From the 1960s through the ’80s, Thayer’s bright green pottery was as much a part of the Palm Beach look as Lilly Pulitzer dresses and Palm Beach sandals.
It seemed that every society hostess had a collection of Thayer’s bright green Lettuce Ware, which the daughter of Palm Beach County pioneers made by hand in her Jupiter garage.
Now, designer Tory Burch has re-issued Thayer’s earthenware for a new generation. Called “Dodie Thayer for Tory Burch,” pieces start at $88 for a set of four canape plates.
At one time, having a Dodie Thayer tureen on your buffet was a status symbol. Her pieces were featured in photo shoots in Home and Garden, House Beautiful, Architectural Digest, Bon Appetit and Gourmet.
Tastemakers from Jacqueline Kennedy to C.Z. Guest, the Duchess of Windsor and Dina Merrill collected sets. Queen Elizabeth dined on Lettuce Ware during a visit to the U.S. in 1986. The queen so admired the tableware that her hosts, William and Sarah Farish, who own the Gasparilla Inn on Gasparilla Island, packed it up and sent it to Buckingham Palace.
“Her work was amazingly popular. Dodie was part of the essence of Palm Beach, like Stubbs and Wooten shoes, Lilly Pulitzer and Kassatly’s linens; all part of the old Palm Beach,” said Mimi McMakin in a 2010 interview. McMakin, an interior designer, sold Thayer’s work at her shop Kemble Interiors.
Actually, the term “lettuce ware” is a misnomer. Thayer’s designs are based on cabbage leaves, a vegetable Palm Beach shops deemed too common for their customers. They insisted she call her line, “Lettuce Ware.”
“They wouldn’t have anything to do with cabbages,” Dodie said in an interview in 2010. “In Palm Beach, they were quite sure cabbages were degrading.”
While Pulitzer went on to create her signature “pink-and-green Lilly lifestyle,” Thayer always refused to mass market her work, until Burch came calling two years ago.
“Many a time we asked her if she’d like us to find a company that would replicate her pieces,” said McMakin. “She would have had a very nice income but she declined every time.”
On her website, Burch said she called Thayer two years ago to ask about starting the line. “We were thrilled when she said yes,” Burch wrote.
Thayer is part of Palm Beach County history. Her parents, Bessie and John DuBois, for whom DuBois Park is named, ran a fish camp on the Jupiter Inlet. Thayer grew up fishing and boating where the Loxahatchee River meets the Atlantic.
Shunning the social scene, the very private Thayer preferred the quiet of her home on the Loxahatchee River, where she raised five children on the proceeds of her pottery.
Now in her late 80s, the Pottery Queen of Palm Beach lives there still, in an unusual house cantilevered over the water, whose living room floor has a glass window looking down at her beloved river.
She has always been quixotic and private, said her daughter, Lisa Jefferson of Palm City, in 2010.
“The fewer people who knew about her, the better she liked it,” she said.