I once had a woman come into my small studio-workshop and ask if she might have a look at the few things I offered for sale. Something about the chambray shirt with up-turned collar, pearls and oyster watch that made me a bit wary but I figured I could take her. She made a bee-line for a large Welsh dresser where I'd displayed a substantial collection of simple white ironstone. These were pieces that I'd gathered from estate sales, flea markets, thrift stores and curbside bins over a period of maybe fifteen years and, I thought, made a pretty impressive display. The plates, sugar bowls and pitchers were patterns I'd rarely seen and haven't seen since. Some of the great platters were almost three feet across. She leaned forward raising the reading glasses that hung on a gold chain just below her pearls and began an intense scrutiny of my humble collection. I left her to it. For a good ten minutes I listened to her groan and sigh before she suddenly straightened up and glared at me as if waiting for an apology or at least some sort of explanation. " Is this all the ironstone you have?" she asked. I said it was and asked if she was interested in any of the pieces. " I don't think so." she said and explained that she only bought perfect pieces and that the only pieces I had that weren't discolored or stained were chipped. I honestly can't remember what I said next, as a matter of fact, I think I blacked out for a few seconds because the next thing I remember was the south end of a Volvo station wagon burning rubber in the parking lot.
I am, I'll admit, a chipped, stained and cracked kind of guy. I don't know why but I tend to be drawn to the broken and distressed. My stock pile of furnishings reads like the proverbial three-legged dog and if I'm guilty of anything it's of seeing the value of past service or a glint of life still left in something that makes discarding it unthinkable. I can only imagine the number of hands that have lifted a two hundred year old plate for the first time or for the last; the many faces that have stared into the depths of a sugar bowl in good times and in bad. The imperfections are to me signs of a life well lived and well deserving of both respect and admiration: badges of honor like the lines on a face of one who's spent more years laughing than looking into a mirror. Perhaps the explanation is simply the fact that most of us are chipped, stained or cracked but are still deserving of our place at the table.