Design Matters. We are captivated with the look of an object. No matter what particular style we are drawn to emulate in our lives. From the spare lines of Modernism back to Victorian Romanticism, their appeal speaks a language that reflects our needs and values at a particular moment. A busy family, for example, requires lots of dishes. Many of us would choose dishes that are safe in a dishwasher and a microwave. Those qualities become more important than design alone.

Certainly, Russel Wright argued for dinnerware that would fit in with the “new” modern lifestyle. Versatility was important. Ease was critical. Electric appliances promised a new age of ease and leisure. A very young Bette Davis demonstrated the ease of use in a television commercial. Wright assured prospective customers about this benefit of American Modern. He left the art of design to those setting the table. Indeed, the “mix” of color became a signature of American Modern.

On the other hand, homemakers became critical of their beautiful dinnerware. They chipped. Crazing developed in certain glazes. In short, they were not durable over time.

The benefit of electricity was evident in the kitchen. Ladies Home Journal, 1932.

Durability Matters. Wright soon turned to makers of Restaurant Ware. By 1946, Iroquois China in Syracuse, New York was shipping the new line to stores. The new line was produced from vitrified ironstone – chip resistant, stain resistant, and bacteria resistant. The process of vitrification bonded the glaze to the body much like glass.

Initially, Wright wanted to produce Casual China with variation in the glaze – the quality present in American Modern similar to that found in handmade pottery. Produced only for a few years, these early mottled pieces are difficult to find; they are referred to as “Raindrop” by collectors.

Beyond the color of the glaze, the shape of the pieces reflect a modern sensibility. Plates have a coupe shape, the handles on the teapot are comfortable – and large enough for any hand. The stacking salt and pepper and the stacking sugar and creamer save space in the modern kitchen.

Russel Wright, Iroquois Stacking Creamer and Sugar.

Color Magic. I really don’t know what else to call Wright’s sense of color. Always the perfect shade and tone of color, even the colors that are often a bit off. Pink, green, blue, yellow, and cantaloupe are fresh and clean. Nutmeg, Ripe Apricot, Charcoal and Oyster Gray are earthy shades, but, they have lots of life. And still, there is white. Elegant on the table in modern shapes – and of course, perfect for any one who loves to cook.

Russel Wright, Cantaloupe, Casual China, Iroquois China, circa 1950s.

The design, durability and color of Iroquois Casual reflect the post-war Suburban Age. The color palette fits right in with the streamlined age. And the durability works with a busy family with a dishwasher. Even if one of the children help with after dinner clean-up. As every one should!

Durable. But, It is breakable!

Interesting Sites A Short History of Dishwashers At Wisconsin Historical Society:

Bette David demonstrates the simplicity of the dishwasher in a television commercial :

A Living museum with tours of Russel Wright’s Homer and a Collection: