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80s ceramics: Studio Nova

I'll put money on the 80s coming around again soon in interiors. 

Not like this...

...more like this. Boxy shapes (like shoulder pads) and in-yer-face primary colours.

This is a plate and cup I stumbled across in a junk shop on my recent trip to Sydney. There was an entire dinner set of the stuff (below) for around £75. I fell in love with it.

It broke my heart to leave it there. I am still at the stage where I think about it a little bit every day. But I couldn't imagine how I could feasibly haul an entire dinner set back to London in my luggage. I now wish I'd given it a go but, alas, too late. This is the shop I found it in.

The bird is called Oscar and he lives out the front. It was the sort of junk shop you rarely see today, at least not in big cities where everything is pre-sorted and styled up for premium prices. This was a  rummage-hard gem.

So I went in twice because after the first time I kept thinking about the china set – which had "Studio Nova" stamped on the undersides of each piece – as I knew there were a couple of plates and bowls surplus to the set for sale. And these I could squeeze in a suitcase. The shop owner, a lovely old guy, had told me the plates were 1980s Japanese and hard to find. On my second trip, the guy manning the shop for the owner explained it was a rare Art Deco set and tried to charge me more than the first guy had asked for. We negotiated and my foursome made it back to London for about £20. Those colours couldn't be anything but 1980s.

All the same, I Googled when I got back home to try to find out more. Various eBay listings suggested that Studio Nova was from Thailand. Others said the brand was Indonesian. Another confidently claimed Portugal was behind these beauties. In fact, Studio Nova was a line produced by Mikasa, a California firm founded in 1948 by George Aratani, a Japanese-American farmer who lost the family business when he was evacuated during the Second World War and started, with an entirely new direction, from scratch when it was over. Mikasa was the result, though Aratani also went on to own Kenwood Electronics. He became famously philanthropic and died just two years ago. Mikasa is still going strong in the States and produces – has always produced – some pretty dodgy designs.

Lots of 90s farmhouse florals... but several other interesting designs, like these.

But I think my 80s plates – 1984 to be precise – are the best. I am pretty sure the dining set is still in the shop. Am I mad to be considering getting it shipped over?

Images, where not my own:;


  1. Good bit of detective work on their origin. You absolutely must get the set posted over!

    1. Belatedly... yes, I know. I'm thinking that if I leave it a bit longer, and they're still there, then it's fate. I'll be sorry...

  2. They're charming but it's always a bit of a risk getting stuff shipped, especially if it spends months in a shipping container from Aus - you have to be sure you'll still like it on the other side!

    1. That's the thing isn't it: what is a bargain in situ becomes a lavish blowout...