Monday, December 3, 2018

From Broken Teacup To Treasured Necklace: New Beginnings

 Laura Beth Love Dishfunctional Designs broken china jewelry

Amid the stacked boxes large and small, strewn throughout my workshop, are dishes from all around the world and from all different periods in time. I’ve carried these boxes with me when I’ve moved, finding, or making, space for them—stacking them, tripping over them, organizing and rearranging them, digging through them to find a certain particular plate I’m looking for, and occasionally I even go through them and wash the dishes! And I will never forget the first time, way back years and years ago, right when I started making jewelry out of old broken china, when one day I was browsing inside a large consignment shop and came upon a display of huge racks all stuffed with dishes.


 Laura Beth Love Dishfunctional Designs broken china jewelry

Reverse side

I was soon to learn that the display was full of replacement dinnerware. I looked for pieces that were inexpensive and maybe chipped or had some damage, but most all of the pieces displayed looked to be in good condition. I found a small red English transferware saucer, picked it up and fell in love with it, and stood there looking at it wondering if I should buy it just for the sake of using it in my home somehow, because it wasn’t in poor enough condition to break to use for jewelry… and then I noticed a middle-age man on the other side of the display, straightening the dishes. He saw me and asked if I needed help finding anything, if there was any particular china pattern I was looking for. I explained to him that I made jewelry from old broken china, and that I was looking for imperfect pieces to use in my artwork.

“Oh,” he said, “Don’t buy that one. I have many others that are damaged...” I soon learned that the display belonged to him, and that his business was replacement dinnerware pieces. He collected and sold old china pieces for people who unfortunately broke pieces of their own china sets. We spoke for a few minutes and I soon learned that he had a large business outside of this "small" consignment shop display—a whole warehouse full of replacement china dinnerware—and he invited me there to go through all of his imperfect pieces of old china. What happenstance. The planets aligned for me that day, and soon this college girl with big ideas was driving her little Mazda down a country road looking for his address.


 Laura Beth Love Dishfunctional Designs broken china jewelry

Prepping for soldering 


It was a cramped warehouse, and the man explained that they would soon be packing up and moving to a larger industrial warehouse nearby. I was shocked by all the dishes. Row upon row of ceiling-high shelves, all stacked with old china. The man led me to the rear of the warehouse, and directed me out and around back, where there were piles of large boxes, all filled with plates and dishes that had chips and cracks and imperfections. He told me to take a look and see if I wanted anything, and that he would be working in the warehouse, and when I was finished he would give me a price. 

 Laura Beth Love Dishfunctional Designs broken china jewelry
Finishing up soldering 

I remember that day so well. I was young, a college student, scraping by to live in my own apartment, making and selling stained glass, mosaics, and jewelry to pay the rent and pay my own way through college. I didn’t have a lot of money. I think I had about $300 to my name that day, and that’s what I had in my pocket. To me, that was a large amount of money. But I knew this opportunity was larger. This was the opportunity that I needed, so I had to be prepared in case I needed to spend a little bit. So I brought everything that I had.

 Laura Beth Love Dishfunctional Designs broken china jewelry
Finishing up soldering 

I started digging through the dishes. I was amazed. There was every type of china piece you could imagine, in what seemed like any and every pattern. There was antique German porcelain, vintage American dime store dinnerware, antique English transferware, vintage English chintz china, pottery, fine bone china, porcelain, in all shapes, sizes, colors, and motifs.


 Laura Beth Love Dishfunctional Designs

Selecting coordinating beads

There was just so much that I could use, that I didn’t know what to do! With each plate that I picked up I envisioned the shape and style of the piece of jewelry that I could possibly make from it. So I just started stuffing empty Xerox boxes with everything I wanted, figuring if his price was too high at the end, I could always put some back. By the time I was finished, I think I had 12 Xerox cardboard boxes stuffed to the brim with dishes. He soon came out to see what I had chosen, casually glanced over at my pile of boxes and said $75 would do it. !!! :o

 Laura Beth Love Dishfunctional Designs
Selecting coordinating beads

I remember that drive home from his warehouse as clear as if it were just yesterday. It was like I had won the lottery on Christmas day. I made 12 trips up and down my three flights of stairs to my apartment, emptying the extremely heavy boxes of dishes out of my car. When the boxes were lined up all the way across my living room floor, I just stood there and looked at them, amazed.

original  broken china jewelry Laura Beth Love

Little did I imagine that I would still be using a great deal of those very same plates to make jewelry almost 20 years later. The teacup in the photos on this page was one of those damaged pieces of china that I carried home from that warehouse on that day. It doesn’t look like a teacup now, and I didn’t think to get a photo of it before it completely fell apart and before I shaped it into the rectangular-ish shape you see on this page, but when I saw it I thought it was one of the prettiest china patterns that I have ever seen—and I only had one like it—so I stashed away in a small, shoe box-sized box where I kept special pieces, figuring that one day I would turn those special broken pieces into very special pieces of jewelry.


 broken china jewelry by Laura Beth Love

And then today happened. I chose this piece, and I decided it was time for her to have a new life. She traveled with me all those years, through a 15 year marriage! Two kids! Moving twice… no, three times! She sat in a box in the corner, or under a table, for years as time went by, as I taught myself, as I perfected techniques and learned new skills, as I sold on eBay, then on Etsy, as I got a book deal to write a jewelry project book, and then a second, then a contract and a plane ticket to film workshop DVDs, and through calls for interviews from Crafts Report, Country Living and Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist Magazines. Wow.

 best broken china jewerly


So here she is now. Look her beauty. But not just that, think about her life, imagine what she did, where she was, for years and years and years before she met me. Maybe you will meet her next.



What do you think? 


Have a great week!
 Laura

Article and images copyright ©Laura Beth Love for Dishfunctional Designs™ 2018 all rights reserved

10 comments:

  1. Wow, what a great story! I wonder if the china warehouse owner had any idea of the part he was playing in your life.

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    1. Probably not, and at the time I didn't either! Though I did go back a bit later to his new warehouse for a few more pieces but there wasn't much good stuff there at all - thankfully I snagged it all the first time around!

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  2. It's beautiful! You surely know how to sell it!

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    1. Thanks Lisa! I love things with a great story, so I though it would be fun to share :)

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  3. Laura, I so thoroughly enjoy reading your posts, and marveling at your jewelry creations. You are truly a one of a kind artist! Thank you for sharing the wonderful story of how you came upon such a treasure trove of china history!

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    1. Jane, Thanks so much for reading! I'm glad you enjoyed it! Have a great holiday.

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  4. Laura, you did so good! Not only with beautiful jewelry, but a great story to tell!!

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  5. I save all kinds of things too in hopes of making something beautiful out of them. Now all of our family and friends save me their dishes and broken things too.

    Love your creation. It's beautiful.

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  6. Thank you for sharing your story with us. I have admired your work for a long time, and I think it's the most charming way to give new life to broken chinaware.

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