Dec 24, 2011

Collecting Enamelware

It's Christmas eve and I'm in a cabin in the woods drinking tea and waiting for Santa to come. We've been doing a lot of cooking and eating these past few days. The cabin has always been where old plates and dishes come to retire. There are plenty of cast iron cast offs, mis-matched silverware and enameled dishes. Enamel wear works at the cabin but it also looks great displayed in collection! I think I might grab a piece or two and take them home with me to love them all year long, instead of just on long weekends. 

Enamelware first gained popularity around the same time it became readily available in mail-order catalogues and dry goods stores, this was around the end of the 19th Century. Items like biscuit cutters, ladles and baking tins were stamped out of thin sheets of iron or aluminium and then coated in enamel. It was much lighter than the kitchenware previously used and much less fragile than the very fashionable china ware was. The trend picked up quite quickly. 

Enamelware has gone by many names including; granitware, ironware and agatewear, though graniteware is the most recognized and collected by collectors. Here is a great article that touches on the hay-day of graniteware and talks a little about Granite City, IL-the hub of enamelware production. Enamelware was produced in red, blue, purple, brown, green, pink and white. There were patterns, speckles, shades designs, and mottles. French enamelware usually features a floral motif.

For collectors of enamelware some super finds include rare french patterns, purple, red and cobalt blue pieces and the well known Scandinavian designs of Grete Prytz Kittelsen-manufactured by Cathrineholm. Enamelware had a resurgence in the in the 1960's when some U.S. manufactures begin producing it again. Older pieces can be identified by smoothness of finish and handle material (wood vs. plastic). 

Enamelware lasts forever. Which means it has optimum opportunity to get filthy. Grimy enamelware should be washed clean with hot soapy water and a soft cloth.  Do not use anything sharp or scratchy-like steel wool, because enamel is actually made of glass and can be scratched or chipped. Instead, if you have a really tough stuck on something use oven cleaner (be sure to follow the directions printed on the bottle) and cover any handles or wooden pieces with plastic wrap before spraying. Brown deposits may come clean if you apply baking soda. Stubborn stains may benefit from a long (over night) soak in vinegar (1 part vinegar to 3 parts water). To stop the spread of rust apply cooking oil. If you plan on eating on vintage enamelware be sure that any bit that comes in to contact with food is not exposed. 

All of the enamelware pieces you see here are available for purchase on etsy. (last minute Christmas gift?) Thank you etsy sellers for the use of your great images.

1 comment:

  1. I love enamelware! I like the way it feels to the touch. Is there modern enamelware that is manufactured today? Or is it a lost technique?