Dish: 813 Colorful, Wonderful Dinner Plates

Book Review

By Shax Reigler
Artisan, 2011
Review: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

I just finished the gorgeous book Dish: 813 Colorful, Wonderful Dinner Plates, by Shax Riegler, and I feel like a total dish expert. Fun and informative, it's a joy to read, and looks fantastic on my coffee table, to boot!

Riegler is finishing his doctorate in design history and is also an editor at House Beautiful, and his book reflects both his vast knowledge of history and his deep understanding of popular current design. Dish is wildly entertaining — with luscious photographs by Robert Bean. It somehow manages to discuss the history of plates, look at hundreds (813!) of plates from history and today, and examine the plate as a functional object, a window onto the values of a culture, and as a work of art unto itself, all without being the least bit dry or academic.

Divided into chapters like "Elegance & Tradition," "Art & Craft," and "Holidays & Celebrations," Dish traces themes in dishware from the Renaissance to today, but with an emphasis on more recent history. Brief, page-long histories of famous companies like Wedgwood punctuate the text, and helpful sidebars like "Decoding Dishes" are invaluable for the amateur collector or flea-market goer.
Some fun facts from Dish by Shax Riegler:

  • A 'dish queen' was defined by the New York Times in 2005 as "a person belonging to a rarefied and sometimes loopy group" who is hooked on buying dishes
  • Until the 16th century, diners at banquets did not get their own plate, but had to share with the person seated next to them
  • The painter Claude Monet designed two china services for his home in Giverny (you can see images of both in the book)
  • Kintsugi is a Japanese art in which cracks and repairs are highlighted in gold to emphasize porcelain's fragility.
  • Purchase

    Will you buy it for yourself or as a gift for the holidays? It's on sale now at Amazon - $23.10.


    Images: Excerpted from Dish: 813 Colorful, Wonderful Dinner Plates by Shax Riegler (Artisan Books). Copyright 2011. Photographs by Robert Bean.