"It's just the case that people break cups more than saucers," British designer Richard Brendon says of England's tea drinkers. When that happens, the value of the entire set decreases—even when the decades-old artistry of the saucers remains intact. Brendon finds thousands of these saucers at antique markets and secondhand sales. "I thought if I could reunite them with cups, it would make these beautiful antique objects useful again," he says.
But he couldn't, so he designed a simple bone-china cup from scratch (his is inspired by a "bute shape" cup, a classic design modeled after Georgian ceramics popular from 1800 to 1850) and gave it a reflective patina—that way the cup would mirror the handiwork of the saucers and look like a set. He calls it the Reflect collection.
The saucers in Reflect date from 1780 to around 1950. After World War II, the British ceramics industry started shipping production overseas to cut costs, resulting in cheaper, less original design. Brendon hopes Reflect will help reenergize the local ceramics industry. "There are still incredible craftsmen here," he says. "And if it doesn't get going again, those skills will be lost forever."
A version of this article appeared in the July/August 2014 issue of Fast Company magazine.