secondhand stories, setting up home, thrifty

Secondhand Story: Joanne’s Handcrafted 1970’s Dinnerware


handcrafted dishware from the 1970'sOur collection of secondhand ceramics continues to grow. Every time I’m in a Goodwill store I seem to find at least one or two handmade pieces to add to the collection. Most recently at a Goodwill in Fitchburg, Wisconsin, I bought a collection of orange bowls and cups made by a lady named Joanne.


I first passed by this set of ceramics but then doubled back and picked up the entire set. Priced at 60 cents each, I bought every piece that was sitting on the shelf. I ended up with six bowls, six cups and one covered sugar dish. Each piece is signed on the bottom by someone named Joanne and includes a date, ranging from 1975 to 1978.

Set of amateur ceramic dishesI was first attracted to the pattern on the dishes. It seems vaguely Wrightian, doesn’t it? And I’m always a sucker for the color orange. And then when I turned one of the pieces over and saw that it was dated 1975 (my birth year), I was smitten.

032814-joann03I like to think that this lady named Joanne took a ceramics class every year. It was a little treat to herself following the daily drudgery of raising a house full of kids while holding down a part-time job. Each year Joanne would make herself two bowls and two mugs, always the same pattern, always the same color. It’s not that Joanne lacked imagination. She merely wanted to create a whole set of dishes, envisioning the dinner parties that she and her husband would host and how she would proudly serve the meals on her own handcrafted dinnerware.

032814-joann02I like to think that Joanne started with the bowls and cups but for some reason she never got around to the plates. Maybe she lost interest. Maybe her life got busy and with kids growing up and getting involved in various activities, she simply didn’t have the time for her yearly ceramics class any longer. I imagine that Joanne stashed her set of dishes in a china cabinet in the dining room of her modest home and she would occasionally pull them out for serving dessert. I picture her dishing up a bowl full of her famous blueberry cobbler and serving it alongside a cup of coffee.

Of course, I can’t really know the story behind this set of bowls and mugs. All I can know for sure is that they will become a part of the Dream House. And we’ll use Joanne’s handiwork to eat cereal and drink coffee and we’ll honor the memory of Joanne and her craft.

— J. Blandings

Images: Mr. and Mr. Blandings

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  • Reply Jolene 03/28/2014 at 2:48 pm

    Love these! The pattern is super and the orange is perfect. And it was a really good year…

  • Reply Marg 11/02/2015 at 9:46 pm

    I’ve no idea how I chanced onto your blog but it’s wonderfully drole, inspiring and just good. I too seek to buy only second hand treasures or things made in America. Someone should name this approach to life and consumerism, as it’s the only one that makes sense here and now.

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