Russel Wright dedicated long hours to mixing glazes to achieve the depth of soft color of American Modern Dinnerware. The first glaze colors – Chartreuse, Seafoam, Granite Gray, Coral, and Bean Brown – were envisaged as a complementary palette. The glazes bring out the best in each other – a reflection of color in the natural world. In that vein, American Modern was introduced as “open stock” dinnerware.
Seafoam has an earthiness unexpected in blue . . . it is not a blue-gray. A stormy sea at sundown?
The seafoam glaze grounds chartreuse while the shape of the square platter cradles the salad plate. A platter without a distinct rim or a deep well was distinctly different in 1937. Russel Wright stripped the typical elements of a platter. His minimalist design would shape modern dinnerware while his glaze colors were imitated but never duplicated.
Good design does not dictate. The chop plate designed for the service of a meat course was a large square platter that might serve as a tray . .. in other rooms as well.
. . . the art of life is centered on the dinner table.
The Victorian etiquette books were heavy with standards that were unattainable for most consumers. There were bone plates, fish plates, underplates in the list. And of course, there was the time required to set such a table and maintain a lifestyle dictated by the past that was no longer practical in the every day of life.
American Modern set a new standard – multi-functional and undecorated pieces that could be mixed by the homemaker at will. In their book, Russel and Mary Wright wrote, that each table setting would be a unique design – a work of art created by the homemaker. The art of the table.
Not a true statement. In my mind, there are bowls – and then there are bowls. Sometimes, bowls take on very interesting shapes. Even production pieces like those made at Steubenville Pottery for the American Modern line of dinnerware designed by Russel Wright. This bowl is a vessel that seems to cradle all that it holds. Sometimes it looks like an open hand …it is a curve that does not stop…
In the early twentieth century, Mr. Wells the president of Homer Laughlin China Company appeared before a Congressional Committee on tariffs to plead the case of American Potteries. He argued that foreign wares, particularly German and Japanese imports, were given an unfair advantage in the current laws governing tariffs. One of the committee members questioned whether or not quality china was…
All that is needed to understand the beauty of ergonomics is to hold the salt and pepper shakers designed by Russel Wright for Steubenville in your hands … to hold them is to love them. They fit the hand so perfectly. And we would like to give you that opportunity. We are giving away this set of chartreuse Russel Wright Salt and Pepper Shakers. Our Give Away: Chartreuse Salt and Pepper…
All that is needed to understand the beauty of ergonomics is to hold the salt and pepper shakers designed by Russel Wright for Steubenville in your hands . . . to hold them is to love them. They fit the hand so perfectly.
And we would like to give you that opportunity. We are giving away this set of chartreuse Russel Wright Salt and Pepper Shakers.
The dinnerware designed by Russel Wright is included in the rather broad [and vague] category, Mid Century Modern. Russel Wright designed the new line of American Modern Dinnerware in the 1930s. His designs were, in part, a reaction to the formality of the late Victorian dinner table. Many courses served with service changes that required “help” in the kitchen. A way of living, that was…
The dinnerware designed by Russel Wright is included in the rather broad [and vague] category, Mid Century Modern. Russel Wright designed the new line of American Modern Dinnerware in the 1930s. His designs were, in part, a reaction to the formality of the late Victorian dinner table. Many courses served with service changes that required “help” in the kitchen. A way of living, that was certainly at odds in the 1930s when many could no longer afford imported fancy serve ware or a household staff to serve. His stated intent was to bring design to everyone – American Modern would become the best selling dinnerware in American history.
His design took another turn; the post modernist turn. He looked to the form and function of each piece, first, and then applied glazes that reflected the natural world. You might even say, he used organic shapes and colors that soothed a generation in an era of unsettling news – economic downturns, political unease and total war on a global scale. As much as his design fascinates, his later avocation to restore land that included abandoned quarries near the Hudson River inspires me. I plan to visit . .
The first piece of Russel Wright that I found was in a box in an abandoned trailer. Although I didn’t know who made the piece, I was captivated by the color and shape. I soon discovered the pitcher was manufactured by Iroquois China and designed by Russel Wright. The pitcher is definitive of Wright’s design – curves that do not end. There are no hard edges. Truly wonderful to hold and behold. And the color . . . drawn from the forest at sunset.
The best thing about Christmas morning is the quiet and the contentment in the air. The stockings so carefully hung are strewn on the floor, paper and ribbon everywhere, sipping hot chocolate with mounds of whipped cream and, of course, a roaring fire! The food we serve on this day differs from family to family based on tradition and quite often, passed down from generation to generation. If you…
The best thing about Christmas morning is the quiet and the contentment in the air. The stockings so carefully hung are strewn on the floor, paper and ribbon everywhere, sipping hot chocolate with mounds of whipped cream and, of course, a roaring fire! The food we serve on this day differs from family to family based on tradition and quite often, passed down from generation to generation. If you were raised in the Catholic Church then you might also know the pure bliss of eating sweets and meat with real gusto! This meal is, after all, the family coming together in all reverence to celebrate the strength of that bond. Setting the table for this gathering is as important as the preparation for an altar . . . china, linen and decoration demonstrate the importance of this gathering of friends and family.
In my bio, I have described myself as a historian and collector. . . my first collection, books. History and literature stretching from the middle ages to the present. How many? I never knew. I never counted. I knew there were books that I needed. Books that I needed to read again, paragraphs to ponder, sometimes to wonder. Some books you know you will always go back to again and again. Then there were the rare books. Books the university library did not have that I needed to read slowly. I would check out books from my library at home – Alden Library – usually, I had over 200 books from that source. I was writing a dissertation that spanned two continents and the lives of two brothers, sons daughters. I read constantly. My appetite was voracious. Then I moved to a cabin in the woods – I needed to purge that collection. I gave away so many books without any sense of loss.
In turn, I started a new project, the history of Ohio River Pottery. I began collecting pottery made in Ohio. I wanted to write a history – not a guide to identification but rather a history of the people who built the industry and how they kept that business going for the next century. As I discovered, the story is a political, economic and social history. I also realized after that collection took shape, that the patterns told their own history of cultural change – colors, ornamentation and shape reflected taste and fashion. A new journey of discovery. . . In turn, I am now selling that collection. In my mind, the sales would allow me the time to write the history.
Impetuously, I forged ahead into online selling and a storefront – the collection had grown too large for my barn! Now I was faced with a new learning curve. . . what came naturally for my children, by the way, was not natural for me. Certainly, I had used the internet to research in libraries from Quebec to Paris. But selling required another kind of knowledge – lots and lots. And organization and most of all presence . . great stress soon followed!
Books are simple to organize . . the miracle of the Dewey Decimal System! I can walk to my bookshelves and find a booka in a matter of seconds. But plates . . . over my head it seems. I have always favored white. Simple, pure and the eye is drawn to the form. While I had know Homer Laughlin since I first needed a plate, or so it seems, I at long last discovered Russel Wright! He understood form and the way in which everyday objects affect our lives. . .
I suppose the first big surprise was that other people wanted to buy parts of this collection. . . . lots of people and lots of pieces! Nothing to complain about except that the intellectual did not have a system in place. Have been working on that for the last few weeks. . . It feels like I have been thrown into the ocean and now we will see if I sink or swim. . . Hmmmm, I have no intention of sinking. I am learning, too slowly it seems.
Last week, an angel from Canada ordered four Russel Wright plates. Now these are pure white dessert plates. They are a captivating white . . I so hate to sound romantic but – they are white as angels wings. Not a sterile white, not at all clinical, but pure like an angel’s wings, like Sugar White! Truly. I have seemingly millions of white plates, but these are different. So now back to the process of selling. I had not yet shipped anything to Canada. So how best to ship the plates . . . .that research took time. Then the packing. The mail carriers are not gentle with packages, they are in a hurry as the whole of civilization is now. And remember, we are forging relationships with people that we do not know. So, how do we trust. . . especially, the buyer? It is all such an interesting process of give and take without the usual social cues of shaking a hand and getting to know another.
After we had all the details worked out, in packing the pristine white plates, I looked around but could only find three! I had the good luck to know a dealer who happened to have more . . . but now, the shipment is late. . .
We have devised a new way to organize those things that we list online. I also now know that shipping to Canada is simple albeit expensive for the buyer! And this “angel” from Canada inadvertently forced me to learn new lessons for parting with this collection. . . I am in her debt. Whenever I think of Russel Wright especially, Sugar White, it will be her that I remember.
In looking back, I remember a letter that Noel Sillery once wrote to the governor of Canada seeking assurances that donations would go toward the new building of a convent and church. . . he was seeking assurance and trust across great distance. . . with a letter now an email! That time in history was a process of discovery. Ahhhh, she thinks, the more things change the more they remain the same.