Disclaimer: the author of this blog post is neither an art historian nor is he an auctioneer, appraiser or expert on vintage cake plates or scholar regarding style in any sense of the word…which begs the question, “why bother with this post?” Read on if you dare, but count yourself forewarned.
I love the clean, unadorned lines of the BeautyWare stainless covered cake plate.
Last week we bid on and won two vintage cake plates at a resale store in our community. These were two silent auction items I had seen a few days earlier while on one of our explorations to find vintage stuff. I wanted them badly enough that I took time during the lunch hour to go to the store for the last 15 minutes of the auction. I updated my bids and walked away with both–a beautiful Fostoria square clear-glass pedestal cake stand and a Lincoln BeautyWare stainless covered cake plate.
What I love about them is that even though they come from the same century–in fact, they were in use at the same time–they represent two different ideas of style. Although the Fostoria has clean geometric lines and lacks the colorfulness of art glass, it’s easy to see why it is known to collectors as elegant glassware with its Victorian-inspired flourishes.
And the elegant flourish of the Fostoria clear glass cake stand
On the other hand, the clean, unadorned functionality of the BeautyWare bespeaks of mid-century modernity with its attention to form and function over embellishments.
It’s easy to brush off style as window dressing, but it’s what took the boring beige personal computer and turned it into an Apple. Steve Jobs took style seriously in designing the iMac (remember the blueberry?), iPod, iPhone and iPad and Apple’s sales skyrocketed. Kids bikes were just bikes until Schwinn came along with the Stingray with its banana seat, gear shifter and high-rise handlebars. You were the envy of your neighborhood if you had one of those. I saw one this week in near mint condition for $1200. Don’t tell me someone is willing to pay that simply to get two pedals and two wheels. It’s style!
Style is what’s missing from so much technology today. I love my flat-screen TV. The picture is stunning and changing channels with a remote easy, but it lacks any sense of style like the console set we had when I was a kid. Ours was set in a large wooden cabinet, but our neighbors had a really cool tabletop TV in a bakelite case. A friend of mine had a small two-tone Sylvania Duelette from the 1960s in coral and cream. Can you imagine a 42-inch flat screen in coral and cream?
Form, function and style are ingredients in a recipe that makes something more than useful…it makes us want to use it. It’s also what makes something desirable years later when it achieves vintage or antique status. I won’t get into a debate about which is better–the PC or Mac. Both work just fine, thank you. A better question is which one do you want to use? How and where do you want to spend your time? When I have a choice, I want a little style.
In our shop at home I have a small Danish modern table where I do my computer work–editing photos, writing posts, uploading stuff to our Etsy store. It’s a simple, clean surface on which sits my laptop and one other item at the moment–a Rodney Kent aluminum tulip dish filled with some of my favorite vintage glass marbles. There is nothing about the colorful marbles and the monotone flourish of the dish that go together, but I love both so there they sit.
Back to my cake plates…which would I use? Both and at the same time. I imagine a holiday dinner in which an array of colorful cookies are arranged on the Fostoria and a marzipan cake sits under the shiny lid of the BeautyWare plate. Such are the joys of eclecticism…mix and match with abandon. Fortunately, I won’t suffer through that dilemma as both are for sale in our Etsy store: http://www.etsy.com/shop/EclecticPerspectives.
Marie Antoinette is credited with saying, “Let them eat cake” (okay, in French, “let them eat brioche”). To that I would add, “And let them do it in style.”