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Rahr West Art Museum

Posted on: September 15, 2022

Art of Conversation: Mary Virlee

mary virlee

Thursday, October 13, 2022 

1:00 pm at the Rahr-West Art Museum

Free to the public.  Light refreshments provided.

Growing up as a fledgling baby boomer, my childhood pretend dishes were the durable aluminum dishes crafted by the Mirro Company. However sometimes my mom would let us have a “Tea Party” with her  pretend China dishes from the 1930’s. It wasn’t that saltine crackers and Kool-Aid were such exciting treats but those tiny dishes with the little hand-painted flowers were so beautiful, surely these were like the dishes that royalty and the rich used for dining. I was in love, my passion for beautiful tables and beautiful parties had its beginnings. In the 1960’s Jackie Kennedy’s tour of the White House provided even more inspiration as I dreamed of recreating dining tables laden with silver, crystal, plates for every course and of course extravagant floral centerpieces.

 My practice came with setting the table every Sunday for my 8 brothers and sisters with the grocery store china my mom had collected along side her wedding silver plate. After graduating from college, I worked for a short time at the Medical College in downtown Milwaukee and I often times visited George Watts and viewed and studied the gorgeous table settings their designers prepared. I loved it all, but my small pay checks didn’t afford me the opportunity to start my collection. Hence I began to frequent auctions, antique stores and thrift shops looking for beautiful things to create tablescapes that would wow my guests. Over the years I have collected 12 different sets of dinnerware, a variety of flatware and glassware, beautiful vintage linens and unique accessories. And yes, I still have those beautiful pretend dishes, that showed me that all dining experiences can be special with beautiful table settings.

 My table style is eclectic, mixing patterns, textures, with both vintage and modern elements. In my “Conversation” with you, I hope to help you see, that Grandma’s China” can be used in fresh and new ways and provide you with tips to elevate all of your table settings. I will provide many ideas as how to use all of those dishes you have stored on your shelves or are saving for something special. For those in attendance, I will have a drawing for a special basket of party supplies I have collected for your next get-together with family and friends.

 You can find helpful table styling tips and party ideas on my Instagram account #troutlilyhill or on my website www.troutlilyhill.com

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