Thursday, 24 April 2014

The Colour Collaborative: April - Tradition

Tradition: the transmission of customs or beliefs from generation to generation, or the fact of being passed on in this way.

A couple of years ago I had the good fortune to inherit some really quite wonderful old collections of household items, things I really cherish. 

The first was a dinner service - "Ode" by Denby - which belonged to my mother in law. She and John's father were given it as a wedding gift when they married in the seventies but she'd stopped using it some years ago and, knowing how I love so many things manufactured during this period, she kindly offered it to me. Plates are plates, I know, but I take a bizarre satisfaction in having matching plates - it makes me feel like a proper grown up. We have dinner plates, side plates, cake plates, cereal bowls, soup bowls and serving dishes, all of which we use every day. In the loft, I have boxes containing a full coffee set - cups, saucers, sugar bowl, the lot - egg cups, vinegar bottles, salt and pepper pots  - yes, all in Denby Ode, all matching. Those we don't use, and don't have space to store downstairs, but I can't bring myself to put them on ebay, I love them all too much. 

You see, these plates are not just plates. They speak to me of family, of memory, of tradition, and they celebrate the everyday ritual of sitting down at the table together and sharing a meal. I want my children to associate these plates with their childhood in the same way that John associates them with his. (Also, they can go in the dishwasher, a definite bonus.)

And then we have my Grandma's cutlery set. The family silver.

These are the soup spoons which have not been used for some years and yes, they need a good polish!

It's solid silver, apart from the knives which have silver handles and stainless steel blades. It's heavy. The forks and spoons have a solidity and weight to them that you just don't get any more, they feel substantial in your hand. It came in an old canteen, a wooden box lined with teal velvet, with foam inserts for each knife, fork and spoon. Unfortunately the foam is disintegrating before my eyes, (it's some decades old I think) leaving a fine dust on everything it touches, so I can't store the cutlery in there any more. But I can't bring myself to get rid of it, it's too full of history and memories.

This cutlery is not for every day, it's for high days and holidays. It's for "best". It can't go in the dishwasher, for starters, but must be washed by hand. It requires attention, careful polishing and storing. It's a bit precious, to be honest, but that makes me appreciate it all the more. My grandparents would not have used this every day (the cutlery stored in the kitchen table drawer was for that) but I remember my Grandpa getting out this canteen and carefully laying the dining room table for Sunday lunch with the best cutlery, the good china, the crystal glasses. (It was always his job to set the table and when, as children, we stayed the night I would watch him lay the kitchen table for breakfast before they went up to bed, so that it was ready for the morning, with mats, napkins, cutlery, egg cups and bowls, proper bone china tea cups and saucers - do people still do things like that any more I wonder?) 

But, oh, when I get out this cutlery and set the table, I cannot tell you how happy it makes me. There is comfort in handling things which were treasured by much loved family members who are no longer with us, comfort in cherishing the things they cherished. We use it at Christmas and Easter, and whenever we have friends over and I want to make the table look pretty. It probably only gets used four or five times a year but that's ok, I plan to continue using it forever. 

So, colour. It hasn't escaped my notice that I've talked about everything but colour here and that's because there isn't a whole lot of colour going on. Brown and grey. Beige and silver. But, that's the beauty of these things! Timeless and versatile, these plates and knives compliment everything else going on around them. I added a white table runner here, but I've got a hot pink one too and that works just as well. The colour comes from the season and the ocassion; the flowers, the food on the table, the wine. The job of the plates and cutlery is to be a classy showpiece for everything else, to be neutral and tasteful in the background, not shouting. We'll leave the shouting to the children who don't want to eat their peas, and to the grown ups who had too much too drink.

What is The Colour Collaborative? 

All creative bloggers make stuff, gather stuff, shape stuff, and share stuff. Mostly they work on their own, but what happens when a group of them work together? Is a creative collaboration greater than the sum of its parts? We think so and we hope you will too. We'll each be offering our own monthly take on a colour related theme, and hoping that in combination our ideas will encourage us, and perhaps you, to think about colour in new ways.

If you'd like to read posts by the other Colour Collaborative bloggers, please follow the links below:

Annie at Knitsofacto
Sandra at Cherry Heart
Jennifer at Thistlebear
Claire at Above The River


  1. Hello Gillian,
    We are all for keeping with traditions and sometimes think that we are really living in the C19 instead of the C21. Your grandparents' flatware is simply stunning and, as you say, makes a statement on the dining table just as it is. Although silver is more work, when polished to perfection it graces any table like no other can. Yours looks fabulous!

    And, as for the Denby. Well, the 1970s for many are becoming darkest history (not so for seems like yesterday!) so these are definitely collectibles now. What an amazing number of pieces you have. Perhaps you could unearth the coffee set from the attic one day to have an authentically retro coffee morning? Maxi dresses and flowers in the hair........just to add that extra touch?

  2. What a lovely post. I have a set of tea cutlery (is that a real thing?) from my Grandma. She ALWAYS got out the silver cake knives and forks for guests and now I have them but haven't used them very often for fear of 'spoiling' them somehow. One of the knives handle's is a little loose but, that only adds to my fondness for them. Maybe I should use them more often (even if they can't go in the dishwasher).
    Btw that is a beautiful photograph at the bottom...(is it a ranunculus?) such a fabuilous peachy pink.

    1. Thank you! Yes, it's a ranunculus, well spotted! x

  3. A lovely post Gillian. I strongly believe its our traditions, and all the things both physical and non-physical passed on to us by our family members that truly makes us who we are. I think your post summed this up really well,
    Kate x

  4. Tradition in families is so important. I love that you have the dishes and silverware. I don't have much of this kind of stuff from my own family, unfortunately, but I have a lot from my husband's side, including his grandmother's silver. I think it's actually silver-plate, but it's still beautiful and I have a LOT of it. I've only used it once or twice, same with the china I was given for my wedding (new, but very nice). I like knowing I have these things, even if I don't use them often. It's nice to have a few things put away for best.

  5. You're so lucky to have these beautiful dishes and silverware from your family. But they are lucky too because you cherish and appreciate them and are looking after them very well. I'm sure they will still be in great condition when it is your kids' turn to have them. x

  6. Colour palettes don't always have to pop or zing to evoke emotions - the muted shades of your dinnerware and the neutrals of the silverware and table are beautiful, earthy, quiet, grounded. Lovely post - and never part with the stuff in the loft! :-) Chrissie x

  7. Stunning cutlery - I always had "a thing" for silverware... For a beautiful table, it is a necessity :-)... I was lucky to inherite my set from my mother in law... My mother still lives (Luckily !), so she still uses hers...

  8. My Mum keeps saying to me that when she's gone, I should just chuck everything. But I can't bring myself to tell her that when she goes (many years from now, God willing) I have my eyes on a few family dishes that were my Nan's, the stainless steel cutlery I remember from my childhood and, most precious of all, a small round spoon and a rabbit dish that we all ate our weetabix in as children.

  9. Absolutely lovely post, and great photos! I adore the colour palette you've got going on your dining table, very classic. I was also lucky enough to inherit my grandma's cutlery, and my great uncle's plates which we use every day - I love to be reminded of them in this way.

  10. Oh Gillian what a lovely post.I too have those silver mother wass given them a thank you from a pensioner who lived next door and my mum and her became good friends. Before she went into sheltered accommodation she gave them to my mum.She was a sinister who had no living relatives she told my mum pass them through our family. I have them now I totally understand your love of them. Having them feels like I am part of this lady history and 'i'm really proud. They mean a lot to me and I love using them ,I will give them to my daughter one day and I know they will be further cherished.
    Beautiful, beautiful post

  11. So now I have crockery and cutlery envy ... blogging is so bad for a girl ;)

    Seriously, those bowls and plates are perfect ... I'm always rather perturbed when brightly coloured plates compete with the colours of the food I'm eating and prefer something subtle and understated, just as this beautiful Denby set is. I don't envy the silver cleaning though :)

  12. I always think of tradition as 'tangible history' as it is made all the more meaningful as we actively participate in it. This is a lovely post and it speaks of the kindness of your MIL and your stewardship of bridging the past with your children's future.

  13. What a lovely dinner service you are lucky enough to own. It is ever so pretty. I hope it is dishwasher safe. I have my mothers wedding dinner set, which is really pretty, too but I don't like to use it because the pattern is quite vivid and it annoys me to have "non matching" food on the plates. Yes, I do realise that this is a little obsessive. When I was younger, I didn't appreciate such amazing gifts, I was more into clean Nordic design. I more and more enjoy items that have a history, a history that will grow as the items pass through my hands to the next loving owner.
    I hope one of my 12 ranunculus plants will produce a delicate pink flower like yours. Have a lovely end of the week. Cx

  14. I have Denby Colonial blue which my mother made me choose on my 18th Birthday with my present money - I wanted to go for a serious night on the town but she made me choose something in Debenhams! I am glad because I have a massive collection of it and we use it lots. I like yours too. Jo x

  15. What a lovely post...traditions are good. I love that cutlery, especially. I like the muted colours of your table arrangement and gorgeous, gorgeous blooms.
    Marianne x

  16. A beautiful post Gillian, I absolutely love the plates and the cutlery. How lovely to have been given these wonderful things. I'd love to have some things with such memories attached, it must be very special. I can see why you treasure them.

  17. This is a very special post Gillian - it's wonderful to have those traditional values instilled in our lives. I remember that beautiful cutlery from way back in our family but sadly don't know what became of it! I also like muted colour for dinner settings and your apricot shade of blooms is so right with it, to my mind!
    Joy xo

  18. Lovely to discover your blog and see your wonderful post for the colour collaborative.
    Neutral and muted colours are beautiful and love your dinner set and the silverware.
    How pretty the ranunculus are in the vase.
    Happy day

  19. I still have my Denby dinner service from when I got married in 1974 and lots in boxes that I don't use but can't part with. Love the colours in this post especially the ranunculus.
    Jacqui x

  20. I love this post and agree that those family traditions are very special. I love old cutlery and have some of my grandmother's knives, just day to day ones with yellowy plastic handles and smooth rounded blades that are perfect for butter, there is something about using them that is different to any other knife in the house. The colours of the last photo are lovely. Thank you x

  21. I worked in a hotel which had silver cutlery which we did out through the dishwasher and then was dipped in some solution and they came out all shiny, magic! Like this post, you are right about those incidentals in life being important. I too can remember my grandfathers laying the table the night before for breakfast, my father does it now too, somehow cannot imagine my husband doing it.................

  22. You must use your silver every day. It will give you so much pleasure. William Morris said "Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful". Your silver fulfils both. Why hide it away? PS You can wash it in the dishwasher, just don't let it touch any other metals

  23. I've enjoyed this post so much. I can completely understand your love of those plates, the way the different sizes sit inside each other like that is perfect. I think there is something special about the ritual of setting the table, using the 'best' china, the 'best' cutlery. It makes it an event and more special. I have a huge tablecloth from my Nan that she crocheted with her own fair hand with fine white thread. It's an amazing thing and I only bring it out for the special dinners but I love that I have something special to use for the special occassions.

    You also sparked off a memory of staying at my (other) Nan's as a child. she would always lay out the table for breakfast. Everything would be set out, the cereal boxes would be lined up on the table to choose from and she had a toast rack too. A little like a hotel breakfast I suppose, I always loved that when we stayed. I wonder if that's why I always love hotel breakfast too?

    S x

    PS LOVE your colour palettes especially the first one with the laid table. Beautiful mix of colours and very inspiring!

  24. I smiled and was pleased you wrote this post! At home, my mom was pretty modern, so we had 60s, 70s and 80s stuff and much got replaced as fashions changed (she always said I should be grateful she didn't have a trousseau for me like my German cousin had, as she would have chosen very 60s things - of course, neither she nor I thought they would ever be fashionable again and I'm only vaguely appreciative of MCM stuff, been there, done that, so I'm not pining!!). However, my in-laws have always lived traditionally "posh" and use silver every day, along with some pretty fancy china, too, and my MIL has several sets of silver and china, some of which I hope to inherit some day, even though I also have my own silver - the in-laws insisted on giving us silver cutlery for our wedding but we had to have a particular pattern because we were supposed to inherit some more of the same from an aunt… and it turned out to be different ;o LOL In fact, MIL grumbles that her (very pretty!) silver pattern was forced on her by her mother but I actually like it better than the one she later chose for herself ;o As I knew said grandmother for many years, too, that really makes me smile!! When the time comes, it's going to be really difficult to decide what to keep...
    I have to say my MIL puts her silver in the dishwasher, as do I, but it still needs an occasional polish!
    It all gets used all the time...

  25. I love a set table. I put everything out in the evening so we are ready to rock n roll in the morning. it give you those few extra moments as you throw cereal around. Don't know if it is just us, but I also put the toaster on the table...

    I have Denby Sienna. it looks like UFO's on the outer rim. I am afraid to say I don't like it and find it awfully heavy. The mugs are also a pear shape so it make it hard to clean them in the dish washer.

  26. Gorgeous dinner service and stunning photos - I'm reading (and re-reading!) your photography tips in the hope of being able to gain even a tiny bit of your expertise x

  27. A lovely post Gillian. Family traditions passed down through the generations are so important to our sense of belonging. It's lovely too to have objects that remind you of your childhood, we have a few treasured things that we will pass on to our girls. Your grandparents' cutlery is beautiful and so too is the timeless Denby. Have a lovely weekend.
    Jane x

  28. It is nice that you have these family heirlooms that you treasure. My husband's grandmother offered one of the sets of family silver to me when she was downsizing, but I turned it down. We just do not have a use for it in our life and we are too practical to hold onto something that we are never going to use. Luckily she herself is too practical to be offended!

  29. I absolutely love your table setting! And what a lovely dinner set, and gorgeous silverware. Such special things that I know you will always cherish.

  30. I think it's wonderful you are able to have these things to cherish and which can envoke such lovely memories. My parents have china, cutlery and glass from the 70's too,
    We will have something to pass on and to treasure. Younger generations though now seem to want a throwaway culture and like to change everything whenever they change the colour of their walls.

  31. I love the blush tones in the ranunculus. And I love the traditions and memories you have which surround the cutlery and crockery. Family gatherings, both formal and everyday, and cooking, always seem to be full of happy memories and stories.
    I keep the potato masher my mum used as we were growing up. Not glamorous or romantic but sturdy and functional. I use it often and it's comforting somehow.
    Sarah x

  32. Hi there, just catching up! It is so lovely to read about your traditions and passing things on in your family. I think that is so lovely. I always admire your plates when I see them in your pictures, they are beautiful and even more so for you no doubt as they are a family heirloom! Hope that you are having a good weekend. xx

  33. Lovely photos of the silverware. I think it is great that you have the entire Denby set, don't EBay the pieces in the loft, it is lovely that it is all together still.

  34. traditions passed down through families are the best ones x

  35. a lovely timeless set. Easy on the eye! I love the silver soup spoon. Very essential! Heather x

  36. What a beatiful post! I am simply drooling over your silver set...what a treasure!!!! The dishes are lovely as well! Your photos are stunning as usual, and your collage of colors is so pleasing to the eye.

  37. Its so interesting to read the memories we have of family traditions. I remember our grandad 'Beard' coming up the stairs in the morning before breakfast with fresh orange juice and a chocolate digestive when we had sleepovers. Do you remember that Gilly? It felt a bit naughty but because it was with Beard, it was ok!
    I remember how heavy this cutlery was too. I hope you get as much joy and pleasure from using them on special occasions as I remember doing when we had Sunday lunch together with our grandparents. :) XXX

  38. What lovely treasures so full of memories, I love to hear about other peoples traditions, I'm nosey like that.
    Such a beautiful colour runuculas too!
    love Jooles x x x


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