
A luxury item it is. But more. It is a piece that is collected through time of hard work and life through all its ups and downs. I learned that among her collections was this series that she had bought one every year. So it was not a materialistic obsession where one consumes without purpose. It is a genuine love that has lived through with one's life. One of these days, when she visits us or will eventually move to the States and live with us, when we have a moment to just sit back and relax, we could reward ourselves a cup of tea or coffee in this fine work of art. I will reach out for my books again and enjoy the quiet time that I yearn for with my family.
My Own First Set
This aqua set is the very first that I bought and it has taught me great lessons. The color, motif, and style speak to my present love for things with old charms. It is one of the English porcelain sets that I have in my collection. It's translucent body and thin porcelain texture had always held my nerves whenever I used it and that anxiety finally came to an end when we broke the cup during our last move to a new residence. To my surprise, I was not heartbroken as much as I had feared or imagined. At the moment of holding those shattered pieces, I almost felt the natural course of life and death. All things come and go and I had cherished it when it was whole as a set. And I will cherish it more now that we have just the saucer left. My husband and I will still always have our favorite dessert on it.
Full Collection Sets
We have a few of these full collection sets given to us by Michiko. These are her favorite flowers I was told. These sets are even more luxurious to me as I am used to having different pieces of dinnerware being bought over the years. Because of that I had almost never used these except when Michiko visited us last year. To a certain degree, in me there is a level of psychological resistance to these luxury items. I've discovered that one could have a conflicting feeling toward things beautiful. For some reasons, a guilty conscience always emerged in me.
Love of Vintage Roses
Vintage things have some magic over me in mysterious ways. I am naturally drawn to old objects and things with past sentiments embedded in the material, place, space, and environment in which these old things exist. Time is one of the frameworks with which we perceive histories through personal, cultural, national and international dimensions. I bought these Bone China teacup sets for our vintage inspired wedding three years ago. They have been well photographed on that special day of our lives. One of these days, I would love to host a tea party with students, friends, families with these beautiful little things.
Our Wedding China Sets
Michiko gave these Okura sets to us as wedding gifts. The pink is mine and the mint green is for my husband. These initialed fine China sets could only be custom-ordered and some colors are no longer available. To many, the golden rim at the top of the cup and around the saucer may represent the color of luxury. To me, they are the hues of blessing. Thanks, Michiko, for giving us these gifts of love.
The Color Purple
This is another set Michiko gave us. Purple is her favorite color. Lavender to be exact. This set often reminds me of how life could be tender and romantic. However naive and simplistic that may sound, at the least, we should pursue such moments in our everyday life some elements of tenderness and romantic feeling. And by romantic, I am not thinking about romantic love. I meant the feelings and perceptions of things beautiful. I have recently discovered colors in our living surrounding could play an important role in our lives. When we are buried in work loads and deadlines, we often live without quality distinctions of colors, sounds, and emotions. All becomes a blur behind these work tasks and due dates. We stop pursuing for that romantic feeling and tenderness. We even stop looking at things beautiful, or worse, when we see things beautiful, we do not respond to them. So from time to time, I remind myself to look again at this teacup, at this color purple, and keep some creativity alive in me. And that is when I feel truly alive in these beautiful things.
Guests on Raining Days
This pair of uniquely designed cup sets are wedding gifts for us by our friends. Unlike the porcelain materials, these cups are made with thicker ceramic with a variety of other materials mixed into the saucer. In closeup one could see tinted gold minerals laying on top of pearl-like material. It looks like seashell spreading across a dry, clean, sandy beach. Both sets in different colors offer an earthy sense that helps to ground us back to nature. I often imagine these are the perfect sets to offer to a friend who visits us on a raining or snowy day. Hot tea, hot coffee or hot chocolate, my friend? The choice is yours and we are ready to serve.
My Favorite Flower
This teacup set is my favorite one because tulips are my favorite flowers. I like the quiet and serene nature in tulips. I like the single stem that symbolizes solitude and solidarity. According to the expert of flowers, tulips generally symbolize perfect love. I am not sure about that and I don't believe in that. There is no love that is perfect as the concept of perfection is itself imperfect. What is more important is the part that we find something we love in life and we are fortunate enough to embrace it. Like our sensibilities. Not everyone has such luxury and when you do, cherish it.
Article, photography, and design by: Hong