The Royal Doulton With The Hand-Painted Periwinkles

'Skipping the dishes' may be the new in trend, but as I gulp down my coffee in my "I'd Rather Be Skating" mug from Chapters, I thought I'd take you through a trip through time to look at the history of skating dishware.

Hand-painted Holiday On Ice plate, 1956

Over the years, many of the world's top touring ice shows have produced plates as keepsakes for those in attendance who weren't quite satisfied with their program, pin and autographed photos. In 1982, the Ice Capades issued a plate featuring ice comedian Freddie Trenkler and in the forties and fifties, a Danish artist hand-painted a rare series of plates for Holiday On Ice.

Walt Disney's World On Ice mug, circa 1984

For those who preferred a beaker instead of a teacup from Hyacinth Bucket's collection of Royal Doulton with the hand-painted periwinkles, there was even a plastic Walt Disney's World On Ice mug! However, it hasn't just been ice show producers who have been making 'skate plates' over the years. In fact, some of the finest dinnerware companies in the world have tried their hand at it.

One of the oldest known 'skating plates' was an 1838 English plate depicting skaters from Charles Dickens' "The Pickwick Papers". It was once owned by Gladys McFerron, an enthusiastic collector of skating objets d'art from Seattle. In the fifties, Mrs. McFerron grew African violets in a one hundred year old potty on the coffee table in her living room!

Sarreguemines plates, circa 1919

The Sarreguemines line of earthenware and porcelain was founded by Nicolas-Henri Jacobi in 1790, but Messrs Utzchneider and Co. took possession of the firm's factory in 1800. One of the company's best customers was Napoleon I. Their dinnerware was frequently painted with transfer pictures, including multiple sets of plates based on the months of the year called "Les mois de l’année à la campagne". The two post-Great War "Janvier" plates pictured feature a man wearing old Dutch style skates pushing a woman on a sledge and a man skating in a pond in the forest, his arm outstretched in the Salutation pose. Utzchneider and Co. weren't the only company to produce dinnerware featuring skaters during the Victorian era. English, Dutch, Belgian and German pottery firms all got in the game as well.

1907 Royal Doulton skating plate 'Pryde Goeth Before A Fall'

Royal Doulton first showcased skaters on a rare rack plate in 1901. Designed by American illustrator Charles Dana Gibson, the plate depicted his Gibson girl 'B.A. Widow' sitting on a bench waiting for her partner to finish tying his skates. Introduced in 1907 and withdrawn in the roaring twenties, the famous British company's Skating series included fourteen different skating scenes with small variations. These scenes appeared on rack plates, trivets and jugs.

Left: Royal Copenhagen plate, 1989. Right: Bing & Grondahl plate, 1927. 

Founded in 1775 as the Royal Danish Porcelain Manufactory, the Royal Copenhagen company began producing an annual collectible Christmas plate in 1908. Its 1965 "Little Skaters" plate featured a young boy skating on a frosty morning. Its 1989 plate, entitled "The Old Skating Pond" featured a boy and girl clasping hands while skating in the forefront while an adult teaches a child to skate and a woman glides on the edge in the background. The pond they are skating on is in front of a windmill. However, Royal Copenhagen wasn't the first Danish company to produce a collectible Christmas plate featuring skaters. In 1927, Achton Friis designed a plate for the company called "Skating Couple".

Royal Doulton plate, 1977

Interestingly, the trend of producing collectible Christmas plates featuring skaters didn't entirely take off until the seventies. Numerous companies, including Coalport China, Metawa, Limoges, Avon and Corelle, produced plates featuring skaters during this period. Royal Doulton's 1977 Christmas plate, entitled "The Merriest Idea Ever", featured a happy twosome gliding merrily along a frozen lake in the forest surrounded by trees.

Rien Poortvliet plate, 1980

In 1980, Rien Poortvliet's "Winter" plate from its series of the Four Seasons featured a gnome skating at night on a frozen Dutch lake. The same year, Viletta China produced a limited edition series of Elke Sommer plates. The second from the series of "Weddings Around The World" was a plate called "Dutch Wedding" featuring a happy couple encircled by friends and family. All are wearing skates.

Elke Sommer plate "Dutch Wedding", 1980

Joseph Csatari, an American artist who worked with Norman Rockwell, began producing Grandparent plates in the early eighties. His 1981 creation, "The Skating Lesson", featured a Grandpa skating his delighted wife and grandchildren, giving the 'thumbs up' sign. Grandma got a turn to be "Skating Queen" in 1984, but was unfortunately relegated to rollers. Another charming plate that popped up in 1984 was Spode's "Skating" plate, one of six plates in its "Christmas Pastimes" series. In 1986, Furstenburg issued a collectible porcelain plate called "Ice Skaters In The Evening Sun", the first in its Romantic Winter Impressions collection. Two years later, the CFSA sold a collector's plate called "Shaky Beginnings" as a fundraiser. It featured young members of a Canskate class.

Mug and plate from Spode, 1996

Incolay Studios began producing a series of Roger Akers Christmas Cameos plates in 1990. Its 1991 plate, "Skaters At Twilight", features a Victorian couple skating on a frozen pond. In 1996, Spode also came out with a plate and mug as part of its Victorian Christmas series featuring a trio of Victorian era women leading the pack on a skating pond. It seems Victorian nostalgia was in full swing in collectors circles in the second coming of the gay nineties.

If the idea of a cupboard full of collectible dishes with skating scenes on them makes you a little anxious, consider this... just one of these historical plates could make a very interesting conversation piece. Failing that, they make a perfect serving dish for humble pie the next time a fellow skating fan's competition predictions prove dead wrong.

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating. Over ten years, the blog has featured over a thousand free articles covering all aspects of the sport's history, as well as four compelling in-depth features. To read the latest articles, follow the blog on FacebookTwitterPinterest and YouTube. If you enjoy Skate Guard, please show your support for this archive by ordering a copy of the figure skating reference books "The Almanac of Canadian Figure Skating", "Technical Merit: A History of Figure Skating Jumps" and "A Bibliography of Figure Skating":