Do you remember when a plate’s sole purpose was a place to serve a meal? In case you haven’t noticed, plates have somehow made their way out of cupboards and china cabinets and ended up as decorative accessories on walls. Yes, that’s right. Instead of just using them when we eat, we are paying homage to them as pieces of artwork.
When I was growing up, I never thought of a plate as anything except what it was: a plate. For those of you who have read any of my cookbooks, you know exactly what my family put on our plates. We used them three times a day to support piles and piles of Southern comfort food. In fact, we used them so much that many times we washed away the design that had once adorned them.
My grandmother had a set of china plates that I always loved. They had a garland of delicate flowers that beautifully danced around the border of the plate. A thin silver line on the edge of each plate confirmed that they were “nice.” We only used them on special occasions and holidays because they were definitely members of the “good china” club. No regular lunch could ever touch them. But they always made their way out of the china cabinet on Thanksgiving, Christmas and when the preacher came over for a meal.
My grandparents certainly weren’t wealthy, so I asked her one day how she had acquired such beautiful china. She told me she had received them from a company that sold tea and coffee. As I recall, it went something like this: Every time she would purchase a certain amount of this company’s products, she would get a piece of china or some other serving pieces. I can’t even imagine how long it took her to get her entire set together. Or, how many cups of coffee. No wonder we only used it on special occasions and when the preacher came!
It wasn’t until I was almost grown that the thought even occurred to me that I could hang a plate on the wall instead of just eating on it. What a clever idea, I thought. Apparently a lot of other people over the years thought that as well. You can hardly go anywhere that you don’t see plates proudly adorning walls like fine pieces of artwork.
Over the years, I have had the privilege of designing many decorative plates. Their subject matter has been varied to say the least. I have placed everything from Santas, to fruit, to vegetables (including Vidalia onions), to insects and birds to all sorts of flowers on them. I have designed eight different cherry blossom plates for our festival, including this year’s.
I think I could render a cherry blossom in my sleep.
As I was looking at the new cherry blossom plate I designed the other day, I decided to count how many different plates I have hung on the walls of my home. I knew it would be a ridiculous number and had already prepared myself for that. But just how ridiculous it was, I didn’t know. I guess because my whole growing up life I just ate on them made me decide to hang as many as I could during my adult years. And hang I did!
I am embarrassed to say that I lost count at 50 plates. I know. I probably need to go to some sort of plate rehab or something. But I must confess, I just love to see a grouping of plates on a wall. When done right, it can be quite an effective decorating tool.
Several years back, I heard a couple of ladies talking as they left a decorator show house. One lady said to the other, “Can you believe they had plates hanging on the wall!” I smiled and thought to myself, “I hope she never comes to my house to see how many I have hanging!”
As springtime slowly creeps up, causing us to yearn to freshen up our surroundings, I want you to consider the option of hanging some plates. I know you more than likely already have some just screaming to be on the wall.
You may have a place that one plate would fit perfectly or a large wall to hold a dozen. You can hang them alone with a wire hanger or place them on top of decorative wall brackets. You can even frame them in shadow boxes. Anyway you do it, I guarantee you it will add a little touch of spring to your home.
Here is a little piece of advice I will share with you after my many plate hanging sessions. If you are dealing with more than one plate, just make sure you work out your composition before picking up the hammer and nails. Otherwise, you may have a lot more holes in your wall than you anticipated. Take my word for it. I know this from experience. Please don’t look behind my 50-plus plates.
You are probably wondering what ever happened to my grandmother’s “good” china. When she passed away, I got it. No, it is not hanging on any of my walls. Because it is so priceless to me, it is carefully tucked away in my china cabinet.
After all, that is where she kept it for all those years — at least until a holiday came or her preacher!
Ÿ Check out Mark’s Web site. Visit www.markballard.com for current projects, recipes and lots of other fun stuff for spring and cherry blossom time.
Ÿ “The Mark Ballard Show” is on Cox On-Demand.
Ÿ Mark is on www.macon.com 24 hours a day. Videos, columns and articles are featured.
Mark Ballard’s column runs each week in The Telegraph. Send your questions to P.O. Box 4232, Macon, GA, fax them to (478) 474-4390 or call (478) 757-6877.