Upcycling, China, And Art Unite at The Brooklyn Teacup

In the spring of 2018 while out for a run, erstwhile Brooklyn Heights resident Ariel Davis made a discovery that would eventually lead to her having to leave the neighborhood she loved.

“I literally stumbled across a big set of china,” she said. “The pattern reminded me of a beautiful dress my mom wore, and I thought, ‘I need to do something with this.’”

She prevailed upon her husband to make the ultimate neighborhood sacrifice.

“I called him at 11pm and told him that he had give up our street parking spot and come pick it all up.”

Thus was born The Brooklyn Teacup.

Davis described her mother and grandmother as “china fanatics,” but as a self-described millennial living in a one-bedroom apartment, she had neither room for nor interest in a traditional set.

Though initially unsure what she’d do with the china, she knew that from both an artistic and environmental perspective, throwing it away didn’t make sense, especially as she knew that there had to be thousands of china sets out there that would likely be discarded.

“Then I was looking at my sister’s wedding registry, and included was a three-tier stand,” she said. “It was really expensive and not nearly as nice as what I’d found on the street.”

So she picked up a hand drill and went to that font of all knowledge, the internet, to learn how to upcycle the china she’d found into a wedding present for her sister.

Since then, her work has been featured in The Washington Post, she has a sales site on Food 52, and she was interviewed for The Side Hustle podcast. She’s sold more than 100 three-tiered stands, from china sets she’s found or bought, or from pieces brought to her by customers for a bespoke item.

From those initial efforts that ended with more than a few cracked plates, Davis can now convert a few pieces of china into a stand in 15 minutes. And her business has grown so much that she had to move out of her small Brooklyn Heights apartment to Park Slope, where she’s been able to create a studio.

Courtesy Ariel Davis

Courtesy Ariel Davis

She has partnered with Brooklyn Women’s Exchange and Vineapple, and she monitors Ebay, thrift shops, flea markets, and Facebook marketplace for people selling china.

Prices for custom-made items range from $45 for a ring dish to $75 for a three-tiered stand, with ready-made pieces ranging from $45 to $125.

“I’d love the Brooklyn Heights community to think of The Brooklyn Teacup as a resource for upcycling their vintage china into modern heirlooms,” she said. “My goal is to help transform these often-neglected pieces into useful servingware and decor that can be used in everyday life…or given as meaningful gifts to friends and family.”

















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  • Andrew Porter

    Does the post just end with that big blank space at the bottom?

    I inherited my mother’s teacups. The process of conversion makes cups for drinking tea into a possibly useless object. It’s like those lamp bases made by destroying books, drilling through them and sticking them together. I consider that obscene misuse of books—and teacups.

  • Teresa

    Any item that is not being used might be considered “useless.” Ms. Davis repurposes items that aren’t being used, and transforms them into another object, one that is wholly useful. It’s a shame that you were unable to see beyond your own vision for the cups to see something that other people obviously value.

  • CassieVonMontague

    Working for estate sale companies, I saw china sets as problems. It’s hard to tell a family that grandma’s treasured full set of Noritake china was worth absolutely nil. In fact, we would have to charge them to haul it away. Then, after that disappointment, I had more bad news about the china hutch and the full dining room set.

    Good on her for doing something with them.

  • KCureNY

    I love old china. I inherited what my mom had (and in the end I couldn’t bear to part with any of her sets). It is essentially without value, as Cassie points out—might as well use it and put it in the dishwasher! I keep thinking if I use it my daughters will get attached to it. Still, although the stands are lovely and I commend the upcycling, I don’t see the utility of what is essentially a petits fours stand.

  • B.

    Spouse and I have more china than we know what to do with, having inherited our mothers’ sets and purchased used Royal Staffordshire at an old antiques barn along the way. We use it all depending on mood; ditto the sets of silver.
    It’s lovely stuff.
    Whom are we saving it for? The youngsters prefer IKEA plates and flatware. Go figure.

  • B.

    Things that are not being “used” but are aesthetically pleasing are in fact very useful: They are beautiful to us. That counts.
    While not a hoarder, I have useless things I would never dream of getting rid of or altering in any way.
    Of course, others see things differently.

  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x7nPOzGeyaw Arch Stanton

    My eye opening experience with old books came when I was downsizing my book collection. I had about 6 boxes full, a mix of classic literature, biographies/memoirs, poetry & art. No textbooks or dated/obsolete material, most were hardcover some first editions and all in good to excellent condition. First I went to local used bookstores “Sorry we aren’t buying right now” Then I ventured across the river, I thought, duh, the Strand, surely they would buy them. The “buyer” at the Strand had the demeanor of a prison guard, and after a cursory inspection he curtly said “No” I asked him if he would take them for free “What and have to pay to throw them away” he pointed out the side door to a 15 yard dumpster parked on 12th St. half full of books…
    None the less I persevered and found a bookseller in midtown who diligently went through the collection, bought most of the art and poetry books, about 2 boxes worth. He also explained, most of the classic lit, etc. was basically worthless, as there are simply too many copies floating around.
    I still couldn’t bring myself to toss the books away, and they occupied the back of my Chevy Blazer for months till I eventually found a street vendor who took them for free. This was 25 years ago…

  • Andrew Porter

    Well, there are books and there are books. I’ve done quite well selling off some of my books. The Philip K. Dick first edition hardcovers went in the low 4 figures; many other first editions were also worth a lot, collectively.

    I sold all my pulp magazines via a collector/dealer a few years ago.

    I recently sold a lot of first edition SF fiction and critical books to another collector.

    If you’d gone to Jack Biblo when he had his used book store at the corner of Hicks and Middagh, he’d certainly have bought your art books (see my photo of him below).

    I know that many books are next to worthless now. But the thought of drilling through them and making a table lamp is horrific to me.