Can I have a second helping of home décor?

I’ll eat just about anything you can put on a plate, but I won’t admire just any plate you can put on a wall.

Those plates must be historic. And Southern. And tell a story.

When my wife of 15 years and I were concocting our wedding registry, (OK, let me restate that more accurately: when my wife of 15 years was concocting her wedding registry) there was one item that popped up on the “must have” list I had never heard of.

“Honey, what’s a Georgia plate?”

That’s when I got that look. You married guys know the one. The look that says “Are you really so unrefined as to not know about Georgia plates?”

Louise Irwin
Louise Irwin, creator of the Georgia Plates, would be so proud of our living room wall.

It’s the same look, incidentally, that I received when I asked such questions as “Aren’t window treatments really just curtains?” and “What’s a toile?” and “Why do there need to be so many pillows?”

As it turns out these Georgia plates are so famous that practically everyone who ever attended a Transylvania Club of Sandersville meeting knows all about them.

What? You say you don’t know the story of Louise Irwin and the Transylvania Club of Sandersville? OK, well, maybe I don’t feel so bad.

You see, back in 1932, Mrs. Irwin latched onto the idea of creating a series of Wedgwood plates depicting scenes from Georgia’s history to sell as a fundraiser for the club. Clearly Mrs. Irwin envisioned that 80 years later suburban housewives would be assembling and reassembling them into artistic formations on their living room walls.

Nancy Hart on a pink Georgia Plate
Nancy Hart says to the Tories: “Don’t be bringin’ that Torie stuff into MY log cabin!”

These plates are actually pretty cool. My favorite is the one depicting Nancy Hart holding a bunch of Tories, whoever they are, at gunpoint. Nothing says “Georgia pride” like gun violence against men in wigs in pink Wedgwood.

I think we’ve eaten on these plates exactly one time. It was a special occasion, like Christmas or Easter, when it seemed appropriate to stare at James Edward Oglethorpe under a pile of mashed red potatoes infused with gorgonzola.

There is so much I don’t understand about home decorating, and I’m sure this essay only confirms my lack of sophistication and taste. I don’t know when it became a “thing” to put plates on walls, but ever since our wedding guests happily complied with my wife’s dreams of owning the entire collection, we’ve had Georgia plates on our walls.

Georgia Plates
A very symmetrical and orderly display of Georgia’s history in Wedgwood plate form on my living room wall. Ain’t I sophisticated?

I do think they add something to our home, though, in a weird museum kind of way. In good light and at the right distance, I can actually read them. And if I take one down, I can flip it over on the back and have marvelous dinner party conversation starters: “Did you know that in 1734 Oglethorpe traveled to London to present the Creek Indian chief Tomochichi to the Colony’s Trustees? Yes, well, they were accompanied by John Musgrove and his wife, Mary, who had served as the interpreter for Tomochichi and Oglethorpe. Can you pass the asparagus?”

Hmmm … maybe I’m beginning to understand why we don’t have many dinner party guests.

What I do think these plates say about the New South is that there is still an appreciation of history. In the Old South, there was a devotion to tradition. In the New South, we like old stuff to remind us we have roots, a foundation upon which we can innovate, but we aren’t held captive to it. Touches of the old accentuate the new in our lives reminding us that as much as society changes, we still have a narrative that unites us as Georgians and Southerners.

So, go ahead and put those Georgia plates on the walls. The Sandersville public library will benefit from the proceeds, and before you know it, there will be another day on the calendar appropriate for using them to eat, like Leap Day or Guy Fawkes Day.

What place do plates have in your decorating? Do you use dinnerware in your décor? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below, and happy eating/decorating!


Everyone has a beard these days.

OK, that’s a bit of an overstatement. Most women I know don’t have beards, but bearded ladies are another topic for another day.

I know, I know, facial hair has been popular for a while now, and beards have had many meanings throughout history. Sometimes countercultural, facial hair has meant everything from virility and masculinity to wisdom and intelligence to laziness and uncleanliness.

Brian Wilson
Folks down South might "fear the beard" of Brian Wilson because it's too hot to wear that much facial hair.

Much has been written about that face carpet San Francisco Giants’ closer Brian Wilson wears, and its kitsch is being mimicked throughout the sports world.

Whether you’re a middle-aged suburban dad with a hip quotient of -4  or a 20-something ne’er do well playing guitar in your parents’ basement, the goatee is the go-to choice these days for facial hair.

So what does this mean?

Absolutely nothing. The beard has become so ubiquitous no meaning can be attached to it.
I have to confess I tried wearing a goatee for about six months back in the early ‘90s. I was single without attachment, so I had no one expressing preferences about my grooming. At the time I was affecting this Gen X writer mystique, and I thought some facial hair would somehow add to this. I even had my newspaper column mug shot redone to include the beard. I’m hoping those photos have been destroyed.

I eventually pulled the plug on the whole goatee project after a few months because it was too much effort, and at 24 I decided I wasn’t a goatee guy.

Apparently, men don’t have that hang up anymore.

Lance's gray stubble
Old man and the sea

Last week during my beach vacation I went a few days without shaving. I wasn’t aiming for a look. I was just not shaving. So of course my wife had to capture the image and comment, “Wow, your beard is gray. People who think you look younger than 40 have never seen you with facial hair.”

Ah, now we get to it.

Vanity. I don’t wear facial hair because it makes me look older and unkempt. Others wear facial hair because it accentuates their face or their wives/girlfriends like the look or they feel it gives them an edge visually to distinguish them from the rest of masculinity. There are as many reasons for having a beard as there are types of beards.

Beards no longer make a statement, but I am certain that it won’t be long before beards are used to convey marketing messages. Who wouldn’t look good with a Nike swoosh shaved into their beard? When this happens, remember you heard it here first.