Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Apple of My Eye—Vera Neumann

Growing up, the women in Mr. Peacock’s family steered clear of anything “girly” or “old-fashioned” looking in both their wardrobes and home decor. My paternal grandmother’s home was somewhat formal, and the color palette consisted of white, celadon, rose, gold, and silver—except in the kitchen where she used bold colors, like teal, red, orange or yellow. For years, her everyday dishes consisted of a mix of bold colored Harlequin and Fiestaware (both by Homer Laughlin), but in 1974 she packed those dishes in boxes (which I now have, and still in boxes) and switched to Vera’s modern and bold Apple-Forbidden Fruit dishes by Mikasa. The “Apple-Forbidden Fruit pattern was manufactured for only two years, from 1974 to 1976.

The dinner plate (above), salad plates and serving plates had a loose, childlike drawing of an apple sketched in black, and colored in bold red, with a Kelly green accent on the leaves and stem. The rest of the Vera Apple dishes, including the cup and saucers, bowls and serving pieces (with the exception of the serving plates) had a solid red exterior, with a solid crisp white interior.

Above: Besides dishes, Vera used the iconic "Apple" on tableclothes, towels, aprons, potholders, and also made a golden, yellow apple (see napkin detail—top right).

The dishes weren’t dainty or girly either, they actually had a bit of a heaviness and thick feeling to them—or at least that’s how I remember them from my childhood. My grandmother used chunky and heavy, red glassware with these Vera dishes, which are now in possession of my sister, Samantha.

Above: Most people know The Vera Company from the bold and colorful “signed” scarves and tea towels, which you can still find at most flea markets, thrift stores, eBay or etsy. Mr. Peacock likes to use the vintage Vera scarves as “wrapping paper” for small gifts.

But who is Vera? Almost every home in America in the 50’s to 70’s had some sort of Vera designed product—whether it was a tablecloth, sheets, dishes, a dress, or even lingerie. Artist, turned textile designer, Vera Neumann (at right) began the business at her N.Y.C. kitchen table in the late 1940’s, and by the 1970’s it was a $100,000 million dollar, worldwide business.

Vera Neumann was a true renaissance woman (more Vera history here) and American icon. In addition to creating the artwork and designs for most of the Vera products, she was fully involved in the business and marketing side of the business. The Vera trademark is a ladybug, which she chose because of its symbolism for good luck and happiness.

Above: These new Vera Parrot Jungle Melamine Plates would be great for patio dining, more information here.

After Vera’s death in 1993, the company was bought and sold—the artwork and 20,000 scarves ended up sitting in a warehouse in Georgia. Susan Seid discovered them, and purchased all of the Vera assets in 2005—and is introducing new Vera products, including the plates above, to a new generation of fans. Check out The Vera Company blog here.

You already know, Mr. Peacock is a dish queen. In addition to the Vera for Mikasa Apple-Forbidden Fruit” pattern, which is somewhat difficult to find now, I also like the Vera Woodland, Birches, and Butterfly Dreams china patterns (above left to right).

The color palettes and graphics of Vera products, both old and new, are amazing. The 2006 book, Vera Textiles, is a must for any collector's library. Mr. Peacock found this brand new linen tea towel with the iconic Apple (above) at a flea market in New York in the 1990's. It ironically was from a store in my hometown (Denver, Colorado) and ended up in New York. It still had the original price tag ($1.25) from Neusteters, which was an upscale department store in downtown Denver. That's one thing I like about vintage items—each piece has a story and history (sort of like the film, The Red Violin). When I saw the towel at the flea market, I immediately thought of my grandmother's Vera dishes from my childhood.

Do you have a favorite Vera item at your house?

6 comments:

LENORENEVERMORE said...

such a well-researched post...appreciate your passion very much...Cheers to all the grandmothers, mine was a wonderful teacher & most importantly a lovely person ~XO*

theinvisibleagent said...

I love Vera!

They actually tried to re-launch Vera as a clothing company a few years back. I forget who bought the archive, but apparently it was a massive warehouse stuffed to the gills of all of her old prints!

I used to work for a designer (I won't say who here in the comments) but we had a large collection of Vera prints and clothing that we would use as "inspiration"

As far as the apple print, I'm a much bigger fan of the Georges Briard "Forbidden Fruit" pattern (My collection is getting a little out of control...I can't stop buying on Ebay!)

Definitely great prints by Vera, I'm sure Mr. Peacock would also love the old prints by Tammis Keefe and Pat Prichard!

I.A.

Christina - WhatsInYourManPurse.com said...

Actually, my mom totally had a Vera table cloth. It was orange and brown and that little ladybug always caught my eye. Thanks for the great post!

Julie said...

I love Vera and started collecting her scarves by accident - I now have over 50 of her scarves in my store on eBay. Out of the 1000 scarves I have never run accross a duplicate.

Anonymous said...

I have the Vera Apple dishes and have always loved them ever since I purchased them in 1974ish. I'm surprised they are appreciated by others. I'm curious about their value -- luckily they are rarely used.

Anonymous said...

I have a set of twelve place settings for the Mikasa Forbidden Fruit, plus the covered casserole, round open serving dish and divided vegetable dishes along with the butter dish and gravy boat and a large platter. I loved them when I first saw them and started buying them one place setting at a time until the store I bought them through informed me they were being discontinued.....so I put my order in to complete the dishes. I have always loved these "happy" contemporary dishes and only used them during the holidays even though they aren't considered china. I treated them like they were.