I read an article on ironstone in a decorating magazine (I think Country Home) about 20 years ago and have been smitten with it ever since. I can’t tell you exactly what draws me to it… maybe it’s the simplicity of it, the creamy-white color, the variety of shapes and designs, the luster of the glaze. I can’t tell you why, but I love it and it’s one of my favorite things to collect. I’ve been collecting it since I found an ironstone pitcher in a dusty, crowded booth at an antique mall in Florida. I’ve since bought and sold thousands of pieces of ironstone, adding to my collection along the way. I’ve become quite the ironstone hound and can spot it from across the room.
If you love ironstone, as I do, here are a few tips on building an ironstone collection of your own…
Of course, the first step is to start building an ironstone collection!
White ironstone can often be confused with ceramic and porcelain to someone unfamiliar with it, so it’s important to learn what you’re looking for and how to identify a piece of ironstone. Here are a few articles I’ve written over the years about ironstone that might be helpful…
In the beginning, you’re excited about every piece of reasonably-priced ironstone to add to your new collection. It’s about quantity and not necessarily quality. That really is okay! I think most collections start out that way and are built on bargain pieces until you have over 200 plates and 100 pitchers and realize you need to be a bit more particular about what you buy or you’ll be overrun!
Find ways to use your collection
I have so much ironstone that I use it all over the house. I think it is literally in every single room except the boys’ rooms. Platters are hung on the wall, used as large trays, and stacked in cabinets. Pitchers line shelves and bowls hold everything from fruit to plants to candles. Soap dishes are used to hold soap as well as small art supplies and business cards. Sugar bowls hold fresh bouquets, brushes, pencils, and utensils. Butter pats are used to hold pastels, paperclips, erasers, and to mix watercolors. Ironstone is everywhere!
Yes, some of it is just displayed, but I try to use as much of it as I can in a meaningful way. When you can interact with your collection, it makes it that much more special and can help you be intentional about the next pieces to collect.
Refine your collection
I have been in the process of refining my ironstone collection for several years…selling pieces I don’t love, only acquiring new pieces that are unique or fill a hole in my collection. At some point, more just becomes more.
In a mature collection, more should always be better, different, and/or useful.
Most of the recent additions to my collection have been pieces that are French, Dutch, or German ironstone, which is different from the majority of my collection which is from England and the US, or they are rare and/or unique pieces.
The newest pieces that were added last week were also from Dreamy Whites Atelier. Maria sent me this beautiful ironstone footed bowl…
It has a simple stamped R marking, so I’m not sure about its origin. It’s different from any other footed bowls in my collection, though.
Maria also sent me this stunning French ironstone pitcher! It is one of the most stunning pitchers I’ve ever seen. It’s also huge and heavy! The shape and ribbed detail make it such a special piece.
Lastly, I received a Dutch ironstone bowl. There are more available in the Dreamy Whites Atelier online shop HERE. I have stacks of bowls, but the shape of this bowl is unique. It does have a stamp on the bottom to confirm the maker and country of origin, which is always an added bonus.
I’ve lately been considering going through my collection and selling a few pieces I’m no longer displaying or using. Those pieces are just “more” and really should go to a home where they will be used and displayed. I’m in the process of setting up my online shop again for original art and I might sneak a few antiques in there now and then.
For those who love to collect, do you have any other tips to share about building a collection?
Disclosure; This post isn’t sponsored, but Maria of Dreamy Whites sent me several pieces of ironstone from her shop. We have collaborated, worked together, shopped from, and promoted one another for years, but I wanted to make note of it.