Anna Weatherley (photographed by Len Spoden for Vanity Fair)

Anna Weatherley’s Handpainted Porcelain Dinnerware

Who is Anna Weatherley?

Although she’s probably best known for her line of handpainted dinnerware, Anna Weatherley was at one point an arms dealer (!) who became a famous couturiere who then went on to set up handpainting studios in Hungary and was eventually commissioned by First Lady Laura Bush to design a collection of china for the White House.

Anna Weatherley (photographed by Len Spoden for Vanity Fair)

Anna Weatherley (photographed by Len Spoden for Vanity Fair)

How did this happen?  When she was young, Anna moved from her native Hungary to Australia.  There, she studied art and design and soon became intrigued with Afghanistan, so she started a business importing furniture and textiles from Kabul to Sydney.  Eventually, she settled in Washington D.C., but her passion for design continued, so she returned to the bazaars of Afghanistan, where she found intricate guns for customers back in Australia.  “I’d buy and ship these great 19th-century guns that the British left behind, beautiful guns with ivory and mother-of-pearl,” she says. “I wasn’t an expert, but I knew these guns were beautiful and decorative.”

When the supply of decorative firearms dwindled, Anna turned to fashion.  During the 1970’s and 1980’s, she created a successful couture business, producing custom dresses using handpainted and hand-embroidered silk.  Her customers included Elizabeth Taylor, Lady Bird Johnson, Jane Fonda, and upscale stores like Henri Bendel and Saks.  But after the stock market crash of 1987, demand for her pricey dresses started to fall, so Anna looked to return home to Hungary.

When did she start producing handpainted porcelain?

After the fall of communism, Anna went back to Hungary.  Curious to see what almost fifty years of government control had done to the artistic community, she found little to celebrate, but in time she connected with artists whose talents were promising. “They were making this ghastly stuff, but I thought they were diamonds in the rough.”  So in the early 1990’s, she established a studio in Budapest and worked with her painters to create a collection of hand-painted porcelain based on botanical art.  “I always liked hand-painting because my fabrics were painted and embroidered,” she says.

Where does Anna get inspiration for her designs?

Anna’s designs reflect her appreciation for the artistry of sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth-century botanical artists, which she studied during trips to the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Initially, she took botanical books to Budapest to show her artists. “It took a long time to reeducate them. I was losing money, but I wanted to nurture them, and I didn’t want to lose them.”

Weatherley’s first collection, released in 1993, was named “Redoute Gardens” after the renowned botanical artist. Her intent was to emulate the spirit of the artist without replicating it exactly.

Anna Weatherley Redoute Pink Carnation Salad Plate

Anna Weatherley Redoute Pink Carnation Salad Plate

Next came “Hooker Fruit,” a collection of plates and serving pieces based on Joseph Hooker’s 1890s drawings. “What I loved about his fruit was that they were a bit damaged or a little bit rusty looking,” Weatherley recalls. “After that every leaf I designed had to be torn or have a little hole in to make it look like a bug had been having lunch on it.”

Next came the tulips of Alexander Marshall – an experiment in color exploration. “Tulips are very gusty flowers,” says the designer, “and the colors are absolutely amazing.”

Anna Weatherley Old Master Tulips Oval Vegetable Bowl

Anna Weatherley Old Master Tulips Oval Vegetable Bowl

She then turned her attention to the pioneering work of Maria Sibylla Merian, a scientific illustrator renowned for her portrayal of the flora and fauna (and bugs!) she found on a trip to South America. “I faithfully painted her bugs, and nobody wanted to buy them.”

But bugs would play a key role in Weatherley’s masterful renderings. “One day I got a call from Budapest saying that the painters had just finished one of my collections and they found a large black spot on all the porcelain.” Undaunted, Weatherley followed the example of one of the world’s greatest porcelain manufacturers – Meissen. “At the Smithsonian I learned that in the early days when Meissen had problems with production, bugs were sometimes painted over them.”

A new design direction was born. “Bugs became my best seller with the introduction of ‘Budapest Spring'” a delicate arrangement, mostly dominated by butterflies.

Anna Weatherley Spring in Budapest Condiment Dish with Spoon

Anna Weatherley Spring in Budapest Condiment Dish with Spoon

More garden series followed. “Pannonian Garden” was introduced in 1998 and pays homage to the bounty of florals that thrive around Hungary’s countryside dwellings.

Anna Weatherley Pannonian Garden Dinner Plate

Anna Weatherley Pannonian Garden Dinner Plate

Then came “Treasure Garden,” which was inspired by German painter Georg Ehret.

Anna Weatherley Treasure Garden Vase

Anna Weatherley Treasure Garden Vase

“Vegetable Garden” was inspired by seventeenth-century Florentine painter Giovanna Garzoni and French painter Jacques le Moyne de Morgues, who painted vegetables and fruits he found in Florida in 1564.

Since much time was spent in Budapest and at tabletop shows throughout America, Weatherley had little time to create her own garden in Arlington; but no matter how long she was away, she always found weeds standing when she returned. Her testament to her virility is “Green Leaf.” “Leaves have the most intricate texture and are more difficult to paint than a lush flower.”

Anna Weatherley Green Leaf Dish

Anna Weatherley Green Leaf Dish

In the Spring of 2001, she introduced “Morning Glory”, a common flower throughout Hungary. “This is one that God and I designed together, because it has an innocent charm and is fresh and young and not contrived. I wanted to have more free-form, which I like because a painter can exercise a little more personality.”

Anna Weatherley Morning Glory Dinner Plate

Anna Weatherley Morning Glory Dinner Plate

How are the porcelain pieces created?

Starting with an illustration, Anna’s painters carefully apply paint using very fine brushes onto lustrous white porcelain, which is then fired several times at high temperatures to set the designs and harden the pieces.  Each plate takes two days to paint, while a large dinner set might take as long as three months.

Who paints these pieces?

Anna employs 60 master painters in Hungary to execute her designs.  While each painter has a distinct technique and his own secret way of mixing colors to create their designs, the flowers and fruits are painted mostly by men. By contrast, women tend to specialize in painting the charming bugs and butterflies with miniature detailed wings and legs and gold-dipped eyes. Grasshoppers are a favorite of the team and each one is given a different personality.  To finish the pieces, borders are softly brushed onto the edges by a single painter with mastery in this special technique.

Any interesting commissions?

When the Princess of Wales visited Washington D.C. in the 1990’s, Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham held a luncheon in her honor and presented her guests with Anna Weatherley porcelain gifts.  This same visit prompted Anna Wintour to place an order for a present for Princess Diana. For this commission, Weatherley produced a pair of cachepots decorated with pears, cherries, and gooseberries based on British botanical art.

For First Lady Laura Bush, Anna created 75 seven-piece place settings of the Magnolia Residence China Service, featuring magnolia blossoms, butterflies, and insects in a design inspired by the flora and fauna found on the White House grounds. According to Weatherley, Mrs. Bush had seen her work on several friends’ dinner tables.

First Lady Laura Bush in the White House with Anna Weatherley Magnolia Dinnerware (courtesy The White House archives)

First Lady Laura Bush in the White House with Anna Weatherley Magnolia Dinnerware (courtesy The White House archives)

 

George W. Bush Magnolia Residence China (courtesy The White House archives)

George W. Bush Magnolia Residence China (courtesy The White House archives)

And for The Blair House, the official guest house of the White House for visiting heads of tastes, Anna created and donated a charming breakfast tea set.

Anna Weatherley china at the Blair House

Anna Weatherley china at the Blair House

 

What’s next for Anna Weatherley?

Anna’s latest introductions include a line of exquisite handpainted lamps.

Anna Weatherley White Tulip Lamp

Anna Weatherley White Tulip Lamp

Throughout the years, Anna’s handpainted porcelain pieces have been featured in Architectural Digest, Veranda, Vanity Fair, Southern Accents, Elle Decor, Washington Post, Traditional Home, House and Garden, and Town & Country.  If you own any Anna Weatherley pieces, we’d love to see them.

Love this collection?  See more by clicking here.

Special thanks to Anna Weatherley, Devine, Vanity Fair, The Washington Post, The White House, and The Blair House.

Queen Victoria by Franz Xaver Winterhalter

How to Dine Like Royalty from Queen Victoria to Lady Diana

Were some people really born with a silver spoon in their mouth?  When it came time to dining, and entertaining, royals didn’t just grab a quick bite to go.  Every meal had to be worthy of a king, right down to the choice of the plates.  But the favorite dinnerware of Europe’s royals and aristocrats might surprise you.

Read more

Imbibe Magazine May/June 2017

Claire Teal Pitcher Featured in Imbibe Magazine!

If you want to up your drinks game, we highly recommend checking out Imbibe magazine, which is devoted to all things liquid.   In every issue and online, they feature great drink recipes, reviews, and stories about the people, places, flavors, and culture of drinks around the world.

We’re so thrilled to have been included in Imbibe’s May/June 2017 issue:

Imbibe Magazine May/June 2017

Imbibe Magazine May/June 2017

Their guide to stylish pitchers included our Blue Pheasant Claire Teal Hand Blown Pitcher:

Claire Teal Hand Blown Drinkware

Claire Teal Hand Blown Drinkware

A modern update on a vintage classic, the Claire’s cylindrical shape and oval-shaped beads evoke the serveware of years past.  Cheers!

Blue Pheasant Claire Teal Pitcher

Blue Pheasant Claire Teal Pitcher

 

 

Flea Market Decor Sep/Oct 2017

Summer Drinks Cocktail Napkins featured in Flea Market Decor Magazine!

We’re thrilled to be part of Flea Market Decor magazine‘s fun and eclectic September/October 2017 issue:

Flea Market Decor Sep/Oct 2017

Flea Market Decor Sep/Oct 2017

Read more

At Last: Supple, Beautiful, Stain-Resistant Cotton Tablecloths

Have you ever worried about serving your favorite wines with dinner because they could stain your tablecloths?  Or inviting your best friends’ children over for a sit-down meal because Joey is (ahem) a little messy?

Well, believe it or not, some genius scientists in Switzerland were listening, and they came up with a solution that did not involve vinyl.  And not a moment too soon.  Finally, we’ll have driverless cars on the road, so it’s high time we found a way to entertain well without worrying about stains.

What’s the big idea?  These scientists went outdoors, studied why certain plants are naturally water-repellent, and developed an invisible treatment that when applied to fabrics, made them stain-resistant but still kept them feeling exactly the same.

Courtesy Aatish Bhatia

This is a game-changer.  Because now it means that you can have friends over for lunch, family over for dinner, and all you’ll have to do is call uberEats twice.

Initially, this technology was applied to outdoor fabrics.  Then, in 2010, Garnier-Thiebaut, one of the best-known manufacturers of French linens (they supply Four Seasons, Mandarin Oriental, and Alain Ducasse with linens), became the first company to apply the treatment (which they call Green Sweet) to home linens, and now they offer the most extensive collection available.

If you’d like to learn more about Green Sweet, here are the ten most frequently asked questions:

1) Can you feel the difference between Garnier-Thiebaut’s regular linens and their Green Sweet tablecloths?

No, you can’t tell the difference.  The Green Sweet treatment does not affect either the look or the feel of the cloths.

Eugenie Candy Stain-Resistant Table Linens

2) What does Green Sweet mean?

In developing the treatment, Swiss scientists looked to nature to replicate the way some plants always stay clean by ingeniously repelling water and dirt.  Once they were able to come up with a solution, they called it “Green” as it was derived from their studies of these plants.

“Sweet” is an acronym that refers to several important benefits of this treatment:

  • S – Simple to clean
  • W – Waterproof
  • E – Economic: stain-free cloths mean fewer washes, so the cloths last longer
  • E – Environmentally friendly: less frequent washing means you’ll consume less water, energy, and detergent to keep the cloths clean
  • T – Textile Touch: the treatment does not affect the look and feel of the cloths, so they stay supple and breathable

3) How does Green Sweet work?

When water is applied to fabric, it generally penetrates the surface very quickly.  But scientists had noticed that there were plants whose leaves repelled water, so they replicated a treatment that did the same thing.

Water-repellent leaves may look smooth, but they are actually composed of numerous minute rough surfaces.  These keep water from breaking down into smaller drops and penetrating the surface.

Similarly, during the finishing process, fibers are coated with nanoparticles of the Green Sweet treatment which creates a hilly surface that prevents liquids and soils from penetrating the surface.  Instead, they remain on top, so they can be easily wiped off.

Red wine on Green Sweet stain-resistant tablecloths? No worries.

4) Can you show me what happens when there are spills?

Take a look at how these linens react to jam, fruit juice, water, and even red wine!

Marmalade, salt, wine, and water wipe right off Green-Sweet tablecloths

5) How is the Green Sweet treatment applied?

Each cotton fiber is individually coated with the Green Sweet treatment, so it is deeply embedded into the cloth.  The Green Sweet treatment is applied by Garnier-Thiebaut at their production facilities in Les Vosges, France.  This allows the company to tightly control the quality of the treatment and the finished cloths.

6) How do I clean spills on Green Sweet cloths?

After removing any solid particles on your cloths, simply wipe them with a damp sponge.  The rest of your cloth should remain clean and dry.

7) How do I wash Green Sweet linens?

Green Sweet linens can be laundered as usual in the washing machine, and they will maintain their protective qualities even after numerous washes.  Avoid using fabric softeners, dryer sheets, or abrasive sponges.

Mille Rubans Blanc Stain-Resistant Table Linens

8) Can I iron Green Sweet linens?

Yes!  Although you normally would not need to, you can certainly iron Green Sweet linens.  One benefit of ironing cloths is that ironing reactivates the functionality of the treatment.

9) Why don’t you offer Green Sweet napkins?

We want your napkins to be absorbent, so Garnier-Thiebaut only applies the Green Sweet treatment to their cloths, runners, and placemats.

10) Who invented Green Sweet?

The nanotechnology was developed by Clariant, one of world’s leading specialty chemical companies.  This technology had already been in use by manufacturers of outdoor products; Garnier-Thiebaut was the first manufacturer to use it on linens for the home.  Every Garnier-Thiebaut collection that is treated with Green Sweet has been tested and certified by Clariant and is packaged with a Green Sweet label.

Green Sweet logo

So happy that in between all these modern-day technological advances, something came along that truly made life easier for us.  To see all of Garnier-Thiebaut’s Green Sweet stain-resistant collections, click here.