The Teacup Collectors Interview Series is a blog segment where we get a sneak peek inside the cupboards of people all over the world. My special guest today is Joanna, the lovely owner of The Afternoon Tea Set on ETSY , from the North of England.
Teacup collecting has quite the cult following. How did you discover it? Tell us your story.
I had to give up work when my first baby was born, after they became ill. I knew i wanted to work for myself and fit doing so around my family. I started The Afternoon Tea Set originally as a some enterprise where i offered catered tea parties, with menus to choose from, a range of looseleaf teas to choose from and all the vintage china and silverware included. The business started to grow but customers kept asking whether I could sell them vintage china and the pieces I used, so i started selling vintage teacups as well. This side of the business continued to grow, so I gave up offering the tea parties and opened The Afternoon Tea Set on Etsy, where I sell vintage and antique teacups that I search for, along with all other vintage and antique pieces for throwing a tea party or decorating your home. The rest, as they say, is history!
What was your first piece?
My first piece was a tea set bought for me by my lovely mum, when i first started The Afternoon Tea Set as a tea party business. It’s a 1930s hand painted set by English manufacturer Bell China, with their ‘Hawthorn’ pattern. I love it and could never part with it, as its so special to me. It represents my mum’s faith in me and all the support she has given me.
Tell me a little about what you collect. Is it a particular style, period, colour or just a random draw to a particular piece?
I have three main eras of English vintage china, teacups and other tea party treasures that I am really drawn to when collecting; Edwardian, Art Deco and Mid Century. I love the Edwardian teacups for their delicacy and fresh colours and dainty shapes. I love Art Deco pieces for their boldness and strong patterns, they are very daring designs after the demure Edwardian and Victorian eras that went before them. Finally I love the simple pastel colours and clean fresh design shapes and geometric patterns of mid century teacups and pieces. My house is mid century and open and airy, so their fresh simple colours and strong patterns really suit my home. Whilst I love Edwardian and art deco pieces (and long to keep hold of many of the teacups from these eras that i find), they just wouldnt suit my home, so i like to give them chance to find a home to which they would be better suited via my shop.
Share 3 images from your collection and tell us a little about each?
Edwardian lilac teacup – This teacup was absolutely filthy when i found it on a book case at an antiques fair, but it spoke to me from a mile off! I whisked it home and washed it and was so pleased to find it was a beauty indeed! It sold in 30mins of me listing it in my Etsy shop and I miss it to this day!
Art Deco CarltonWare Trio – A rarer stunning trio that I found very recently. The bold pattern and hand painted flowers and beautiful swallows are just beautiful. This trio just screams elegance, style and beauty from a mile off and the quality of the china is so fine. It sold to a lovely Australian lady and she emailed me straight away to say how much she loved it when she received it – these moments make all the wet days in muddy fields of antiques fairs worth while!
Mid Century trio by Midwinter Stylecraft. I love this trio. It’s stimple, understated and stylish, yet manages to be eye catching at the same time! It looks fantastic in my home and whilst its for sale on my shop, I admit that i use it quite frequently and often consider keeping it for myself! (but my husband says we have no more room!)
Where do you find your inspiration for what to collect?
I am naturally drawn to pieces I love, I only buy what i naturally love. I find the homes of people that mix old pieces with new, so maybe a vintage teacup on modern kitchen table, inspire me to seek teacups and vintage tea party treasures that I feel really can be and should be used again, as well as put on display. Just because something is delicate doesnt mean it shouldnt be used, and I love when you can see a bit of wear on pieces. I love a little bit of rubbing on gilding on a teapot handle for example. It makes me think of all the people who have used it back through time and it makes it a real link to the past. Homes from the Edwardian era and 1950s I find particularly inspiring, so i find myself buying a lot from these eras.
Do you have any recommendations for new users who say “ I don’t know where to start?”
You don’t have to spend a lot on teacups to develop a lovely collection. Quite simply, buy what you love. To find out what you really love, visit antique fairs, bric a brac shops, charity shops and antique shops and auctions at every opportunity. If you dont love it, dont buy it ! In this way you allow yourself to develop a cherished collection, rather than clutter!
Stuck on a desert island, what are your 3 must have items?
Looseleaf Earl Grey, my vintage Wedgwood ‘ice rose’ teacup that I use everyday for a quick cup of tea, and a small Sadler teapot!
What’s your latest purchase? Best bargain?
These gorgeous 1930s hand painted Bell China teacups. I’ve listed them on my Etsy shop, but couldnt resist keeping one back for myself! I love their bold and unusal pattern with the mouthwateringly fresh blues and yellows! They were a very good price too!
Any other hobbies?
I love the outdoors and being outside. I’m a country girl ! The town and city isnt for me. I was brought up on a farm. When I’m not out hunting for tea party treasures, I’m in my walled garden, which was laid out in the Victorian era. I love gardening and it’s just such a special family place. When I’m not posting tea party related photos on my Instagram feed, I can usually be found posting photos of my garden , its plants and the wildlife that inhabits it!
Most Teacup collectors also seem to love tea or coffee. What’s your favourite tea/coffee?
Loose leaf Earl Grey, from a local tea merchants I use – The Tea Experience, based in nearby Doncaster, South Yorkshire. I buy all the tea for my Tea for One gift sets from them, where you pick a vintage trio or teacup from a collection in my shop, pick your tea blend and i pop in a little individual tea infuser and box and gift wrap it all. The Tea Experience are just the loveliest people to work with and have the loveliest tea I’ve found.
Joanna, thank you so much for sharing your collection with us! I’m a big fan of your IG feed and you always have Teacups that make my heart go “pitter patter”…
For all you wonderful readers looking to connect, you can find Joanna and more of her collection here: