Itall started when I was fleshing out the character profiles for my next novel, you know, like you do. Paris, the main character of My Lady Lipstick, shares a house with her landladies. I had already decided the landladies, living in Revere Massachusetts (a Boston suburb), would logically have strong ties to Ireland.
More than two months ago I worked out their age and their history as Irish immigrants. They like to invite Paris up for tea whenever they have news to share. Tea means teacups and teapots and, well, TEA.
A Word about Tea. Tea’s the Word.
I wondered – what do the Irish call “Irish breakfast tea”? Wouldn’t it just be “breakfast tea”? I turned to the Googlez and discovered in short order that there is no such thing as Irish Breakfast Tea if you’re Irish. There is TEA.
And on my trip to Ireland a few weeks ago, I further discerned that it’s either Barry’s or Lyons and pick one and stick with it. It’s tea. Other choices are fancy or cheap or not Irish – what are you trying to do, turn the world upside down? So my little old ladies drink tea from Ireland. No adjective needed, it’s tea.
I decided to make the tea service itself a talisman for the two older ladies, something they had carried with them from Ireland and represented their homeland to them.
So I Picked Out the Pottery
It’s one of the fun things an author does, this kind of research. What a great excuse to browse through pretty things I have no desire to own myself.
I knew the tea service couldn’t be Spode or Royal Doulton. Wrong country, even if they are precious. Searches on the web turned up Belleek Pottery. Made in Ireland for more than a hundred and sixty years, because a landowner discovered he had the right clay and he wanted to give more employment to his tenants. Each piece is handpainted and has the mark of the artist on the bottom with the company’s seal of that era.
I settled on their traditional Shamrock with basketweave pattern. Classic, and old enough to be a precious family heirloom for the Misses Lambeth and Richards.
And Then our Tour Guide Announced…
So there we were on our tour of Ireland, traveling back roads and enjoying beautiful vistas when our tour guide announced we were stopping at the Belleek Pottery factory for lunch and a tour. Talk about synchronicity! It was interesting to see in real life what I’d read about on the web, especially the unique marks of the artists and how the designs change over the years.
It’s also true that I can read about how pottery is made and not fully comprehend the reality of it. Seeing someone weave with dull clay to create a unique latticework is amazing. And the result after firing is testimony to patience and experimentation in the service of craft.
When all you have is a handful of mud and your imagination sees this arising out of it? That’s art.
A picture of a finished similar basket is in the gallery below along with a few more photos from our tour. The few lines in My Lady Lipstick that refer to the teapot might not change, but now they have a greater meaning behind them, at least for me. Another reason to treasure our trip!
The lemon tart, by the way, was the dessert we chose to go with our lunch in the factory’s lovely cafe. I’m including the photo because the plate is of course Belleek pottery. Not to taunt anyone about the tart, which was delicious especially with all that fresh Irish whipped cream to go with it. No, the picture is there for the plate. Sure.