Thursday, September 23, 2010

Huh? Tablescaping?

"You're doing whaaaaaaat? What the heck is a tablescape??"

I've heard that question more than once. and yes, I've answered it multiple times as well. My longsuffering son no longer even blinks an eye when he comes in, and the dining room table looks like we're expecting Martha Stewart for dinner, or that I've decided to open a Mexican restaurant, or maybe that it's St. Paddy's Day. In September. It's fun, having the flexibility to create such different scenes, just by changing the dishes and accessories on my table. Flexibility is one of the main reasons Fiesta appeals so much to me. Well, that and the COLOR. I can't draw. I don't sculpt. I can however, take an old tablecloth and use it as a canvas. My dishes and other odds and ends are the paint. Sometimes, my table is utilitarian. Other times, the table is pure whimsy. It can be bold or delicate, simple or complex.

When I was ten, it was an onerous task. I HATED setting the table. Same Corelle dishes. Same placemats. Put ice in the glasses, make sure that the flatware is out and in the right spot. We used paper napkins. I was positive that eventually the drudgery would suck all the life right out of me. Who would ever have dreamed that today it's a form of self-therapy?

Usually, I'll start with the tablecloth. I'll choose by season, or by color, or just because I have one that hasn't been used yet. I'll spend some time, pressing the cloth, getting all the annoying wrinkles out. I'm learning not to do too much preplanning, because often what I "think" will work on a table ends up not suiting me at all. Once I've chosen dish colors, then I can choose napkins, rings, glassware, and other accessories to achieve whatever "look" I'm shooting for. Often, it takes a bit of trial and error before I'm content. On some level, all the activity is relaxing for me. I've never decided whether it's all the decisionmaking or whether it's the creativity that settles me, but in either case, it just works.

Over the last year or so, I've had several opportunities to do tablescapes with friends. What a learning experience! What wonderfully different influences all these ladies have had on me! I found that I approach color very differently than my friend Yvonne. I tend to gravitate toward dominant colors in a tablecloth, while she nearly always chooses subtle blends as a basis for choosing colors to accent. Some friends like their dishes to match, others like to set their tables with settings like mirror images. One friend in particular has this gift for setting the most gloriously welcoming mismatched tables. When I see a photo of hers, I nearly always want to just sit down at her table and just enjoy being there.

This past week, my friend Daphne asked me to do some tablescaping with her.
Sounds simple, until you learn that she's in Boston, and I'm here in Virginia. We've tablescaped in the past. In fact, our friendship started with a shared love for a particularly difficult to find Wilendur tablecloth. We each managed to acquire that cloth within a few weeks of the other. So, it seemed only fair that we each set a table using the cloth. The fun was enhanced when our tables ended up in The Dish, the Fiesta collectors quarterly magazine.

This time, we each have a cloth with fruit and pinecones. The cloths are identical, except that Daphne's cloth is bordered in yellow, mine in a mauve blue. Daphne invited me to be a "guest blogger" on her Tabletop Time site. We didn't discuss what colors we'd use, or even which dishes. It's more fun not to know! You can see the end result of our project at