The secret message of grass
It's been a difficult week for the world and in particular for the people of Ukraine 🇺🇦💔. So today I thought to find a piece of porcelain that we can take heart from.
It is widely known (although if you live somewhere far from Europe, you may not know it) that the island of Ireland went through a difficult struggle, and still does to some degree. In the 19th Century the whole island was under British rule; today most of the island is the Irish Republic, and the northern part is one of the nations that form the United Kingdom. What is today called "The Troubles" really started in the second half of the 19th Century, when the Catholic population started to demand self-rule.
The Belleek factory found itself in a challenging situation: almost all workers were Catholics, but the owners and management were Protestants and connected to Britain. It created a lot of strain on the factory for several decades, which explains the lack of new designs after the 1870s - this struggle meant the factory couldn't sustain the creative explosion that it went through in the 1860s and 1870s.
One of the designs conceived in the period between 1863 and 1891 was the Grass design. It is this lovely, cheerful design of grass, bound together with ribbons, and a super charming duck spout on the teapot. Some think there is a secret message in this, appropriate to a country that feels the strains of division.
Grass is an interesting plant species: its strength is underground. You can burn it, cut it or otherwise try to get rid of it, but the grass that we see above the ground is connected by a very strong and complex root system under the ground. This root system can survive extreme temperatures, drought or flooding, and as long as it survives, grass will always pop up above the ground again and contribute its fresh green presence to our wonderful earth. Grass is also one of the earth's most needed resources: cattle lives on it, insects breed in it and it protects the earth from losing its nutrients and moist.
Interconnectedness is stronger than violence.
So did this grass design just emerge from a Belleek designer having a creative moment some time around the 1870s, or was there a secret message from a country in turmoil and under the pressure of political and religious divisions? You decide...
Oh, and have you seen that interesting message on the inside of the teapot cover? It was in the late 19th Century that Belleek started to export huge numbers of these cabaret sets to the Irish population of the US, which had left Ireland after the famine in the 1840s. These second generation Americans might not have learned how to brew a proper cup of tea, so this is how Belleek taught them.
Where to find things
This charming cabaret set is for sale in my shop and you can find it here. All my available stock can be found here. And if you always want to see the latest additions, follow me on Instagram... I post pictures and a story every single day.
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Happy weekend, and look for the strength under the surface! 💪🇺🇦💪
This week's new treasures: