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Designers Indulge Taste for Color and Whimsy in Tabletop Ceramics

May 11, 2000|CONNIE KOENENN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Could your dining table benefit from some dash and color? Are you timid about mixing polka dots and stripes? Designer Victoria MacKenzie-Childs, who suffers no such timidity, will introduce her new Wittika tabletop collection, a medley of dots, stripes and checks, at Neiman Marcus in Newport Beach today.

She'll be a guest from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. in the gift gallery, which carries the full MacKenzie-Childs home collection, from hand-painted tableware and linens to intricately decorated furniture. She will talk about the use of color in design, a MacKenzie-Childs trademark since the company's founding in 1983 by Victoria and her husband, Richard, both accomplished ceramic sculptors.

From their first collection, which elevated their richly decorated Majolica pottery from everyday tableware to a fine collectible, they have continued to break with tradition. They've expanded into painted furniture, lamps, handblown glassware, serving pieces and accessories, all in their fanciful, richly patterned look.

The unabashed quirkiness of their ruffled plates, teapots decked out in roses, and pastry domes with clown hats have an Alice in Wonderland appeal.

"I want to bring the gumption of the child out in everyone," says the exuberant MacKenzie-Childs, who thinks of herself as a "catalyst for the jubilance of individual inspiration."

MacKenzie-Childs' operation is based on a farm in Aurora, N.Y. It employs more than 200 artisans producing the handcrafted pieces, which are carried at the firm's flagship store in New York City and by retailers across the country.

The new Wittika pieces come in mix-and-match styles called Peanuts and Pickles. They combine colors (brick red and deep green) that play off each other in a newly developed process of glazed terra cotta that is microwave- and dishwasher-safe. Wittika prices range from $34 for a mug to $249 for a pastry stand. Information and previewing are available on the Web site: http://www.mackenzie-childs.com.

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If you prefer to look to history for home-design inspiration, this weekend's 13th annual L.A. Modernism Show traces the 20th century's cultural history through furniture, fashion and graphic design.

Dealers from around the world participate in the popular show, which combines an exposition with a large-scale sale and runs Friday night through Sunday at Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. Items for sale will include Gehry, Stickley and Eames furniture designs, Art Nouveau jewelry, Art Deco appliances, Bauhaus furniture and World War II-era advertising posters. General admission is $10. Friday night's preview ($50 per ticket) is a fund-raiser for the Los Angeles Conservancy. Information: (310) 455-2886.

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Connie Koenenn can be reached at connie.koenenn@latimes.com.

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