Confessions of a Fiestaware Freak

Vintage yellow Fiesta carafe

The colors and shapes of Fiestaware have inspired me since I first saw these dishes at my grandmother’s house in Vermont. I started my own collection when I was in (and out) of college in the early 70s. My first big find was a set of soup dishes in the original seven colors. Soon, I  was scouring flea markets and antiques shops from New Jersey to Maine for cups, mugs, plates, pitchers, and pots. My family bought pieces for me as holiday gifts. My sister, Jan, and I got a steal one day in Connecticut: a big box of Fiesta, Harlequin, and Riviera ware (all manufactured by Homer Laughlin) that we split between us. These dishes were relatively inexpensive then and most of my collection was built before the mid-80s when the prices began to skyrocket and they became “collectibles.” That really made me mad because I was forever priced out of the market.

Vintage Fiesta plates, mostly well used.

One of my favorite wastes-of-time is to rearrange my Fiestaware and take pictures of it. Simply playing with the colors and admiring the soft roundness of the shapes delights my heart. I love to see new juxtapositions of color and shape, especially when they happen by chance. You wouldn’t think that after thirty years that could happen, but it does.

(Mostly) Vintage Fiesta cups and shakers

Painted and embroidered kits circa 1940s

My house is filled with the same vibrant colors that Fiestaware is known for. I bought two 1940s embroideries because their colors and curves reminded me of Fiestaware.

Can you guess who my favorite artist is? Peter Max, of course. I suppose it is no coincidence that autumn is my favorite season, either. I select clothing colors based on the “vintage” Fiestaware colors (1938-1969, though my collection is mostly limited to the original six and the four colors from the 1950s). I am irresistibly drawn to Fiesta yellow but this season I’m really into the greens. Most of my bellydance costumes feature yellow as my primary color and green a secondary one. I also use red frequently—not the original Fiesta “red” which was actually orange, but modern Fiesta red which is a perfect match (though, sadly, I don’t own any of those dishes).

Peter Max and Fiesta

I don’t know if there is any science behind this, but I swear to you that my mood leaps upward at the sight of bright colors. I was walking through a departments store recently and passed a big display of colorful enameled pots. I stopped dead in my tracks just to feel the colors. My mouth sometimes waters as if I could eat colors. Sometimes I want to become the colors. Sounds crazy, but I think it’s a case of synesthesia, a “neurologically based condition in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway.” And that makes me a Synesthete, so there. I wonder if I should put that on my resumé?

Vintage green Fiesta teapot

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3 Responses to Confessions of a Fiestaware Freak

  1. Sabina says:

    I love colors, too, Renee, and am drawn to them as you are. They really affect my mood; I like to be surrounded by them, especially bright, warm colors like reds and yellows.

    I recently discovered I’m also a synesthete; for me, musical notes and letters are associated with certain colors.

  2. charlesruhe says:

    Here I’ve been living with a synesthete all these years and I never knew!

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