Recently I took an overnight road trip into Wisconsin and Iowa, ready to load my car with lots of vintage prop finds. My friends Josephine and Kim, both amazing food stylists each with their own great sense of style, were eager to come along on the hunt. We had a super time together, but actually came back with very few purchases. For me, part of the reason is that I now have tightened guidelines for purchasing my personal props. The checklist helps keep me focused and take deep breaths when I am in a propping frenzy...you know what I mean. A few simple rules:
1) The prop has to have something special about it in terms of color,texture,shape,size etc, OR be classic and timeless
2) Has to be VERY reasonably priced, less than I can rent it for from a prop house.
OR it has to be something I have not seen before, a true antique, or a prop I absolutely know I can use on an assignment, to justify paying a higher price.
3) Has to have some versatility so I can re-use it in a different way.
Here's one piece I found that is a good example of sticking to my rules, this enameled cake plate.
I was drawn to the summery blue border contrasting the white finish, the handles, and the chippy spots. It was quite a dusty mess when I dug it out of a pile of old pots and pans at the flea market, but it cleaned up well. I was so happy to see that the center (where food would rest) was clean and bright. As much as I like rust and distress, I'm not always comfortable with it being right under the food.
Because the piece is so flat, it offers lots of possibilities. Here are some quick thoughts I have for using it:
a charger plate for a casual meal...
as a cutting board surface ...
or a serving tray...
maybe layered with a cooling rack for pastries
or just keep it simple.
I paid just a few dollars for the plate, slightly over a hundred for my portion of gas, lodging, & meals to find it.
Rule #4 just added: keep the hunt closer to home!