November 12, 2012

Collecting: Vintage Ironstone China

I was inspired to write this post because of an earthquake. I know it might sound crazy but there was recently an earthquake in Tennessee. Saturday, I was standing in my living room and all of a sudden, my ironstone china started rattling. Assuming it was fireworks from the football game being played at nearby Neyland Stadium, I just went about my business. Later, when I heard it was an earthquake, I was inspecting my ironstone china collection and that's when I wrote this post.  

I can't remember what prompted me to begin collecting English ironstone china. I don't even know which piece started my collection. Most have been picked up pretty cheaply at estate sales or thrift stores. I even brought an entire thrifted tea set back from Florida in my carry-on luggage. For awhile I didn't have enough pieces to display them all together, but now I've got a fairly sizable collection and I like the visual impact of seeing them in a grouping.  

I think it's fun to collect long as it doesn't take over your life. When I first started collecting, I was always on the lookout for pieces of ironstone, ready to snatch them up. Now that my ironstone china collection has grown, I try to pass on pieces unless they are really unique or different from what I already have. I don't want to end up with so much that I can't really enjoy it because my house is overrun with it. 

Most of my ironstone china pieces are Johnson Brothers or Meakin. I prefer the solid white pieces but some of mine are ironstone china transfer ware and I like those too. I think I'm drawn to ironstone because of its history. I love that each piece was created so long ago -- made to withstand years of use.

Some of my pieces are a little cracked, either from the previous owners or from my own klutzy use (and now they've survived an earthquake!). I don't mind this because I think it adds to the unique story these pieces have to tell.

Do you collect something that holds a special place in your heart? Are you a new collector or is your collection fairly developed? I love hearing your stories about this sort of thing!


  1. What a coincidence! Just yesterday my husband purchased for me a set of Johnson Brother's china for Christmas. We've become the families' go-to destination for Thanksgiving, and I wanted something special to use for such a warm and happy holiday. I'm wondering what sort of story (new or old; I don't care) is behind the print, the stone, and the craftsmanship. I'm excited to write our own stories on the dinnerware!

  2. Another Johnson Brothers fan here - I always pick up pieces of Rose Chintz whenever I see it.

    Kate, I'm glad none of your collection was damaged in the earthquake. As a Southern Californian, I live in fear that one will someday take out my china cabinet. All the more reason to use the "good" china as often as possible!

  3. Hi! My backyard is in Tennessee :) I love the area around Knoxville.
    I love your dish collection and I have some I should probably send you.
    I've recently inherited tons of the tea leaf pattern of stoneware.

  4. I LOVE your collection- I'm totally drooling! I collect ironstone too- and pretty much anything else I find that gets my heart racing ;)

  5. Your ironstone is gorgeous!! I have been collecting for about three years now. :) I live about 25 miles from the epicenter of the Ky. earthquake (I am in Virginia) and didn't feel a thing. =P Funny!!

  6. I heard about the earthquake. Very odd to have it there. The china is so pretty. I will have to educate myself on ironstone. I collect way too much, in fact I am down-sizing all of my "stuff" and am at a loss as to how to get "rid" of it. I have oil lamps, thimbles, tins and knick knacks galore!


Lay it on me y'all!