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The O’Connell’s Are Stupid.




Let me explain… My family has been collecting Quimper dishes for three generations, maybe four. And for those four generations, every dinner plate, platter, soup tureen, salad plate, cake plate, oyster plate, mustard jar, salt cellar, tea set…every single solitary piece has crossed our path. This is definitely the Smith family collection. Smith is my mother’s maiden name as well as my aunt and my grandmother’s married name… The Quimper Collectors. So, imagine this, you collect a certain pattern with gusto for your whole life, so you must’ve had conversations about this pattern to hundreds of people including salespeople (“I would like to order a 5 Piece place setting for 12 of Quimper, please.”), antique dealers (“What is the price of this antique Quimper butter dish?”), your family (“Can I borrow the Quimper fish platter?”), housekeepers (“Please only hand wash the Quimper.”), and to your children (“You can have my Quimper after I die, so take care of it.”) You must’ve said the word “Quimper” thousands and thousands and thousands of times over the generations. But in my family, we found out last year, yes, just last year that we had been pronouncing the word “Quimper” incorrectly the entire time! The entire time! For at least 100 years! You would think someone would have checked the pronunciation. But, no. So yes, we are stupid. The correct pronunciation is similar to “cam pair.” It does not, as the O’Connell’s say it, rhyme with “wimper.”

 


Things like this happen to our family all the time. This is why my family has such a good sense of humor. However, I have to admit, the source of our laughter usually stems from my mother. I could start an entire blog titled, “Stuff my mother says.” It has been an endless source of entertainment for my sister and me. Do not be mistaken, we are not laughing with my mother, it is definitely at my mother. However, after we explain to my mother just exactly what she had said or done, she laughs hysterically and then eats a candy bar or chocolate croissant. Please remind me later to tell you about the time my mother got stuck in the train doors at Versailles. But for today, I thought I would tell you what my mother said yesterday according to my sister. My sister told me that she and my mother were having a conversation about canning vegetables. My sister said she did not like to can vegetables from her garden because the canning sterilization process is so difficult. My mother said very seriously and emphatically, “Yes, do you know that green beans have killed more people than any other vegetable?” Obviously, she was referring to botulism… But in her own special way. My family spent the remainder of the day teasing my mother about dangerous violent green beans.

 
 
We like to refer to my mother as our family idiot savant. However, this lady, my crazy mother, has the best taste and the best style and most talent of anyone I’ve ever met. She can’t spell, pronounce words in French (or English for that matter) or budget, but she can cook, sew, decorate, dress, hunt for antiques with a keen eye, decorate a Christmas tree to the hilt, paint (I mean, like, a house), bake award-winning peach cobbler, make a croquembouche, and keep a home better than anyone on this earth. She doesn’t just do any of the aforementioned talents lightly. When I say she can sew, I mean like nearly professionally. She hand sewed all of Gracie’s little dresses out of vintage tablecloths and she hand knitted all of Gracie’s sweaters and crocheted her stuffed animals. She sews and embroiders curtains, napkins, and bedspreads in a blink of the eye. When I say she can decorate, it would put the best interior designers to shame. She can cook a Beef Wellington with her eyes closed and then teach the neighborhood how to do it. When I say that she can keep a home, I mean that she can take care of three bratty children while painting the dining room Yves Klein blue, throw a dinner party for 30 cooking everything on her own, while building an outdoor lattice trellis with the gardener, while tending to her 300 David Austin rosebushes, while ironing every napkin we own, while putting on her annoying capri pants, while running 5 miles a day, while eating a Nestlé’s crunch bar.


 
 
 
So, when I say my mother has a collection of Quimper, I mean she has a c-o-l-l-e-c-t-i-o-n. My family loves Quimper. My grandmother used to blow out Easter eggs and then delicately and perfectly hand paint the Quimper pattern onto the eggs. She also painted the Quimper pattern onto flour containers, sugar containers and bread boxes. I included a photo. My mother baked sugar cookies and then made royal icing and painted the Quimper pattern (in icing!) on the cookies and made them into Christmas tree ornaments. The entire tree (no other ornaments that year) was covered with my mother’s Quimper cookies hung with navy blue ribbon.
 



The dishes originate from the town of Quimper in Brittany, France. By train, the scenic town is about four and half hours outside of Paris. The town is known for its faience pottery originating in the 1700s. The man attributed to the founding of Quimper faience is named Jean-Baptiste Bousquet. My mother’s pattern dates back to the 1860s. Faience is referred to as the puff pastry of pottery because it is very difficult to master. The Quimper pottery is known for its hand painted designs depicting the culture of Brittany, especially the peasant dress of the townspeople.







Collectors can get rather particular about their Quimper and its history and markings. If you’re into that kind of stuff, you might like this article HERE.



 
My mother’s pattern comes in either a yellow (Soleil) background or an ivory background with octagonal dinner plates. It also comes with a yellow and blue border in a round shape. It is great as everyday china for breakfast lunch or dinner. If you’re having a big fat fancy dinner…I would use something else. You can purchase these dishes as new HERE. If you want to buy antique Quimper, I would check eBay.


 
 

So that’s it for the dishes obsession blogs. Tomorrow I thought we could end the series by looking at my favorite table settings to bring this full circle. Thank you for all of your nice comments. Or, as my mother would say thank you in French, “Mercy.”
A toute!

17 comments:

  1. I am thoroughly enjoying the dishes series and will miss it when it's over.
    Karen

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  2. I just adore your blog! I always 1: learn something (things plural), and 2: laugh out loud. Thank you!

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  3. Another top-notch post! Quimper is wonderful and I would love to have a set - or two or three. I would love to know yourmother!

    bds

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  4. Ellie, when I read this blog, I really feel like I am getting a full education. I've learned more bout interiors, style and good taste on here in a few months than in all my years reading "style" mags and blogs. THANKS AND KEEP THE POSTS COMING! You're awesome.

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  5. Super funny blog - I’ve just discovered you and enjoy your writing so much. Tonkath

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  6. your mother and family sound like a blast! Love your posts!

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  7. I too have just discovered your blog and agree with Anna that I have learned a lot! I love dishes and have really enjoyed the posts. My twin sister loves Quimper so i am forwarding this post to her. I rented a house in Montecito a few summers ago very close to town where your shop was and I always thought it was the prettiest storefront on the street. I wish I had met you!

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    1. Don't you love Montecito! Wish I had met you as well. Glad you like the blog.

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  8. I feel like we need a reality show starring the women of your family! Awesome as usual:)

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  9. This series was awesome. You are am amazing connoisseur and storyteller. I can't wait for more. Thank you.

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  10. Thank you. I don't care one bit about dishes (not entirely true) but I have enjoyed your series about them the last few days. I prefer boots to bowls but you write so well that I found myself happily immersed in plate talk. I just found your blog recently via Habitually Chic. Thank you again for such a good blog.

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    1. Dear Robbi, so glad you like the blog. Thank you for your nice words. I like boots too! Hope you're having a great day

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  11. hilarious, enlightening and beautiful... great piece...

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  12. You are sooo funny, BUT very enlightening!

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  13. I love your voice and all you have to say. Thanks for a wonderful read each morning!

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  14. mercy mercy merci ~ "so funny" ~ love your mom funnies, my mom could get more done before I woke up, fabulous cook, spaghetti strap dress for dinner with dad that night, and never ending go go go, I love Quimper ~ I like these too by Biordi ~ xo

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