It’s anyone’s guess who will take up residence in the White House come January. But one thing is certain: His or her china options will include hand-painted plates that Laura Bush commissioned from Anna Weatherley in 2008.
The name behind the china—often embellished with nature motifs and sold by Bloomingdales and other high-end retailers—belongs to an Arlington resident with a history of creating beautiful objects for the rich and powerful.
Decades ago, Anna Weatherley designed dresses and ran her own DC boutique. Worn by the likes of Elizabeth Taylor, Lady Bird Johnson, and Pamela Harriman, her frocks were hand-painted with floral designs inspired by 17th- and 18th-century botanical art.
So it wasn’t a stretch when Weatherley decided to trade fashion for decorative arts; she launched her porcelain company in 1990. “It’s my passion to create something based on nature and flowers,” says the designer. After researching a new motif, she travels to her native Budapest where she directs a team of master painters who make her design a reality.
The artists use tiny brushes to paint the unfinished porcelain Weatherley sources all over Europe. “Painting porcelain is a time-consuming art form,” she says, “and few painters can actually do the detailed hand-painting. It’s very tedious and takes days to create.” Her plates range in price from $90 to $350.
On finished pieces, intricate details, shading and faux imperfections mimic nature in all its splendor. “You cannot create designs like these in a mass-produced way,” the designer says.
Which is perhaps why the White House Historical Association has commissioned Weatherley to create several collections (shop.whitehousehistory.org), including one celebrating the flowers of the Rose Garden. She also created a cachepot given to Princess Diana on a visit to the U.S. as well as luncheon settings for Blair House.
On every piece, Weatherley includes an insect or two. “It’s my trademark,” says the designer, pointing out that these creatures are not anatomically correct. “I call them ‘couture’ bugs because if they looked real, nobody would want to eat from the plates.”