Someday a plate for us

Among our several collections is an impressive stack of vintage Vernon Kilns souvenir “plates of the states.”


Vernon Kilns plates of the states
Plates of the states (and some towns)

We used to have a huge collection of plates of the states and we ate off all of them, and served our friends. We had glasses too.

We put the glasses in the dishwasher (note to self: don’t do that) and ruined most of them.

At some point I read something about some souvenir plates having lead in them so I bought some kits and tested ours. The Vernon Kilns ones did not, but many of the others did. After smacking ourselves in the forehead (“Hey, maybe that’s where all those brain cells went!”) we stopped using the lead ones. We hung a bunch on the wall for a while and then I started using them in mosaic projects. This is the table I made.


mosaic table with broken plates of the states
My table


It was actually featured in HGTV magazine (thanks Annie!) and I was as proud of that as I was of my book. Maybe prouder.


mosaic table detail
I was living in Knoxville, TN when I made this and I was very homesick

I’m still using the lead plates in my weird planters.


mosaic planter
One of my planters


mosaic planter
Another planter

But back to the plates of the states. The thing about them is they’re just plates – there are no matching small plates, bowls, mugs, or serving dishes. When we got married we registered with a very cool vintage service called Dishes Delmar for vintage mid-century Franciscan Starburst. We still use them, but we hung on to the Vernon Kilns plates.


When we thought about dishes for the Schoolhouse, naturally we thought about those plates – especially the California ones – and this time I had a solution.


Vernon Kilns Santa Rosa plate
We even have one for Santa Rosa!

My baby sister Claire, who has an amazing design sense and whose house always looks fabulous even though she now has a very active toddler, uses unmatched whites for dishes. Why not use unmatched whites with the plates of the states?



Ready to serve!

I started snarfing and over a period of a few months, between Ross, Marshall’s, Ikea, and the Crate and Barrel outlet, I’d gathered my set. The bowls were initially the hardest to find so I bought them every time I saw them and that was the only category where I overshot – I was aiming for 12 and ended up with 17. But I’m sure we’ll break a few.

Then I found a butter dish at Cost Plus. Done!



  1. As I’m one of the only people to have seen these dishes in action, I’ll testify that they work perfectly together and perfectly in the schoolhouse’s retro-modern-rustic kitchen. And they’re fun to eat off and look at!

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