About STEVE'S CUPof the DAY

This an e-mail event which will occur two to four days per week (Monday through Thursday) when I, Steve Aimone, am in town. It was inspired by a friend of mine who has been sending out a "Quote of the Day" via e-mail for a couple of years now (thanks, Charlene). It was originally made possible through the encouragement and assistance of Barbara Conroy, author of THE two reference books covering restaurant ware, "Restaurant China: Volume 1" and "Volume 2," who originally hosted the jpeg images and made editorial revisions to the text.

Recently, Jackie (co-founder, with her husband Frank, of the Restaurant Ware Collectors Network) has graciously agreed to host the Cup of the Day at the RWCN site. In the process, Jackie designed an elegant new graphic look for the COD and volunteers time and effort each week to receive and process my images and text.

I thank both Jackie and Barbara for their support and encouragement. Anyone interested in restaurant china should not miss their web sites (see links below).

Finally, the COD is made possible through the encouragement of the members of the Restaurant Ware Collectors Network. Thanks also to Chris Trent for furnishing a link for the COD on his Little Spoon's Virtual Museum Of Restaurant Ware (see link below) and to Nancy Bergendahl for sharing her wonderful collection and getting me started.

Each e-mail will contain two or three photos of the cup of the day along with a short comment and related facts.

The majority of the pieces will be coffee cups, though a mug or after dinner cup may appear from time to time. In the interest of uniformity, only the cup will be shown even if the collection contains a matching saucer. These pieces are being displayed for information and entertainment purposes only. I welcome correspondence from folks with information about or reaction to the cups. They are not for sale. Should anyone see a piece that they simply "must have," send me an e-mail. Perhaps I have a duplicate and if so, a swap or sale might be arranged.

To sign up to receive this e-mail or to send comments or information regarding STEVE'S CUP of the DAY, send e-mail to:

aimoneart@aol.com

Steve Aimone

I am an artist, curator, and fine arts instructor living and working in Asheville, North Carolina. Recipient of an M.F.A. in Painting and Drawing, Brooklyn College in 1991, my paintings have been the subject of ten solo exhibitions (four in New York City galleries), appeared in numerous group exhibitions, and are included in corporate collections nationally and in London. I recently served as Visiting Instructor of Art at both Stetson University in DeLand, Florida, and Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, North Carolina, and am currently teaching art workshops through the non-profit ProArt Institute based in Ormond Beach, Florida.

My wife Katherine and I met three years ago in Florida, where she was the director of a local art museum. She left the position to take a job as author and editor of fine crafts books in Asheville, North Carolina. I followed her there and this past June we were married on the intercoastal waterway in Florida. Luckily, Katherine spent years as a curator herself and is understanding of the urge and desire to organize a collection.

For a list of my pieces on auction on eBay, you can look at my seller list (eBay username: aimoneart@aol.com).

My Collection

I began collecting restaurant ware while living in New York City where I supplemented income from sales of my paintings by bartending. I worked in one Columbus Avenue restaurant for more than a decade and when it closed the owner said, "Stevie, take home something to remember us by, something out of the basement, anything you'd like. I took a set of plain white Buffalo China soups. I had always liked their look and feel and I still have them. When I moved to Florida to teach at Stetson University, I haunted the flea markets and thrift stores (we didn't have many in Manhattan) and picked up various pieces of restaurant china to supplement my Buffalo soups for everyday use. I rarely paid more than a dollar for a piece, usually less. Soon this collecting became an obsession and a corner of my studio took on the look of a china shop.

Then one day in early 1998 while surfing the Internet, I stumbled upon eBay. For fun, I listed an Iroquois China mug with the words "Empire Lunch" on the side. I posted no picture with the listing and to my surprise, this mug that I had paid 25 cents for brought in enough money to go out and buy a lot more china. Needless to say, I was hooked!

I now have approximately 1800-2000 pieces of restaurant ware. About one third of these are cups: 700-800, including duplicates. I am working on assembling a "Noah's Ark" of restaurant cups (two cups in each pattern). The majority, an estimated eighty percent, are stock patterns. About twenty percent have an matching saucer. While a few patterns will remain in my collection, most of the non-cup pieces are for sale (or swap or to give as gifts).

Why restaurant china?

In an era of dizzying change, high technology, and planned obsolescence, collecting and using restaurant ware is a way of embracing these everyday objects that embody values of quality and endurance. The manufacturers of restaurant china traditionally adhered to those standards in their product, as did the commercial dining establishments that cared enough to order custom ware.

More simply, I love how the stuff feels (smooth and sturdy) and looks (clean, crisp and glossy). My favorite ware dates from the 20s through the 60s. Topmark decoration with simple, bold, direct! Airbrush decoration was unusually artful. And pieces often stood as wonderful sculptural forms, particularly those designed by Russel Wright.

In sum, I view this kind of china as mid-century American utilitarian ART and I enjoy "curating" my collection.

Why specialize in cups and mugs?

The cup is, for me, the china form with which the user relates most intimately. We actively hold them in our hands, experiencing their feel. We lift them to our lips, repeatedly experiencing their form and decoration up close. Also... I felt the need to limit my collecting somehow. Lots of folks collect other forms such as creamers, A.D. cups and saucers, or butters. Others concentrate on a category such as shipline or railroad. The competition in these areas is intense. So why not assemble a "Noah's Ark" of restaurant cups?

My Morning Restaurant Cup Ritual

As a byproduct of this collecting, my wife and I now have a most enjoyable morning ritual: we start each day by selecting a cup from which to drink our morning coffee from the 125 or so on display. In theory, since we are always adding cups, we might be able to go for a very long time without drinking from the same cup twice. But we do have favorites that get used semi-regularly. Though these "favorites" change and evolve, recently we've been using "stack-ups" a lot (the cup foot and sidewall is designed facilitate stacking). Katherine is drinking from one with a "GWashington's COFFEE" topmark as I write."

Links

Steve's Cup of the Day Archives

The Great Mall of China
a restaurant ware mall

The Restaurant Ware Collectors Network

The RWCN Online Directory and Links

Little Spoon's Virtual Museum Of Restaurant Ware

All pages Copyright 2001 by Steve Aimone