Juliana

I feel like it's a self-fulfilling prophecy. "What do little girls like? I heard they like tea parties! Well then, as a little girl, I guess I should throw a tea party."

I don't think I knew that such a thing existed until much later in life, maybe at six. By then I was too old for the baby stuff.

Sure I had tea parties. I loved them.

Except I drank actual tea, not warm water. And I had them with my friends and my little brother, not with dolls and stuffed animals. We would sit around pretending we were having "a propah English tea pahty," and speaking with terribly posh accents interrupted by the worst table manners imaginable, from slurps to burps.

My parents were never involved.

They probably would have banned them if they knew how badly we behaved.

As for how it got started, some church lady I never met sent me a porcelain tea set. We were poor, so churches would send us food and clothes.

It was fun, though I couldn't tell you what the appeal was. Maybe it just seemed like a "grown-up" thing to do.

But then that is how they are marketed too.

Little girls aren't born knowing about tea parties or preferring them to monster trucks. They learn from their parents, friends, media, and toys what things are considered to be acceptable and fun play for them.

But then I think it is less common today. I see my little girls playing with cars as much as little boys and as many little boys pretending to be dads while playing dolls. I've never seen a tea party happen, but they do all enjoy playing in the kitchen and acting as a family doing domestic things. Which I find better.

Juliana

When I was a kid my grandmother tasked me with making tea. It would have hlped if I knew how to tell decorative teapots from functional teapots.

Sometimes pots meant for purely decorative purposes will say so on the bottom of the pot. A well fitting lid and functional spout are a must and not all of the decorative ones have these.

Also some of them have holes. But others are just fancy and they don't give you any indication.

This can be the case with some really old pots. It is just hard to tell what they were supposed to be. Another factor for me is lead. I am not sure if the old pots were lead free so I test them. If you are worried about lead in old ceramic glazes, you can buy a lead testing kit. Do not use pots that are made from pewter, as it does contain lead.

Juliana

Since 1780, more than 60 Chinese porcelain seals have mysteriously appeared, scattered around random locations in Ireland.

By "seal", I mean it as an object used to close letters, which serves as a mark of identity to prove the letter wasn't tampered with during transport.

In 1780, a worker cutting peat near Portlaoise in Ireland found a porcelain seal shaped as a cube, around 28 mm (1 and 1/8 of an inch) wide, with an animal shape sitting on top of it. On the underside each seal has a short message written in Chinese. In 1805, the second one was found in a cave near Cork.

In 1816, another one was found in a field near Dublin, another one was found while plowing a field near Tipperary, one was found by workers digging out the roots of a pear tree.

Until 1868, 61 seals were found all over Ireland.

Here's a map showing the locations of the findings.

61 seals were found all over Ireland.

In 1839, an Irishman named Joseph Huband Smith was the first who directed attention towards the seals, reading about them in the Royal Irish Academy.

Nobody back then could agree what the messages on the seals meant or if they actually meant anything and what the animal depicted on the top of was. Huband Smith's theory was that they were brought to Ireland by ancient Phoenician merchants.

In 1840, a man from Belfast named Edmund Getty asked a natural scientist what the animal was, and he confirmed that it was a depiction of a Chinese monkey.

He made casts of all 25 seals which were found at the time, and sent them to a friend who worked in Hong Kong, where they were examined by two groups of Chinese scholars. After two years, he got a response. They said that the seals would have been made for educated Chinese men.

A man would have owned 20 - 30 of them. Each seal carried a short, positive message, and were used to seal letters with an appropriate message.

Chinese scholars agreed on most of the messages.

One of them, for example, read "The heart, small indeed, but most noble-minded". However, there were disagreements about some messages. Scholars from Nanking read one seal simply as "Some friend", while those from Shanghai read it as "plum trees and bamboo", but this might be due to the fact that Chinese script can be interpreted in different ways. The seals' script was quite old, used around 500 years B.C., during the life of Confucius.

However, even seals made much later would use the same, archaic script.

In 1980, several seals were displayed in the Irish National Museum in Dublin.

Here's a picture of the display.

Among the original seals, there are four which were bought in 1864 by some Dr. Frazer in Canton for comparison.

The large one at the bottom, the one above it and the oval shaped one are probably the ones bought by Frazer. At the request from a British TV network filming a series called Arthur C. Clarke's Mysterious World (more on that in a moment), the seals were examined by Jan Chapman, an orientalist from Dublin's Chester Beatty library.

She first noticed that the material which the seals were made from was strange; Chinese seals are usually carved from minerals, not made of porcelain.

They were also bigger than the ones found in Ireland.

She was able to identify the china as a product of a manufacture near the major Chinese port of Amoy. She said that the factory started producing china in the 12th century, but she believes that they were made at the beginning of the 1700s, when the factory started exporting porcelain.

This post is based on a chapter from the book Arthur C. Clarke's Mysterious World, published in 1980 and based on the TV show of the same name.

It's also a summary of the text from an edition of the Mysterious World. The text references an even older book, the Book of the damned, written by an American named Charles Fort, who collected bizarre stories from around the world at the beginning of the 20th century. Edmund Getty also wrote a book about the seals.

There are a couple of theories about the origin of the seals. I already mentioned Huband Smith's theory about the Phoenician merchants. However, porcelain wasn't produced in China until the 7th century, so that theory isn't very likely. C. Fort had a strange theory about their origin: he believed that a forgotten Chinese scholar built a flying machine, which exploded at a great height, scattering its cargo around Ireland. One of the blog posts above speculates about a lost connection between the Irish and Chinese peoples, referencing some anecdotal evidence and Tarim mummies.

Tarim mummies

Some of the more likely hypotheses are that the seals are a prank, scattered across Ireland by some joker. Dr. Hilgemeier argues that the news of something as strange as the discovery of Chinese seals in Ireland could have been used by some group in the late 18th century as some sort of a signal. He also sent an email to the Museum of East Asian Art in Bath, UK. The response he got back suggests that the seals could have been inserted as presents into crates of tea which were smuggled into Ireland in the 17th century.

This seems like the most likely explanation, but it still has some holes.

  • Why weren't they found somewhere else in the British Isles or Europe?
  • Why are there no records of them before they were found?
  • Why were they found in such strange locations?
  • Who do you think could have placed Chinese seals in bogs and fields in Ireland, and why?
Juliana

Carpet cleaning is really hard. Speaking as someone in charge of making 3K sf of carpet look like new, with a seriously small budget, rented several high dollar machines, been disappointed in several cases. Luckily I installed carpet squares and bought several extras, we just replace anything with spills. Lots of stuff just doesn't come out, there's no magic here. You can definitely fade it, and make the rest of the floor cleaner, but that soda and wine is generally there to stay.

At best you can use some crazy spot treatment that lightens the area so much it doesn't match anymore, which still looks like a stain against the rest of the carpet.

I pity the carpet cleaners, I'd be extremely hesitant to get into an industry where you have to disappoint customers on a routine basis, and that's the industry norm.

If anyone has any serious arguments or methods I should try, we can easily put it to the test and I'd really be thrilled to be proven wrong. But I clean my carpets low-end and they look totally high-end!

Juliana

What did I do yesterday? I spent the entire morning browsing for a travel set for tea. Excinting? Maybe. Since travel sets are very popular so there are a lot of manufacturers making them. Which is why it took me so long to find one that I liked.

You can find a lot of plain white sets that are very similar, but their quality can vary quite a bit. Even when you get to patterned sets, I've seen dragon-themed sets in yellow and in red that have the same design but are different manufacturers.

Dehua produces the best porcelain in China. It's the second most famous kiln, besides Jingdezhen - which is more popular for hand-painted porcelain. The only problem with that set is the gongdaobei - it will tend to scald your fingers as you use it.

The porcelain is very thin.

Yongli Teathings is a major retailer of tea utensils in China. Their stuff is usually of pretty good quality.

If you want to spend a bit more, my favorite travel set is this slightly larger one from Yunnan Sourcing. Used it at a mountain cabin this past weekend in fact.

It's larger than it looks (about double the size of the other mini travel sets), is extremely well padded, and had a nice pour. It's not truly gongfu cha since it uses a strainer basket but it gives an experience that is surprisingly similar, kind of like an easy-pour gaiwan does.

Juliana

What makes some Dresden Figurines valuable?

There are a few reasons for the difference in prices. Originally, there was more than one company using the "Dresden" name to produce porcelain.

Differences in prices can be attributed to the age of the pieces, the size, the quality of detail, and specific studios that were operating under the Dresden name.

If I were purchasing a piece of Antique Dresden I would be looking for a much more simplistic mark with a light blue hue.

With that being said, your piece has a few things going for it. Although it is hard to accurately gauge the size of a lot of the items sold on sites like ebay it's easy to tell when they are not miniature and if it has 3 figures in it then you canguess how big the scene is going to be. Usually 5" at the base.

Take a look at the quality of details in two specific areas: the faces and the fingers. The fingers on your statue appear to have very poor detail and are quite "blobby" and undefined. Look at the left hand of the lady seated playing the cello. Look at how large the finger next to her pinky appears to be compared to the rest of them. (Side note, I think her middle finger is chipped, examine all of the figures hands closely for chips). If you look at their eyes and the lack of real detail (solid 1 color in their clothes) and compare it to some of the top examples of that sold on eBay, you can see what I am talking about.

I'm not an expert on Dresden or anything, but I deal mainly in antiques. You would really have to ask someone who collects these. When someone collects a thing, they have very specific reasons for it. I think as resellers it's hard for some of us to understand that mindset.

I hope this helps!