Not your grandmother’s china: Mignon Khargie’s “A plate a day”

Screen shot 2014-06-20 at 5.08.45 PMI have to confess I’ve never been one of those people who are obsessed with the idea of plates and dinnerware as a status symbol. That rom-com happy-couple-picking-out-a-china-pattern cliche always struck me as kind of silly. The only thing important about your plate is what you put on it, right? Whether it’s delicious, healthy, hopefully not too leafy or green. But the plate itself is merely a tool, right?

That view has evolved somewhat over the years though I fear I will never have what anyone else considers refined taste when it comes to matters of dinnerware, in part because my finances won’t allow for anything fancy but also because I’m more charmed by creativity and quirk than by a price tag. Which is part of the reason I’m so fascinated by San Louie collaborator Screen shot 2014-06-20 at 5.11.14 PMand fellow indie author-commiserator Mignon Khargie’s blog “A plate a day.” Mignon is an artist and designer, both of which are excellent qualifications for a blog that showcases clever artistry and design. But even  more than that, the thing that fascinates me about anything Mignon does is her attention to detail—also a wonderful quality in a curator—and the fact that she’s always so eager to share other people’s work, even when she has so much of her own which is incredible.

The layout of “A plate a day” is spare and elegant in its simplicity, all of which are characteristic of Mignon’s work. You can browse by any one of dozens of categories—bird, black and white, blue and white, illustrated by hand, fauna, flora, glass, insects, kids, not a plate, Obamaware, polka dots, etc.—or simply view them in the order in which she posted them.

And, if you’re wondering about where “A plate a day” came from, I did a Q&A with Mignon about the inspiration behind her blog:

When did you start “A plate a day”? 
 
A plate a day started with this postThe artist is Ted Muehling and I first became acquainted with his work through his jewelry which I saw in De Vera on Maiden Lane in San Francisco.
 
Where did the idea/ inspiration come from? 
Well, until you asked that question I didn’t know it had everything to do with being part of the first wave of the dotcom era. I cut my teeth on the web at Salon.com. We did a redesign every year and I realize now that each time we did that I’d go out and find a pottery class. It must have had something to do with trying to find a balance between design that only existed on a computer screen vs something you could actually touch and hold. Wrist problems were endemic back then too (still are, though mine seems to have disappeared), that could also have been part of it.
That’s how my interest in pottery started. Remember this was a time when screen real estate was precious (not that it has Screen shot 2014-06-20 at 5.12.05 PMchanged any): you put everything you thought necessary in the first x pixels of a web page. I’d just been on the web too long, and the idea of a single daily thing was intriguing. Unadorned with words, one image each day, a useful way to parse the archive (beyond a list of pages by date–can we all stop doing that? Of course I’m pretty sure I haven’t been as diligent as I would like in how I categorize things) and little else. Back then server space was at a premium and all my images were small, and have remained small (not if you click on them, however). I wish I had time to redo the site to accomodate larger display space, but I don’t, sadly.
 
Where do you find these plates? How much do you have to do in terms of active research to find a new one every day?
 
I find them all over. I have trusted sources, but all over, really. From blogs, museums, galleries, artists’ websites, shops, walking by a store, sitting down in a cafe, making them myself, someone’s kitchen, yard sales, wherever. Sometimes I have more than I know what to do with and my backlog can go on for weeks. Other times I get too busy and have been known to post things at the end of the day. And I’ve only been caught once I think with a double post, which I made up for by having two the same day.
 
Do you have any favorites that stick out in your mind?
OMG, favorites. The site has over one thousand three hundred plates, more actually, since I do a bad job of numbering my posts. Blogger tells me it’s closer to 1500. 
Right at this second, I can think of a few artists, but there are a ton of people whose work I admire:
Nathalie ChouxElephant CeramicsWayne Higby, everything by Makoto Kagoshima, Lisa Orr’s clay/glaze saladsJoe Pintz whose work could probably put you in a coma if it hit you upside the head, everything by Kevin SnipesMichelle SummersJane Wheeler, and this piece made by Carter Makice, age 8½ in 2008.
 
Screen shot 2014-06-20 at 5.52.55 PMWhen you started did you have any idea that it would go on this long?
I figured that as long as some blogging software remained free the site would endure. I don’t do advertising so it is a labor of love that needs free hosting to continue being what it is.
 
You also have the “not a plate” section: How do you decide what qualifies for the blog?
The things I find are too tempting. Every once in a while someone leaves a nudge that they’re seeing too many non-plate forms. I don’t only list pieces made of clay, everything’s fair game.
How on earth can you ignore these: 
 
Do you have a backlog of plates waiting in the wings?
Sometimes. It depends on how busy I am.
 
Have you ever posted more than one per day because there were just too many? 
No, I just line them up and go do something else!
 
Are these all new plates that are available commercially or do you ever stumble across an old one that warrants inclusion?
There are all kinds of things on the blog. A few examples: Japan ca. 1700Egypt, ca. 3100–2650 B.C.Steven Young Lee.
 
Screen shot 2014-06-20 at 5.10.16 PMIs it ever difficult finding a plate a day on top of everything else you do?
Only if I’m tired.
 
Why plates? Was it it about them that fascinates you?
Plates are ordinary everyday things that everyone uses, and they can be gilded or as plain as you like. I like the idea of good design in the everyday. And I also like that artists are increasingly seeing them as a canvas
They were also easy forms for me as a beginning potter. Here are a couple of mine.   
I’m also interested in cups but that became too much. Still, whenever I find one I like (daily) it becomes hard to not post it.
 
Do your followers or friends ever make suggestions or bring plates to your attention?
I’d rather people not send me recommendations (and I’ve let that be known). If that sounds weird it’s only because I don’t know how to say no. I can’t reject someone’s art. Hopefully that doesn’t sound crazy.
 
Do you have a small bio you’d like me to include with the blog post?
I’m at mkfowler.com and mignonkhargie.wordpress.com (the latter will be changing soon since I’m working on a new site).
 
Anything else you’d like to add?
I thought this was a wonderful idea, and perfect for the medium. It would be amazing to have a worldwide library and to read all of the stories added to each piece. Even damage—a crack—has a story.
ALL IMAGES ARE SCREENSHOTS FROM MIGNON KHARGIE’S BLOG “A PLATE A DAY” (AND WERE CHOSEN BECAUSE I FELL IN LOVE WITH THEM AND NOT OUT OF ANY KIND OF LOGIC).
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Trackbacks

  1. […] take that back. That’s not strictly correct. Ashley Schwellenbach wrote about the blog here, and until she asked where the idea for the blog came from I never realized it had everything to do […]

  2. […] . . . I take that back. Ashley Schwellenbach wrote about the blog here, and until she asked where the idea for the blog came from I never realized it had everything to do […]

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