Sunday, March 13, 2016

Raising Flowers

Weather: Sunday night’s winds blew in some Russian thistle carcasses and blew pods off the catalpa; an insignificant amount of rain yesterday; last snow 2/23.

With the warm temperatures encouraging early leafing and flowering, it’s a good to live away from the river. The timing is faster there. I assume it’s a matter of time before we get frost or snow again.

What’s blooming: Siberian elms, forsythia. First apricot flowers were destroyed when morning temperatures returned to their normal levels below freezing, and now buds that were closed then are beginning to open.

What’s coming up: Hyacinth, first tulips, bearded iris, daylilies, bouncing Bess, pink evening primrose, bindweed, oriental poppy, violet, winecup mallow, larkspur, broom senecio, alfalfa, brome grass.

What has new growth: Vinca, moss phlox, dandelions. New leaves on weeping and globe willows. Arborvitae and alfilerillo have greened.

What’s blooming inside: Zonal geraniums, aptenia.

Animal sightings: Rabbits, small birds, bee on one of the apricots, cricket.

Weekly update: Most of the flower designs on the odd pieces of flatware by mother collected were raised designs. I don’t know if that was because early designs and techniques were borrowed from coins or if there were some technical reason. I suspect the relatively strength of metals under manufacturing conditions influenced both.

I’ve only seen one silver design that was punched into the metal, and some of those pieces lost their plating in the indentations.

The importance of materials is most obvious in slatted spoons. It’s more difficult to cut wood against the grain, but cutting with it may introduce weaknesses that allow the opening to extend. The only ones I’ve ever seen had the simplest cuts.

Plastic spoons are equally simple, but I think that’s just cost. No one wants to pay for premium materials for a utensil that may not survive long.

Cost is critical to mass production, but it’s only recently that it’s been the only concern. The first serving spoon was sold by a company that first used flatware as a premium to motivate salesman. Charles William Stuart bought a nursery in New York in 1852 with an existing crop he peddled to local farmers. From there, he moved into direct sales.

In the 1920s, Phillip Durham says, C. H. Stuard began distributing flatware from Oneida as rewards. When those proved successful, the company, then called Empire Crafts Corporation, began the Nobility Club that used housewives to sell to their neighbors, much like Avon does today. They offered women "opportunities to purchase a piece of the ‘better life’."

The punched design was created by Oneida itself. That company had begun selling steel flatware blanks to another manufacturer, and only began selling its own products in 1881. When they couldn’t compete with higher quality companies they turned to advertising in magazines with large audiences.

Utensils made after World War II still were intended to be affordable and provide the purchaser with the mantle of upper class taste. The designs no longer were realistic like the Community Plate, nor conventional like the fleur-de-list, nor impressionistic like the Nobility Plate. They were reduced to the simplest elements that conveyed the basic design.

One slatted spoon of my mother’s had a daisy cut into the bowl.

Another had an abstract tulip.

The use of floral motifs encourages people to appreciate flowers, and possibly even to grow some. When utensils are reduced to bare functions like concrete walls and barbed wire fences, more is lost than manufacturing expenses. One can’t take time to smell the roses, if they’re not about.

Notes: Phillip Durham, "History," website.

1-2. Serving spoon with raised design, Nobility plate, made by Oneida Silver under contract to C. H. Stuart’s Silver Service Club. Design may be Royal Rose, created by Lloyd E. Ressegger and manufactured from 1939-1958. Flower may be a rose or peony, but has been simplified.

3. Flatware set with punched design, Oneida, Community plate. Flowers include one with five petals that’s not a rose, a tulip (or possible simplified fleur-de-lis) and what look like snails.

4. Slatted wooden spoons made in Portugal, sold for 2.49.

5. Slatted plastic spoon, Ekco, made in US, heat resistant up to 400 degrees F, sold for .99.

6. Daisy design, slatted spoon, stainless steel with wooden handle, made in Japan.

7. Tulip design, slatted spoon, with two marks, Universal USA and Imperial, stainless steel, one piece with handle.

8. Same as #3, back side of handle; design is simpler, emphasizes the tulip motif.

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