Tuesday, September 11, 2007
Finding Lustreware in Asheville, N.C.
Downtown Asheville was such an interesting place. There was the wonderful Grove Arcade, the historically renovated "public market" first built in 1929, where circular iron staircases and marble walls testified to the elegance that must have existed back when this was the home of haberdasheries and millinery shops. There was a tiny but adorable lace shop, Merletti, where I bought a bit of lace said to have been made by women recovering from the tsunami. There were galleries with funky contemporary pieces, beautifully crafted pine needle baskets and carved wooden bowls with a texture as smooth as silk. Down a steep set of stairs, I was delighted to enter Vintage Moon (vintage clothes and teawares were advertised), and although I didn't buy anything, the cheery flapper music playing as I entered put a smile in my heart.
I wasn't really on a "mission" with my Asheville shopping, but of course when we spotted an antique store on a side street, and my husband suggested we stop, I was more than happy to oblige. And there it was: the lustreware cup and saucer I have been wanting for years. Years, I'm talking.
Rachel Ashwell's Shabby Chic decorating books pretty much define my "style," if I even have one, and here's what her 2001 book, "The Gift of Giving," says about lustreware: "The roots of lustreware date back centuries, originally to the Middle East. The shimmer came from glazing pottery with real bits of metal. In the nineteenth century, English potters and china makers began working with the process, but took it a step further by repeating less earthy colors and experimenting with more delicate patterns. It was still, however, a tedious process that was done by hand. It was applied mainly to tea sets, so those are the most common examples to come across." I have seen lustreware in antique shops only twice before. The cup and saucer sets were $55 and $60, which was too much for this cheapskate collector. My set was a mere fraction of that, so I left downtown Asheville with an especially wonderful souvenir.