By Jill Brooke
My first experience eating off an Anna Weatherley plate was at the home of my friend Catherine Crier, a fabulous woman who was the youngest Texas female judge and later a TV anchor and best-selling author. In fact, when Catherine asked me what I would want in her will, I mentioned her Anna Weatherley plates.
I am not alone in my ardor for Weatherley plates. Former First Lady Laura Bush commissioned Anna Weatherley to create the first casual dining set for the White House. Casual meant seating for 75 versus the 200 plus that would be used for formal entertaining.
Her Old Master tulip collection, with several mix-and-match tulips, is partly based on the work of the 17th century English master gardener Alexander Marshal, whose watercolor illustrations are preserved in his Florilegium at Windsor Castle, which has been handsomely reprinted by the Royal Collection Trust. (It costs $200, but that’s less than one Weatherley teacup and saucer, and it has 159 color folios.)
Weatherley, who was born in Hungary and has her porcelain made and hand-painted in Budapest, is a poster girl for reinvention. Prior to creating her porcelain line in the 1990’s, she designed and manufactured couture fashion, jewelry, home furnishings and printed textiles. When she detoured into hand-painted dinnerware, tablecloths and porcelain collectibles, her loyal patron Katharine Graham was an early advocate.
According to Vanity Fair when the Princess of Wales made a trip to the capital, Katharine Graham held a luncheon in her honor and gave specially commissioned Weatherley porcelain as gifts to guests. The same visit prompted Vogue’s Anna Winter to place an order for a present for Princess Diana.
Laura Bush was quoted as saying she chose Weatherley to design her casual White House table setting because so many of her friends chose Weatherley designs for their tables. Weatherley plates are sold at high-end shops including Sculley & Sculley, Michael C. Fina, DeVine Corp., Bloomingdales and Neiman Marcus.
If you want a custom plate, those can take months to create. Each of her plates takes two days to paint and a dinner set might take as long as three months. But her tabletop porcelain is worth it to hostesses around the world. Each piece is a work of art.
Magnolia Plate © 2016 White House Historical Association