Q is for Quality

Status report: This morning, I read about the Great Exhibition of 1851. At noon, I had a conference call about the Secret Project, which I still can’t discuss. This afternoon, I worked on the introduction, making notes on the Great Exhibition and on Victorian freak shows. Then I revised Chapter 1. I need to do more work on Chapter 1 tomorrow, but I’m hoping to have it completely revised either tomorrow or Saturday. Then, I drove into the city. I needed to go to the university library, but I also stopped by my favorite thrift store and picked up some pretty things. Here they are:

The octagonal plates are from one of my favorite ironstone patterns, by Independence Ironstone. You can find it, every once in a while. There was quite a lot of it made. And I like the octagons. The knives are actually from an antique store I went to yesterday, not from the thrift store, but I thought I would show you those as well. They’re sliver plate, and they have a monogram: G. I thought that was significant, so I bought them ($10 for three). I also bought two of the pressed glass bowls today. I had bought the other bowls and the matching plates at another thrift store several weeks ago. As soon as I saw these two, I knew they were the same pattern. One of them still has traces of gilding on the rim, but that will come off in the dishwasher, eventually. I dislike gilding.

Don’t these, the cream-colored plates, the gleaming silver, the glass bowls that would be so perfect for strawberries, make you think of a summer party?

I also bought two dresses, one an April Cornell dress with pink roses, the other a J.Jill coat-dress in cream-colored linen. Unfortunately, I washed them together, assuming the pink dress was color-fast, and got some pink dye on the linen, so there I was, scrubbing it with stain remover, hoping the dye would come out. It did, and thank goodness linen doesn’t take dye well. I don’t think I could have gotten it out of cotton. I always assume that clothes I buy in thrift stores are color-fast because they’ve been washed before, but evidently the previous owner of this particular dress followed the care instructions, which say to dry-clean only. Who does that? I mean, I never dry-clean anything. It’s expensive and horrible for the environment. Anything natural, like wool or silk, can be hand-washed in cold water. And anything so unnatural that it can only be dry-cleaned, you shouldn’t be wearing anyway. I may post pictures of the dresses tomorrow.

And then I drove back home. Driving the Pathfinder on the highway always makes me feel – what’s the word? It’s twenty years old and drives like a truck (it’s a stick, of course), but in my hands it purrs like a kitten. I drove with the windows down and my hair whipping around me, blasting Baroque music, toward the sunset. The grass on the median strip had just been mown, and all the way home, I could smell freshly cut grass.  I thought, when I’m eighty years old, I’m going to have white hair down to my waist, and people are going to think I’m the Queen of the Fairies, and I’m going to be the coolest thing you ever saw.

And now I’m back to work.

What was I going to write about today? Oh yes, quality. When I was in college, I read an article in Vogue about the idea of Q. I still remember that article, but I tried to google Q recently, and got nothing except James Bond and Star Trek references. In that article, Q stood for quality. The idea was that items either had Q or not.

What does Q depend on? The item has to be functional. A wooden bookshelf has Q to the extent that it fulfills its function, which is holding books. But an item also has to have substance. A bookshelf made of solid pine has Q, no matter how cheap it is, whereas a bookshelf made of particleboard does not, no matter how expensive. And it has to have honesty. A particleboard bookshelf with wood veneer does not have Q, no matter how nice the veneer. It’s pretending. An item with Q does not pretend to be something other than what it is. Q has nothing to do with how expensive something is. A plastic bracelet that does not pretend to be anything other than plastic can have Q.

Functional, substantial, honest. Those are the qualities necessary for Q. I’m basing these criteria on what I remember from the article, but I’m also elaborating, because I remember very little about it, really. Just the basic concept.

I think the things I bought today have Q. The substantial ironstone plates, the silver-plated knives, the glass bowls. (Yes, the knives are silver plate, but they don’t pretend to be silver. And they’re completely functional: I put my silver plate in the dishwasher, whereas I would never do that to my silver, which is always hand-washed.)

This concept has been important to me because I’ve tried to make sure that whatever I buy has Q, whether it’s a piece of furniture, or clothing, or even food. I’m going to link to some companies that make products with Q. They make some of my recent favorites. The first is Pacifica, which makes candles and perfumes that smell gorgeous. I particularly like the Persian Rose and French Lilac. The second is LÄRABAR, which makes bars from only a few ingredients.  They are delicious, especially the Cherry Pie. The third is Earth Science, which makes some of my favorite creams and moisturizers. It’s important to choose items with Q. They work better, last longer. And having items with Q in your life improves the Q of your life as a whole.  It gives your life a higher quality.

It’s important to surround yourself with items that are functional, substantial, and honest. Beauty comes out of those qualities. At least it does for me.

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One Response to Q is for Quality

  1. Evelyn says:

    I’ve been rereading this post a lot lately. Can I just mention that your blog posts are always inspiring and that I never, ever want to return the copy of In the Forest of Forgetting that I checked out from my library? 🙂

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