Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Love, Love, Love : Cafeteria Trays

Back in the days of Western Elementary School, I can vividly remember waiting in line for lunch. For an impatient, hungry kid, the line leading to the cafeteria seemed to stretch on for days. You would be welcomed into the cafeteria by the "clack clack" of  trays being pulled off a tall pile by the lunch ladies. Our school had an endless supply of plastic, colorful lunch trays with confetti-like specks and swirls melded into them. Though I'm sure my mind was mostly set on scarfing down my food and chatting with my friends during our short lunch period, the patterned trays left a strong impression on my early memories.

 I recall most of them being a muted pea-green or pale pink-orange color. The flecks of yellows, blues, pinks, tans, and greens danced around the trays in a carnival-like display when not obscured by the Friday pizza or sloppy Joe spillage. Perhaps the colors were there to add a little life to our tan palette of food.

eat your greens
I hadn't thought about cafeteria trays in years until I started making jewelry. I had one pale green tray that I would pull out on occasion to sort out small mixed supplies or plan out materials for a necklace. As the tray got used more and more, I started looking for more at tag sales and thrift stores. As my collection grew, I branched out onto Ebay for more of a selection. When I did a search for cafeteria trays online, familiar images from my childhood flashed on the screen. Vintage speckled trays came up under searches for Fire King, Prolon, Melmac, Spatterware, and confetti. I found the identical trays I once used in elementary school plus a whole other world of color combinations. 

bling buffet
wild game for dinner
work lunch
Many auctions later, I have a happy collection of 7 confetti trays (and counting) that have been elevated to my "special occasion ware." I pull them out every once in a while for inspiration and when I need a little burst of color in my life. Lately, I have found myself drawn to confetti beads and using food charms in my thimblism necklaces. I can't help but think of lunch lady hairnets, half pints of milk, and my early "culinary experiences" when creating these pieces.  
a feast for the eyes
made from 100% recycled clown (or so I've heard)
Spring Carnival - with vintage Japanese confetti beads
thimbilism necklace from my very own craft-ateria
Though my prized confetti tray collection will not be used to sort materials like my other trays, their fanciful flecks will have a lasting impact on my design. You just never know what will serve up inspiration!

You can find me at these upcoming shows:

Sunday, May 29th - The Brooklyn Flea - Williamsburg - Brooklyn, NY

Sunday, June 26th - Smith Street Sunday Fun Day - Brooklyn, NY

Saturday, July 9, August 6, August 13 - Greenway Open Markets - Boston, MA


  1. We should have a cafeteria-tray-themed food party... We'll upgrade the quality of the food, though.

  2. We can make a even more mysterious mystery meat and tidy Joes. I'm game!