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Saturday, February 25, 2012

GPL Watertown Canadian Melamine DND

The Real Deal: Watertown Lifetime Ware available at TheSquirrelCottage
I don't talk a lot about Watertown Lifetime Ware designed by Jon Hedu probably because there's a whole great site by Christopher McPherson dedicated to it , called Plastic Living!  However, I do have to chime in once in awhile when I find or see something unique or truly despicable.  Awhile ago I interviewed Paul Rothstein from Maple Leaf Plastics (MAPLEX, and later Rainbow), owner of two out of three great Canadian melmac factories.   In talking with Paul, I mentioned that a lot of Canadian melamine lines resemble their American counterparts. He assured me they weren't copying American designs, (or vice versa), as copyrights did apply--even back then big trouble would have ensued!
If this isn't a Watertown Creamer Knock-off, I don't know what is. Marked GPL available at JessiRetro

A lot of people assumed that when America was done with their molds perhaps they were sold off to Canada--but this is not so. Oddly if you trace back GPL in Canada, (General Plastics Limited)--they were producing lines of industrial dinnerware that looks so much like Watertown Lifetime Ware it's not funny.   Around the same time in the states Watertown pretty much dried up  (after being sold to Northern who went out of business soon thereafter). Many just assumed this was the trail...perhaps it made sense date-wise. However, I gave Canada much more credit. They weren't waiting for anything. You see, while our grandmothers were making turkey on Watertown Lifetime Ware the Canadian granny was setting her table with GPL.
Watertown dinnerware sold at FortheBettys, as you can see the creamer here looks just like the GPL above.

For one, if these were American molds the dishes and pitchers would measure exact and they aren't....off by only a small bit. So this means that there is no way they could be using the same exact molds that were used in America. (Molds were very expensive and made out of steel or metal which were tooled to have an upper and lower mold cavity which would press the melmac into the dishes using giant hydraulic compression molding machines.) Now of course all that old metal is replaced with computerized molding presses.  

The ONLY other plausible possibility is that American designers licensed their products to be distributed in Canada, however, if this was the case, they would have been happily marketed under the same names or at least have been the same sizes--and they weren't.



TinsandThings has this great Watertown Lifetime Ware knock off pitcher !
As you can see it's marked "DND"  which to me is odd, normally marked GPL.  Could DND have bought GPL in the 1960's?

Here's another backstamp from TinsandThings pitcher, showing a 1968 marking, this doesn't show the DND or GPL logo. Odd.
Now here is another strange discovery, apparently GPL either changed their name to DND or sold their molds to another company, per the examples above circa 1963-1968 from Canada with love.  In my opinion Canada was struggling in their plastic sales and may have been instructing their tool and die markers to make something similar to  NAME THE MELMAC LINE  American design.  It's nothing for America to be upset about - according to Paul melmac wasn't a huge seller in Canada like it was here in the states. He says, and I quote, "Sears sold more in one season in melmac dinnerware that most factories produced all year up here. " Canadians must have been a hard sell for plastic dishes, or may have though them junky.  I would probably not blame them, having a tea party on plastic may not have been feasible.  This was pre-internet and no one was selling used melmac then so why would we (or the designers) back then ever find out?

FOR COLLECTORS:
Many collectors turn their nose up at the Canadian lookalikes, but not me. I embrace them in my collection. It's fun to add the Canadian Lookalikes to your growing collection, as you will find VIBRANT colors different than their American counterparts.  As well, they are more rare and hard to find because they weren't produced in the same quantities as American pieces.  Finding them can prove fun and challenging.
This Canadian melmac was called Vogue, and was popular. I love the style, but if you look carefully at the braided edge, reminds me of a very rare Texasware pattern that had braiding on the edge.  Grab it at AllThatJazzEmporium


Same theory applies to (a few of the many 'almost exact but not quite' pieces ): 
Russel Wright Meladur eventually Lapcor made in Canada under Rainboware
Coloramic which looks like Branchell Colorflyte, by Kaye Lamoyne
Moderne which looks like Joan Luntz' Brookpark and Arrowhead
Boontonware lookalikes that are unmarked...resembling the Belle Kogan styles


Plastic Living Website


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