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Dragonfly ~ An Aesthetic Movement Tablescape

When I think of the Aesthetic Movement, images of insects, bamboo, mums, Oriental motif's and asymmetrical design comes to mind, and of course transferware made during that period of time.

Yesterday, September 11th,  was Michael's 23rd birthday and as I always do, I make my homemade Alfredo for him.   He made me feel so good because he said he quite ordering Chicken Alfredo when he's out (he and Ethan eat almost every meal out even though we tell them to save, save, save!) because he is always so disappointed as he expects it to taste like mine and it never does.  I think I got the best present yesterday! 

Shawn grills chicken, shrimp, and red peppers (I love grilled red peppers in Alfredo!) and I steam broccoli and then we set it out buffet style so everyone can add what they want to their Alfredo.  I make homemade croutons for a Caesar salad.  Michael ate two great big plates!  I'm not one to encourage overeating, but I have to say it made me feel good to see how much Michael enjoyed his birthday dinner.  =)

Well, back to the subject I began with:  The Aesthetic Movement.  It's not often that I come across a set of 8 matching plates and bowls that are 125 years old so I wanted to use these Aesthetic Movement pieces for Michaels dinner.  Even though these are in my English Transferware shop now, it's always fun to get to set a nice table and enjoy a meal with my family on some of  the dishes I get in.

The pattern is Dee-Side by Ridgways and dates to 1887.  It is an ideal example of the designs from the Aesthetic Movement period featuring Asian foliage and blooms overlapping a geometric border with a single dragonfly fluttering about.

I've seen it in brown, dark green like what I've used here and blue like this small square bowl in my shop.

I knew I wanted to use some bamboo in my centerpiece, which I put together simply and better yet, under $10.  There are a few places around town that I remembered seeing bamboo growing and I had it in my mind to go find some and cut a little down.  Well, when push came to shove I realized that where I'd seen bamboo growing was actually in someone's yard but it had encroached over to public property.  I still didn't have the nerve to chop any of it down even though it had grown out of their yard.  So I contemplated buying some bamboo garden stakes but then remembered that I have bamboo drinking straws!  I am always getting onto Ashton because she loves to use them but she doesn't like to wash them out when she's done and I always wind up doing it for her.  argh...
I got out some of the straws and cut some sheet moss strips.

In keeping with my Aesthetic Movement theme, I chose three small containers of white mums ($2.50 at Walmart).

 I then wrapped the plastic garden container with the dried sheet moss strips and then added an odd number of the bamboo straws to the mums.

I did this to all three containers and then placed them on the table, one on top of a willow tray, and scattered reindeer moss and small wood chips around the base and in between the pots.  Simple, natural, inexpensive (always shopping the house for items to use in a centerpiece) and effective for the theme.

Bamboo flatware by Hampton further emulates the Aesthetic design and feel, 
as do these woven paper placemats.  Walmart...$1.96!

I can't help it.  I had to include a couple of dragonfly poems.  One is a poem by Tennyson that you may have read  before and the other, a poem less known, which subtly makes reference to Tennyson's poem on the same subject and ends with a sort of summer farewell.

The Dragonfly
~Alfred Lord Tennyson~

Today I saw the dragon-fly
Come from the wells where he did lie.
An inner impulse rent the veil
Of his old husk: from head to tail
Came out clear plates of sapphire mail.
He dried his wings: like gause they grew;
Thro' crofts and pastures wet with dew
A living flash of light he flew.

Cupcakes with geometric shaped white/dark chocolates were served on the humongous matching platter.

The Dragonfly
~ Louise Bogan ~

You are made of almost nothing
But of enough
To be great eyes
And diaphanous double vans;
To be ceaselss movement,
Unending hunger
Grappling love.

Link between water and air,
Earth repels you.
Light touches you only to shift into iridescence,
Upon your body and wings.

Twice-born, predator,
You split into the heat.
Swift beyond calculation or capture
You dart into the shadow
Which consumes you.

You rocket into the day.
But at last, when the wind flattens the grasses,
For you, the design and purpose stop.

And you fall
With the other husks of summer.


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  1. Nancy, first off ~ happy birthday to Michael. ;-)
    These plates make a stunningly beautiful table setting. I like the Asian influence with the bamboo, and the dragonfly is the perfect element. Your centerpiece is very clever and looks pretty. Thanks for showing this set of dishes with such stylish presentation......Sarah

  2. Oh Nancy.. they are beautiful!!!I luv the dishes.. the place-mats ( WalMart!!! Now I have to go get some) Come on , who am I kidding here, I luv the whole table scape.
    Every time I talk about your blog the Mr. cringes... as I have a lot of dishes already and I am always talking about your display.

    Take a peek at my blog if you would... I have some brown transferware in 2 posts.

    Cheers, Gee

  3. Soooo gorgeous!! Wow love the inspiration, colors and those centerpieces are fabulous! Well done Nancy!!

  4. Your tablescape is just beautiful, Nancy. Love the plates and your created centerpiece is awesome!...Christine

  5. Just beautiful as everything you do Nancy..Happy Birthday Michael looks like it was a GREAT one with home cookin..Hugs and smiles Gloria

  6. Hi Nancy, I enjoyed your beautiful dishes -- it is hard to believe that one could be in possession of a set of eight. I love what you did with the centerpiece -- the bamboo looks great! I also enjoyed reading your family-related commentary. Kids can spend so much when they eat out. I also enjoy watching my son devour a meal! Joni

  7. Absolutely magnificent!...Such an elegant birthday party. I've been picking up a number of marvelous Asian patterns lately. They just seem to be speaking to me. Do you all have a Vietnamese Market in your area? They always have containers of beautiful bamboo plants for sale, cheap! I've always thought that I'd pick some up for a centerpiece. There's a huge Vietnamese Market at my end of the turnpike, if you ever happen to be over this way. Thanks for inviting us for a peak. Cherry Kay

  8. what a beautiful birthday table setting, and I just love the poems :)

  9. I'm not sure where to start, Nancy! Geez....what a great table! It looks beautiful, but further, the element used are sustainable! I love that! I have never seen bamboo drinking straws. I've seen the flatware and dishes, but never the straws. I'll have to try to find some. I like to drink with straws but hate creating all that waste, so these would fill the bill! I had to scroll back and look at those placemats a couple of times. They're made of paper?!??!!! WalMart, here I come!!! I really like the design on the transferware, too! It's a look that appears quite modern, and it is very soothing. The flatware looks great alongside it! VERY nice!!!! Have a good weekend, and Happy Belated Birthday to your Alfredo-lovin' son!

  10. I love this table setting, Nancy and the centerpiece is so lovely. That pattern and the way you displayed is just perfect for a young man's birthday celebration. And how wonderful that he can look forward to his favorite meal on his special day! I love traditions like that in the family. Thanks for sharing this with us. I'm sure your loved ones must appreciate how lucky they are that you make their meals a "visual" feast as well as a gastronomic one! :)


  11. I do believe I would have enjoyed being at your diner party for your son

    I purchased an aesthetic platter early in the spring and have really enjoyed it I don't have another piece that matches it however still love it
    I always enjoy seeing your large assortment of dishes

  12. I love this table top it is just beautiful. The placemats add a lot of interest.


  13. What a lovely table in a beautiful room. That pattern is really quite pretty. Love the placemats.

  14. So much lovely here! A gorgeous table in a gorgeous room. I love what you've done for a centerpiece. A beautiful set up for a birthday! But, of course, your china steals the show!

  15. Wonderful post, Nancy! I always enjoy your stories behind the lovely tables you set, especially the details about the china. Your centerpiece is stunning -- and you made it look so easy! Those placemats were the perfect choice for this table. I know your son felt very honored -- and delighted to tuck into that homemade Alfredo!

  16. Nancy, I've missed visiting for awhile, but OH, I'm glad I didn't miss this table! It's really beautiful -- and complements your dining room so perfectly. I agree with Tricia: absolutely PERFECT placemats for this tablescape. What a treat to have your family around you for a wonderful celebration.

  17. Your tablescape is gorgeous! I found it interesting to learn about aesthetic movement. I just love to learn the history behind a piece or design.

  18. Absolutely lovely Nancy! The organic feel of this table is just great. And I love the dishes!

  19. Hi Nancy,
    How lovely! The eye is drawn to those placemats, they are great!
    Thanks, for linking to Let's Dish!

  20. Just beautiful Nancy! I love the dishes in this style! Thank you for joining Home Sweet Home!

  21. Not only is the table so beautiful -but the flower is so well designed to match!


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