I’ve always fancied myself a positively proper party preparer, folding napkins and setting places just so. I was pleased with my results and always enjoyed the beauty of a pretty table presentation. Little did I know that there are people like me taking presentation to a whole other level. I unfold my flatware pocket napkin and dab my brow as I’m overcome by the beauty and wonder of a little thing called tablescaping.
I discovered this phenomenon through CBS’s Sunday Morning. I’ve watched since I was a kid because my dad always watched it. Also, I was born internally 90 so I’m its target audience, she who also enjoyed as a youngin’ AM news radio stations, and eating dinner early. Imagine my surprise earlier this month when I saw a story about setting beautiful, unique, and/or weird tables AND that there are competitions for this! The featured tablescaping competition at the Los Angeles County Fair (clip below) has been happening for decades.
It’s always nice to see people like you, especially when you’re a bit of a square peg in this round hole society.
Beyond that, what amazing creations! My go-to was simple elegance, pretty pieces always properly set. I have the loveliest Royal Doulton china — the dishes feature a pink border adorned with hand-painted flowers, ladybugs, and butterflies. It’s the most non-china looking china ever. But for years I only took it out for the most special occasions. I sometimes had dinner or other parties with a theme for which I’d buy decorations and tableware, but these tablescaping folks take that to a new level.
I’m emboldened by their artistry. I have the urge to run to the party store — is it still there? did Jeff Bezos’s behemoth swallow it yet? — to buy invitations and invite people over. Forget just plating pretty and folding linen napkins into roses. Oh, how I would tablescape!
I don’t know if there’s an east coast version of this competition, but it’s something to google. As I grow older and embrace more bits of my weirdness (working my way eventually back to toddler-hood and wearing a tutu to the grocery store if I want to), I would celebrate the opportunity to participate — let’s make a tablescape about tablescaping (so meta!).
I write, take decent photos, and sing, but I can’t paint or sculpt. This would bring me as close as I can get to being a visual artist.
Whether I ever get to compete or not, this Sunday Morning story also reminded me that my loveliest dishes are in boxes in the basement and have been rarely used. I’m re-inspired now to let the butterflies be free. I’ll use my china more often — and often just because. I’ll set and decorate my own table, celebrating each day, toasting to the continued competition with myself to make each one — and me — better than the one before (no greater competition than that, eh?).
Which folded napkin goes best with that theme, I wonder?