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Trendspotting: Tectonic Plates breathe new life into collecting

The plate maker The New English is applying illustration, mixed media and other innovative techniques to make ceramic plates a collector's item for a new generation.

The New English's Tectonic Plate collection aims to speak to a new generation of collectors: No 047 Feel The Wind In Your Hair by Vera Galasev; No 003 Dragonfly by Doodle; No 032 Full English by Manko. Courtesy of The New English
The New English's Tectonic Plate collection aims to speak to a new generation of collectors: No 047 Feel The Wind In Your Hair by Vera Galasev; No 003 Dragonfly by Doodle; No 032 Full English by Manko. Courtesy of The New English

Collecting and displaying plates as a method of interior decoration can seem very old-fashioned: it brings to mind rows of finely decorated bone china plates hidden behind dusty panes of glass in the dining room dresser. These were the plates grandmother never used - not for day-to-day dining, not even on special occasions.

The tradition goes back to the opening of trade routes to China in the 1300s, when glazed plates became a prized possession of the European nobility. Getting these plates back in one piece was a complex process that resulted in their rarity. Subsequently, they became the latest accessory for the wealthy. An everyday functional object was turned into something of a trophy, an indicator of wealth and power, and a treasure to be shown off.

In the 1700s, changes in the manufacturing process brought porcelain and ceramic objects within the reach of the lower classes. This led to the rise of a new phenomenon: the souvenir plate. These plates were made using the then new technological innovation of transfers. Widely used today, the method meant that plates could be produced on a vast scale, thus promoting collecting.

In the last 15 years, displaying plates has fallen out of fashion. However, in recent years the idea has enjoyed a quiet resurgence. Many talented creatives are using the transfer method to breathe new life into collecting and displaying plates. Artists and designers are bringing a modern contemporary aesthetic into ceramics, favouring form over function and fitting the new designs straight into contemporary interiors.

Now it's all about the art in everyday objects. It's about elevating a simple, ordinary product back to the position it enjoyed for centuries but also enabling it to speak to a new generation of collectors. This generation appreciates quality and craftsmanship that are rarely seen in the more functional dinner sets from local homeware stores.

The New English was established to revamp the practice of collecting and displaying plates. The company is trying to reconnect with a more "vogue" audience by involving it in this lost pastime. It features works from many prolific and up-and-coming artists in its original and highly unusual Tectonic Plates collection, covering illustration, mixed media artworks and many other innovative techniques by more than 100 artists from around the globe. The collection is made up of limited-edition designs - no more than 500 pieces worldwide - and is produced in Stoke-on-Trent, England, from the finest bone china: perfect for au courant interiors.

Anthony Hughes is a trend spotter for Scarlet Opus. For more information visit www.trendsblog.co.uk or www.twitter.com/scarletopus. For more on Tectonic Plates visit www.thenewenglish.co.uk