Deka Plastics

Ahh, the poor man’s Catherineholm. I’d been looking for a Catherineholm piece for myself, thank you very much, pretty much for a couple years now. Then I saw it. A yellow lotus leaf bowl at an estate sale. A closer look told me it was plastic. A Deka piece!

If you’re into mid century modern and mixing bowls, no doubt you too have noticed the plastic version made by Deka Plastics. The American version of Catherineholm was made right in Elizabeth, NJ. It looks like Deka may have had a license to recreate the Catherineholm bowls in plastic but there’s no definitive source. They may simply be a knockoff/replica of the original enamel version. The latter is doubtful due to other products Deka designed and licensed.

Yellow Lotus Deka Plastic Bowl

During their 40+ year run, they created a variety of plastic home goods that are full of nostalgia. If you’ve ever had a plastic bowl or cup set with Star Trek, Smurfs or the Muppets, they may have been produced by Deka Plastics, Inc. Prior to the childhood memories of the 1980s, they made kitchen items with psychodelic birds and flowers. And a classic design is the 1960s colored plastic with white stripes, such as the Bongo Basket.

Nowadays, Deka Plastics no longer exists. They finally shut down in the mid-1980s. All we have from now is lots of nostalgia.

Pink Elephants

A cross-country move didn’t seem to squelch my desire to hunt and pick. Despite a snowstorm, I trekked across Brooklyn for my first ever NYC estate sale. As I attempted to park, I almost regretted it. Parallel parking on snow banks is a job in it’s own right! But I made it and waited in line with several other people, waiting for the door to open.

First off, the house was a vintage beauty. One of those old quasi-Victorians that you’ll find in central Brooklyn. Untouched, just like everything else there. I picked up a bunch of items and went to wrap up. Prices are definitely higher than the Midwest, as can be expected. It’s just as well. I have a smaller place so I’ve got to be picky about what I bring in.

Hazel Atlas Pink Elephant Shot Glasses

Nevertheless, I did walk away with a few things, including this set of pink elephant glasses. I found five and saw that another dealer had one in his pile. Oh well. But as I was checking out, he saw the other five and just offered it up to me. Proof that people in NYC really are awesome! Now I had my set of six. Exciting since I had never actually come across this set in the wild.

I do have to say that these are the cutest little shot glasses (or double shot). This line also has larger glasses, an ice bucket and a cocktail shaker, the latter of which is most coveted (and priciest). They’re all from Hazel Atlas. But Hazel Atlas isn’t the only company that made items with pink elephants.

Closeup of Pink Elephant Glasses

Pink elephants started out as a popular euphemism for drunken hallucination in the late 1800s, along with several other brightly colored animals. It seems that the idea of pink elephants really started to take off in the 1940s because of Disney’s movie. Dumbo. In the movie, Dumbo takes a sip of water from a bucket that was spiked with champagne, unbeknownst to him. He begins to hallucinate and sees images of pink elephants singing and dancing.

From there, it was all about merchandising. Pink elephants were everywhere. There’s even a pink elephant cocktail recipe, if you really want to get into the spirit! (Get it?) Here’s the recipe:

1/4 oz of Vodka
3/4 oz of Galliano
3/4 oz of Creme de Noyaux (Or Almond liqueur)
3/4 oz of Orange Juice
3/4 oz of Cream
Dash of Grenadine

Place it into your pink elephant shaker, fill with ice and shake well!

Crazy for those Cherry Red Waechetebach Dishes

Several months ago, I attended an auction chockfull of vintage goodness. I saw a number of things I liked by the two that stood out were this Welby clock, with matching candlesticks, that sold within an hour of listing, and these beautiful cherry nesting bowls with white polka dots.

Waechetebach Red Bowls

Instinct (or a trained eye) told me that these bowls were made by Waechetebach, a German company. That’s why it’s so darn hard to pronounce (Vek-ters-bahk). Anyway, I could see this set was a more vintage version, made in West Germany, back when Germany was split in half. Reds this vibrant just aren’t produced anymore. Plus, the West Germany part makes it a little extra awesome.

Waechetebach is actually still around and still selling beautiful kitchen pottery, as they have been for the past 175 years. Yes, that long! At first, they were only a locally-known company. In 1897, they developed the world’s first underglaze color print, leading to their popularity throughout the German Empire.

The company took on a drastically different direction in the mid century era, when they brought in designer, Ursula Fesca. Fesca created a more modernist approach, with new forms and techniques, creating classic household ceramics. Under her helm, Waechetebach had become West Germany’s largest ceramics manufacturer. In the 1960s, they started exporting their items to the United States.

Today collectors go crazy for Waechetebach’s vintage minimalist designs. If you’re lucky, you may even find a more modernist version of Fresca’s designs for Waechetebach pre-export times.

Waechetebach Cherry Red Polka Dot Nesting Bowls

Waechetebach Red Bowl

Dorothy Thorpe or Dorothy Thorpe Style?

Every time I see glass with silver/chrome in it, my heart melts. Where I live, I come across quite a bit of these glasses. At first I thought it was all Dorothy Thorpe glassware. But there were just too many designs that were too similar, yet not quite the same. So it spurred me to do a bit of research.

Yes, Dorothy Thorpe did make some of these pieces. What she is more well known for are her floral pieces. Yet many attribute only the silver rim glasses to her. Well, how do you know if it’s really hers? Well her two big designs with silver were Silver Band and Allegro. Silver band has a 1″ sterling silver band around the top that tarnishes, while Allegro has a 1″ metallic mirror-like band around the top that does not tarnish. If you’re not sure, you can measure. And the faded pieces? Well, they’re not Dorothy Thorpe designs.

This is not to say there’s anything wrong with the faded pieces. They’re just not Dorothy Thorpe. Then who are they? Well, many of the faded ombre glass pieces were produced by Vitreon Queen’s Lusterware. Like Dorothy Thorpe, they produced tumblers, decanters, carafes and bowls. They used the process of applying metallic glaze to give glass an iridescent metallic ombre glow, or what is known as the silver fade or silver ombre effect. Here is an example of Queen’s Lusterware.

There are plenty of other companies that created glass with silver decor in them during the 1950s and 1960s. This punch bowl set didn’t come with a box but did come with original paperwork saying it’s by a company called Distinguished Gift. The band is just shy of an inch but it does look like Dorothy Thorpe.

To help you keep these pieces around for another 75 years, here are some helpful instructions courtesy of Distinguished Gift to help you take care of silver that tarnishes on your glassware. If you use this glass frequently, the silver shouldn’t tarnish. If you use it infrequently, wrap the silver edge with plastic wrap to keep the air from the silver. To retain its richness, wash by hand in warm water using a mild soap. No abrasive and no dishwasher use.

Vintage Supermarket Dish Purchases

One of the things I’m constantly attracted to are supermarket dishes. Starting in the 1950s, supermarkets had promotional dish sets to attract housewives to their stores. Each week you’d go in and there’d be a different part of the set of dishes or maybe a different patten. These were popular for quite awhile – maybe for a good three decades. I remember going to the supermarket with my mom back in the early 1980s and her picking up an extra set of dishes for the house.

These dish sets were quite the collectors items. People remember growing up with those sets and nostalgia has made them collectors items once again. Some of the more popular ones (and my personal favorites) are from the 1950s and early 1960s. They were usually produced by Royal China or Marcrest. Patterns such as Blue Heaven, Star Glow and Blue Spruce have a huge following and I can understand why. Their patterns are timeless and just as cool today as they were 50+ years ago.

Take a look at these ads to see how they were sold. If only we could buy such cool dishes for 99 cents today!

Arabia of Finland Teema Light Yellow Mid Century Modern Pitcher by Kaj Franck

This mid century modern Arabia of Finland yellow pitcher by Kaj Franck is part of the Teema dinnerware collection. This pitcher has pure, clean lines typical of Scandinavian. The bottom is faintly marked Arabia, Finland, Teema.