Optical toys such as kaleidoscopes have been popular for decades: children still play with stereoscopes which have been popular since the time of Queen Victoria, while projectors, toy cameras and many other optical novelties are all manufactured today.
The Van Briggle Pottery was founded in Colorado Springs, Colorado in 1901 by Artus and Anne Van Briggle. The Van Briggle Pottery they established continued production of pottery for over one hundred years, and was until the company’s closure in 2012 the oldest continuously operating art pottery in the United States. The Van Briggle Pottery was noted for its Art Nouveau styles, Arts and Crafts colours, distinctive matte glazes, and its floral, figural and tiles of Anne Van Briggle. The Van Briggle’s pottery were awarded high honors from prestigious sources, including the Paris Salon, the Saint Louis Exposition, the Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition, and the American Arts and Crafts Exhibition in Boston. Artus Van Briggle was born on March 21, 1869, and his family lived in Ohio which was one of the main areas for ceramic design in America featuring potteries such as Roseville, McCoy, Weller, Hull and Rookwood to name a few. It was in fact Rookwood Pottery where Artus was destined, after first attending the Cincinnati Art School and later a position at the Avon Pottery where he was initially introduced to the ceramic arts. His skill and talent were recognized by Rookwood founder, Maria Storer, who became his benefactor, even sending him to France to study art at the Académie Julian in Paris. Whilst in Paris, Artus was exposed to new styles of art and techniques and took a great interest in an early matte glaze from the Chinese Ming Dynasty; a type that was lost to history. It was also in Paris where Artus met his future wife, fellow American student Anne Lawrence Gregory, an accomplished artist in her own right. Artus and Anne returned to America in 1896, where he continued at Rookwood experimenting with recreating the lost Ming Dynasty glazes. Artus was to eventually develop the “matte glaze” used at the Rookwood Pottery. This was a flat but textured glaze, often painted on soft colored clay, which used “sea green” for aquatic and floral motifs. This pale blue-green glaze was usually applied over a soft yellow, bluish or red base. Artus left Rookwood Pottery in 1899, suffering with tuberculosis, and moved to Colorado Springs. Whilst in Colorado he was able to develop his Art Nouveau influenced pottery and after two years of trials and experimentation he perfected his matte blue glaze based on an ancient Chinese process that had long been lost to history. The VanBriggle.com website says of Artus’s discovery ‘one day in the spring of 1901 he reached into the kiln, with the anticipation known well by countless potters throughout the ages, and finally held in his hands the perfect, rich, matte-glazed pottery he had sought for so long – the first pieces created in centuries, the first ever on this side of the world. Against the odds of failing health and a pursuit which no western artist had ever achieved, he succeeded; his passion was realized – a lost art was now reborn. The world would once again see and touch of the soft marble-like glazes first known by ancient Chinese masters half a world and so many generations away.’ With his new glaze and graceful Art Nouveau designs, Artus opened The Van Briggle Pottery in 1901. He was joined by Anne Gregory and they married in 1902 who was to have a major input in all aspects of the pottery as well as design. Van Briggle’s pottery and designs received national and international acclaim and in Europe’s the were proclaimed, “A supreme discovery in modern ceramics.” Artus and Anne established hundreds of Art Nouveau styles of pottery under the Van Briggle name. The Despondency vase won Van Briggle wide acclaim and first place at the Paris Salon in 1903. A display at the 1904 Centennial Exhibit in St. Louis won Van Briggle more awards and greater international fame. Artus Van Briggle died in July 1904, at the age of 35. Anne continued the pottery using the forms created by Artus as a foundation and adding more designs of her own. It was only after the death of Artus that the company started making hand pressed tiles. The tiles featured Arts and Crafts and Art Nouveau designs. The tiles were very popular, especially among local builders who used them in the booming Colorado housing market and the tiles also decorated the facade and interior of the new pottery (designed by Dutch architect Nicholas Van den Arend) that was opened in 1908. Production of tiles at the pottery continued until 1920, with most of the limited production being for architectural use. For collectors access to Van Briggle tiles is limited and when do they appear at auction they achieve good prices. For collectors it is the early pieces that command most interest and highest prices for collectors notably the work of Artus. Early production was always limited and ‘one prominent collector has suggested that only about 400 pieces total were made prior to his death’ (Rago and Perrault). Although the Van Briggle Pottery continued production for over one hundred years in one form or another according to Rago and Perrault the last pieces of collecting merit date to 1932. Pieces attributed to Artus and Anne can sell for many thousands of dollars – the record price for an attributed Artus piece is his classic prototype Lorelei piece whilst he was a decorator at Rookwood. The 7 1/2-inch-tall vase is incised ‘A. Van Briggle 1898,’ and has a Paris Exposition Universelle 1900 label sold for $187,500 at Rago Arts and Auction Center’s 20th Century Decorative Arts and Design Auction in June 2016. Van Briggle Pottery Reference Rago, David and Perrault, Suzanne, How to Compare and Appraise American Art Pottery (Miller’s Treasure or Not?), 2001 VanBriggle.com web site Van Briggle Pottery on Wikipedia click here
It was at the beginning of the reign of Queen Victoria that the Staffordshire potters first produced their characteristic portrait pottery. The young Queen and her family inspired enough pottery models to suggest an important collection in themselves. Pictured right: c1840s Staffordshire figures of Queen Victoria and Albert on horseback. Image from Richard Gardner Antiques. (Richard Gardner Antiques have an excellent selection of Staffordshire Pottery – click to visit) It is clear that these pieces originated in diverse factories although it is proving difficult to pinpoint the whereabouts of manufacture. There are no trademarks to guide us, nor are there old catalogues nor appropriate advertisements extant. A collector will recognise affinities in manufacture and can group the figures accordingly, but only two or three factories have been traced with any certainty. However, we hope to show that perhaps a more important way of classifying the portrait figures is to group them chronologically and by profession. Many of the pieces which we can attribute to the 1840’s show a porcelainous character. They tend to be smaller and more highly coloured than the later ones and are sometimes made in the round. In fact, it is not until a decade later that we consistently find the characteristic flat-back earthenware. The 1850’s were the halcyon days for the potter and his customers, and Crimean time pottery is Victorian Staffordshire pottery at its finest. The Queen comes first in time and importance in the royal list. A model labelled “Victoria,” in the possession of Mr. R. Shockledge, in which she holds orb and sceptre, might well have been made at the time of her coronation. Very soon, and romantically, appear portraits of Prince Albert as well. Both the Queen and her husband occur in numerous forms : standing, sitting, enthroned and also mounted on horseback. Frequently, these pieces were not labelled, but where they are named the inscription is usually ” Queen ” and ” Albert ” or, very rarely, ” Queen Victoria ” and Prince Albert.” We do not know of any piece entitled “Prince Consort ” and if any were made at the time of his death they needed no label. A large model of the Queen, made about 1870 and paired with the Prince of Wales, has the inscription ” Queen of England.” This model was used again, with a fuller inscription, both at her Jubilee in 1887 and her Diamond Jubilee ten years later. The figure became progressively debased in form. As the children arrived the potters became busier than ever. Charming pieces show the Queen seated, both with Prince Albert and alone, holding the infant Princess Royal in her arms. A tiny crown appears on the child’s long clothes. The pieces portraying the royal parents and children mount up like the photographs in a family album. Over and over again the little Princess Royal and Prince of Wales appear, separately with their toys and also playing together in their pony carriage or in one of their fancy boats. Pairs show them riding their goats and their ponies. It was some time before we could recognise these royal children apart and then we realized, of course, that although he too wears a skirt the little Prince always bestrides his steed whilst his royal sister rides side-saddle. From one factory comes a delightful series of the Queen and her husband at play with their children, even teaching them to ride. The royal residences are represented in this portrait cavalcade by Balmoral and Windsor Castle. As the children grow older the Prince of Wales becomes the favourite and there are figures showing him at every stage. Sometimes he is paired with his younger brother, Prince Alfred the sailor. A fine piece, which must have been made about the time of their betrothal in 1858, shows the Princess Royal and Prince Frederick William of Prussia together; and a handsome equestrian pair was made on their marriage. Then come numerous groups and pairs entitled ” Prince and Princess : ” the Prince of Wales and his bride to be, Princess Alexandra. There is a rare and very fine pair, presumably dating from their marriage in the early seventies, of Prince Alfred the first Duke of Edinburgh and the Czar’s only daughter. Most of the sons and daughters of the Queen, and their wives and husbands, are known to have been portrayed. Nor were the heads of foreign royal houses forgotten. At the time we started our collection we found just one figure of a living member of the royal family: Queen Mary shown as ” Princess May,” at the time of her betrothal to the Duke of Clarence of whom a figure also was made. The lively market for royal figures did not exclude numerous other persons from the potters’ lists. Popular politicians were in demand and it is not surprising demand and it is not surprising that numerous figures were made of Peel and Cobden, probably in 1846 at the time of the repeal of the Corn Laws. In fact, a standing figure of Peel has an additional figure of Peel has an additional inscription ” Repeal of the Corn Law.” A seated figure of Cobden shows him with sheaf of corn and orator’s scroll and there is a splendid equestrian figure of Sir Robert Peel made at the time of his death in 1850. A still rarer figure of Peel has his name inscribed on the pillar and an unusual circular base. Pictured right: Staffordshire Pottery figure of Richard Cobden MP (1804-1865). Full-length Staffordshire figure of Richard Cobden, standing, bare-headed. Right hand on his hip, left holding a paper against his leg; a pedestal behind it. (1804-52) M.P. 1841-65. He and John Bright were the principal agitators for the repeal of the Corn Laws. Image part of the National Trust Inventory Number 709134. Visit https://www.nationaltrustimages.org.uk/ for more details. There are at least eleven different models of the national hero, Wellington. They show him first as a soldier, then as an elder statesmen […]
Why have collectors suddenly gone overboard for an out-of-proportion teen with scary eyes? And what can you do if you can`t afford the £500 or so needed to buy one? Blythe was a novelty doll produced by Kenner in 1972, and distributed in Britain by Palitoy. She was just under twelve inches tall, with a slender teen body and an overlarge head. Her most amazing accomplishment was that she could change the position and colour of her eyes. In fact, this wasn’t an innovative development – Pedigree had done much the same thing when they manufactured Pretty Peepers in the late 1950s, though this was a much larger doll standing 22 inches high, and her head was normal size. Presumably, Blythe needed the large head to incorporate the eye-change mechanism, which was operated by a pull cord running from the back of the head. Blythe’s eyes were large and round, and they changed from green to pink to amber to blue each time the string was pulled, momentarily closing between each pull. The blue and green eyes were side-glance, amber and pink looked straight ahead. Her appearance was revolutionary for the time – in fact, she scared children which may well be why she was soon discontinued, though another reason could be that a child’s frenzied pulling of the cord could cause it to break or the mechanism to jam. Twelve outfits were available for the doll, and she was obtainable with four hair colours – blonde, brunette, dark brown and auburn, some with fringes, some with a centre parting. She wasn’t a great success, and probably would have been ignored by doll collectors, until something happened which gave her a new lease of life and, indirectly, spawned a complete turnaround in the doll world culminating in a line of dolls which today outstrip sales of everything else. A few years ago, a lady called Gina Goran wanted to try out a camera, and grabbed the first doll she could find to test out the lens. It so happened that this lady had accumulated a collection of Blythe dolls. When she saw how great Blythe was as a model, she decided to dress the doll in unusual outfits and to photograph her in various place-settings. The resulting photos were gathered into a small book – and the result is history. Within a few months, prices for Blythe dolls had escalated, and a doll you could once find for a couple of pounds at a boot sale was now like gold dust. Blythe originally came wearing a long maxi-dress. The light brunette wore ‘Golden Goddess’ (yellow, trimmed with braid), the dark brunette, ‘Medieval Mood’ (brown with a Celtic pattern), auburn, ‘Love ‘n’ Lace’ (green scattered with flowers) and the blonde ‘Pretty Paisley’ (blue paisley print). Her range of outfits were sold carded with helpful photos on the reverse showing other items in the range, and included ‘Lounging Lovely’, ‘Roaring Red’, ‘Kozy Kape’, ‘Aztec Arrival’, ‘Pleasant Peasant’ and ‘Pow-Wow Poncho’. ‘Priceless Parfait’ consisted of a boldly-patterned yellow, blue and pink skirt, pink top with matching bag, fringed scarf and scarlet boots, while ‘Pinafore Purple’ was a purple all-in-one with flared sleeves and a medallion-patterned skirt worn over the top. All the garments had a typical ethnic-type Seventies look with pl enty of braid and fringing. Usually a label was attached inside with Blythe’s name on, which makes identification easy today, though in any case the clothes are very distinctive. An attractive ‘Blythe’s Fashion Wardrobe Case’ bearing a picture of Blythe, was available to store one doll and her outfits. Additionally, it was possible to buy a set of zany wigs to fit Blythe. These delightfully frothy affairs came in ‘Strawberry’ (pink), ‘Lime’ (green), ‘Blueberry’ (blue) and ‘Lemon’ (yellow), complete with a pair of trendy sunglasses. Each wig had its own polystyrene wig-stand, and a special combined brush and comb. Once Blythe was flaunting this movie-star get-up her appearance was amazingly altered. When Blythe made her come-back, fans clamoured for her. Takara, a Hasbro-owned Japanese company brought out their own range of Blythe dolls around four years ago, which proved immensely popular, and these have evolved to the extent that the plastic and colouring is almost identical to the original Kenner/Palitoy 1970s dolls. They feature the four colour eye-change mechanism worked by a pull string. The Japanese people have taken this new Blythe to their hearts, dressing her in street-wise, kookie fashions. Unfortunately, she is quite difficult to obtain in Britain, and it is normally necessary to use the internet or mail order to obtain her. These Blythes are not cheap, costing around £65 – though a range of four-inch high mini Blythes are much more affordable. Takara Blythes are sold in brightly coloured boxes with retro graphics reminiscent of the seventies. Their dolls have names such as Modrian, Dotty Dot, Hollywood, Disco Boogie, and Lounging Lovely, and their clothes are chic and pretty, some being replicas of the original Blythe outfits, and others very ‘girlie’, with pastel pink and blue jackets and floaty dresses. Another company producing a similar doll is Pullip, again Japanese based, owned by Jun Planning. Pullip dolls are a slightly more ‘grown-up’ version of Blythe, with a shaped body. The limbs are fully articulated, even the wrists and ankles. Their outfits are wacky, colourful and cool, and they are proving very popular, though it seems that stockists are only allowed a few of each new version, and you often have to order in advance. Pullips cost around £60, and the mini-Pullips are under £10. However, the eye action on a Pullip is not a colour-change, it is a side-glance and winking movement, controlled by levers at the back of the doll`s head. Pullip dolls have names such as Arietta, Bouquet, Noir, Withered, Chicca, Principessa, Squall and Venus. Additionally, there are storybook versions – Alice In Wonderland, Ann of Green Gables and Red Riding Hood. There is also a boy, who is known as Namu, and he stands taller than Pullip, about fourteen inches high. Namu comes in various versions including Trunk, Wolf and Vispo. The costumes and accessories […]
When it comes to innovative design there are two sisters that instantly spring to mind, Freda and Dorothy Doughty. Between them they were not only responsible for creating some of the most spectacular ceramic figurines but also for saving one of the UK’s best loved factories – Royal Worcester. Dorothy had a passion for nature which is evident in her bird figurines but Freda’s designs of enchanting loveable children at play changed the way Royal Worcester was perceived being not only hugely successful back in the 1930s but also highly sought after by collectors today. Born to the wife of the famous explorer and Poet, Charles Doughty, in San Marino, Italy, Freda and her sister Dorothy were brought to Kent in the UK when they were still small children. In 1926 their father passed away leaving the girls, who were unmarried, to run the family home. Dorothy was a keen naturalist and ornithologist who also had a talent for painting. She attended the Eastbourne College of Art where she excelled. Very little is known about Freda’s early life but we do know that she also had a keen interest in art and ran ceramic modelling classes for children, from the house. These children became great inspiration for Freda and she would frequently create ceramic models of them, totally unaware at the time of what impact her child figurines would have on saving one of the most reputable British ceramic factories from demise. In 1930 the Royal Worcester factory was having financial difficulties and was on the brink of closing. Businessman, Charles Dyson Perrins saved the day by purchasing the factory and paying the workers out of his own pocket until the company was stable again. Another initiative that he introduced was a new group of modellers who were mostly women. They were responsible for helping enlighten the factory once again. One of the Directors of Royal Worcester saw Freda’s child figurines whilst staying with her cousin and so asked if Freda would submit something to the factory. This was to be the start of a flourishing career for Freda both as a modeller and designer. The first four models were exhibited at a London Art Gallery along with offerings from the other freelance designers. In comparison to the more ‘avant-garde’ designs that were created by her colleagues, Freda’s children were very simplistic and considered to be old fashioned. However the public absolutely loved them and as a result Freda quickly became one of the most prolific and successful artists at the factory. During her long career with Royal Worcester, Freda produced over 100 different models, most of which were produced many times over. Each piece showed children either playing in the garden, on the beach or simply enjoying their youth. ‘Grandmother’s Dress’ and ‘Boy with Parakeet’ were two of the most popular and so were created in various colourways. Other successful ranges were ‘Days of the Week’ and ‘Months of the Year’ which were also produced over a long period of time. By 1934 Royal Worcester decided to introduce a range featuring Birds of America in order to re-establish themselves in the American market. A series of cabinet plates illustrating images from the Audubon Birds of America book were issued in limited edition sizes and proved to be a huge success. The Art Publisher of the book, Mr Dickens, then approached Royal Worcester again about the possibility of creating three dimensional bird figurines. His requirements were specific and the figurines had to have a matt finish which would help create a realistic feel. Freda was by now very popular with the public and had released many models of her children. So the Art Director, Mr Gimson approached Freda to see if she would be interested in sculpting the new range of bird figurines. Although a talented and versatile modeller she introduced Mr Gimson to her sister Dorothy who, Freda believed, would be perfect for the job. Dorothy already had a sound knowledge of birds, a fine artistic flair and also a legendary photographic memory for small details so this particular project was ideal. There was no doubt that Dorothy was skilled in watercolour and sketching but needed to learn the art of producing models for ceramics. Freda spent time teaching her how to create plasticine models and cut them to produce the required moulds for slip casting. The first few bird figurines were produced by studying photographs but these earlier models lacked the vibrancy of her later pieces which were created by modelling from life. It became apparent to Dorothy that the method of slip casting was unsuitable for making finer details such as flowers, so a workshop was set up and Dorothy along with a team of trainees began to hand mould the details. The bird figurines were all extremely complex to create and so were produced in limited edition sizes, a culture that was being adopted as it appealed to the public. On many occasions Freda was asked if she would like to make some limited editions of her child figurines, but she declined. She was a believer that her particular figures were to be bought and enjoyed by everyone and so be easily accessible rather than limited to just a few lucky people. Throughout the war years much of the factory production ceased as the staff concentrated on the war effort. Dorothy still worked on some of her bird figurines but also became an ambulance driver and was involved with secret experimental work with aircraft production. Sadly she then fell very ill and so together with her sister Freda, moved to Falmouth in Cornwall although together they continued their work for the Royal Worcester factory. By the 1950s Royal Worcester once again was experiencing financial difficulties and it is said that Freda’s child figurines especially ‘Grandmother’s Dress’ and ‘Boy with Parakeet’ were a contributing factor to the company’s survival. Dorothy continued to create her bird figurines but sadly in 1962 was taken seriously ill again and […]
WCN has been a fan of artist Colin Rayne for some time and in this feature we take a look at his varied and unique artefacts. Colin’s work ranges from traditional oil and watercolour paintings to incredible clocks, from sculpture to kinetic art, and from glass sculpture to large scale commissions. Colin Rayne was interested in art from an early age winning prizes for art at school and he was frequently encouraged to copy ‘old master’ paintings. After school, Rayne served an apprenticeship in his father’s dental equipment manufacturing company Norman Rayne Ltd which gave him experience in precision and cinematograph engineering which would serve him well in his creation and design of kinetic art and clocks. Hence, ‘a seemingly unusual alliance’ of the arts and sciences, forms the basis of Rayne’s prolific and uniquely creative and prolific artistic life. Colin had a number of successful exhibitions in London and led to many notable commissions. Early on in the mid 1960’s when Harold Wilson was premiere, London’s Post Office Tower was erected close to Norman Rayne Ltd where Colin was studying design drawing. Colin created an Illuminated Scale Model (1″:30′) of the building with rotating restaurant for the advertising department of P.O. Telecommunications. The resulting publicity, which included a live six minute interview on BBC TV, greatly encouraged him to work independently. In 1983 he was elected a Member of The British Horological Institute and was invited to display two pieces of work in London’s Goldsmiths Hall in 1987. At WCN we believe that the combination of Colin’s art, innovation and engineering are portrayed best in his clocks and kinetic art. One of Colin’s most impressive pieces is the Stonehenge clock. Stonehenge 2000 – Neolithic Time The wall mounted sculpture recreates the most ancient relics of the Stonehenge monument, showing the stones as they would probably have looked when first built. An Arc of twelve ‘Sarcen’ stones in acrylic, light individually, to indicate the ‘hour’, and an ‘Oval’ of acrylic ‘lintel’ stones divided into sixty, indicate the minute. Time showing: 9.23. The inner rings and the ‘Altar’ stone are cut from ‘Spotted Dolerite’ from the Presilli Hills of Wales. (The same location from which the actual monument’s stone was obtained). The clock’s circuitry is based upon 4.193mhz crystal, subdivided into minutes and hours. The 72 LEDs are driven from serial shaft registers; – ‘CMOS’ logic is used. The Stonehenge Horlogical Sculpture is available at £7,500. Colin’s recent works include The Ancient of Days by William Blake inspired by a 10” x 8” print forbook illustration is one of eight, all slightly different. Colin says of the piece “I hope that Blake would be flattered by my tribute to him, were he with us today, and that my followers will find it of interest, and offer some stimulating thought!” In 1983 Rayne moved from London to Brighton and in 2000 created a private gallery The House of Rayne, close to the South Downs which has on display a permanent show of approximately 100 artefacts. For more information including a virtual tour of the gallery visit TheHouseofRayne.co.uk and remember to see the kinetic art page which is of particular interest. The gallery can also be contacted by phone UK + 44.7870125991 and by email to [email protected]
Victorian Christmas Cards Victorian Christmas Cards – The very first Christmas card was printed in December 1843, at the request of Sir Henry Cole, who was also the instigator of the Great Exhibition of 1851 and founder and first director of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Indeed, he was responsible for the whole idea of sending Christmas cards through the post when he decided to surprise his friends with a novel and colourful card at Christmas time instead of the usual Christmas letter. The artist J.C.Horsley was commissioned to produce the card which is now among the most sought after by collectors. The card illustrated a wealthy family enjoying a Christmas feast as they all toast the festive season by sipping wine and it was all set whithin a woody, rustic border hung with ivy, grapes and vine leaves (holly did not appear on Christmas cards until 1848). In fact, some years ago, one such card was sold to an American buyer by a well-known London auction firm for £400. Another came up for auction in November 1987, and it fetched an incredible £2,000. Pictured an exceptional Victorian fold out Christmas Card. This card sold for £135.88 on ebay in June 2016. One of the most avid collectors of Victorian Christmas cards was Queen Mary, and she amassed a large number of cards bought by Queen Victoria who, not only sent such attractive cards to her immediate family, but she sent them also to her very many servants at Windsor and Osborne. Queen Mary’s collection of cards were placed in a large number of albums and these are housed in the British Museum in London. However, the greatest Christmas card collector of all time must be Johnathom King of Islington, London, who spent his whole life collecting these cards. In the 1890s his collection weighed between six and seven tons, and included nearly 200,000 cards published between 1862 and 1895. He did intend to donate this unique collection to the British Museum at his death, but unfortunately his massive collection was almost destroyed in a fire that gutted his house, so that many unique cards have been lost forever. Many cards were extremely elaborate with gilded, embossed, shaped, pop-up and pierced forms. Very few of these early Victorian Christmas cards illustrate the religious meaning of the festival, and they rarely show landscapes blanketed in snow or warmly clad skaters on ponds or even reindeers pulling Father Christmas’s sleigh over the countryside which are all so common today on our cards. The Victorians illustrated nature in all its form on their cards since they were passionately fond of the countryside, and so they gloried in colourful cards which depicted delightful pictures of spring and summer in particular. Very early Christmas cards hence have attractive birds on them together with their nests and eggs. Flowers of the countryside were also immensely popular as illustrations, and flying butterflies among stalks of wheat and even insects landing on ripening blackberries were included by the early artists of Christmas cards. All these images were a reminder to everyone that bleak Winter would soon give way to sunny days once again since nature was but resting at Christmas time. Many collectors of Victorian Christmas cards will search avidly for the renowned artists of the time who illustrated such beautiful scenes which appeared wide such regularity on them. Many of them were actually members of the Royal Academy such as G.D. Leslie, J.C. Herbert, Geroge Clausen, W.C.T. Dobson end W.T. Yeames, all of whom were paid many thousands of pounds by Christmas card manufacturers of the time for their illustrations. Another area for collecting is that of the poets who penned verses for these lovely cards. We know that Alfred Lord Tennyson, the one time Poet Laureate, was offered as much as a thousand guineas if he would contribute a dozen or so short pieces suitable for such cards – but he declined the lucrative offer. It’s quite easy to come across on these cards, the work of Helen Burnside, who was the favorite poet of Queen Victoria. Between 1874 and 1900 she penned as many as 6,000 Christmas card verses, and so earned for herself, the title o the ‘Poet Laureate of Christmas cards’. Small children were sentimentalised on Victorian Christmas cards, with children of the poor and orphans as well, being extensively portrayed. Indeed, a large number of such cards were published at the time; it was the era of sailor suits and pretty bonnets in particular. Domestic animals were also popular on cards in particular cats in comic poses around the household and dogs in anthropomorphic postures, such wearing funny hats or posting letters. Perhaps the most expensive of all Victorian Christmas cards are those which have special shapes to them. These delightful cards are often seen as circles, oblongs or a half-moon, and the ‘Hold To Light’ card, where hidden scenes appear as the card is held to the lights, is prized indeed by collectors. Will the cards of today be so highly prized in one hundred years time? Victorian Christmas Cards Price Guide – Prices for Victorian Christmas Cards can vary from £1/$1.50 to £200/$300 and upwards. Prices for the same card can also vary greatly. ebay is the main access to purchase Victorian Christmas Cards and also a good place to check values. There are normally a thousand or so cards on at anyone time – click to view Victorian Christmas Cards on ebay. Pictures from Collectables Magazine and selected text by David Watkins More on Victoriana.
This was a fun era; nowadays, people look back and cruelly refer to it as the decade which taste forgot – but at the time, we didn’t realise we were living in a cultural wasteland! The seventies was a colourful decade which still incorporated the sixties swirling psychedelic patterns. Large flowers – especially daisies – were on everything from ceramics to soft furnishing, and even baby items weren’t immune from the floral embellishments. A particular favourite shade was orange, often teemed with brown or green, while lilac, turquoise, purple and hot pink also featured strongly. Towards the end of the seventies, though, earth colours of sage green and sludge became fashionable, as designers rebelled. We were getting back to nature. In Britain the decade was off to a flying start when the first ‘Jumbo Jet’, a Pan American 747, flew into Heathrow Airport in January 1970. Four years later, supersonic passenger service was inaugurated when Concorde took to the skies. The switch to decimal currency caused problems for a while until we all understood the new-fangled money, while 1973 saw the introduction of Value Added Tax. A lady politician with a penchant for blue suits, handbags and neatly permed hair became the first-ever British woman to head a political party when she was chosen by the Conservative Party as its new leader in 1975. Just a year earlier, the country was stunned after aristocratic Lord Lucan was named as the prime suspect after his children’s nanny was murdered, and his wife viciously attacked. He disappeared and has not been seen since, though reports of sightings still make the headlines. The classic rock opera movie, ‘Tommy’, was released in 1975. It featured Elton John as the Pinball Wizard, towering over the other performers in an amazing pair of 4ft. 6ins high platform shoes. Other notable movies from the decade included ‘Cabaret’, ‘Jaws’, ‘Superman’, ‘Saturday Night Fever’, ‘Grease’, ‘Star Trek The Motion Picture’ and all-time favourite, ‘Star Wars’, which spawned countless toys and dolls. Television ratings were dominated by the comedy duo Morecambe and Wise who attracted viewers in their millions. ‘Glam Rock’ was very much the in-thing, with T. Rex, David Bowie, Gary Glitter and Queen topping the charts, and pop fans were still reeling from the shock of the Beatles break-up. The sudden death of Elvis Presley was another tragic blow to the music industry. Amongst the soon-to-be-indispensable discoveries were floppy disks, laser printers, video-cassette recorders, post-it notes, liquid crystal displays, food processors, cellular phones and walkmans. Walt Disney World opened in Florida, changing the face and expectations of holiday entertainment, while in Britain the 1970s was the decade of the package tour. Flared trousers, platform soles, kaftans, maxi-dresses, cheesecloth tops, afghan coats edged with fleece, huge sunglasses, cowbells, braid, beads and fringing were all part of the fashion scene. Punks emerged in the mid-seventies, amazing Londoners with their spiky coloured hair, safety-pinned, ripped clothing and studded flesh, while, in complete contrast, delicate Laura Ashley dresses adorned fashionable young ladies. Innovation was the keyword in the world of dolls. Manufacturers experimented with all kinds of movements; dolls danced, sung, cart-wheeled, roller-skated, blew kisses, wrote their names, grew their hair, laughed, inflated balloons and generally had a jolly good time. The majority of the performing dolls were battery-operated, though clockwork occasionally appeared. Another popular device was the pull cord mechanism, though this wasn’t so robust and was prone to snapping or to a deterioration of the device, causing it to spin. Teen dolls were also big news, with Pippa, Action Girl, Daisy and Tressy all vying with Sindy, who was still going strong, while a beautiful baby doll called First Love was launched by Pedigree as a rival to Palitoy’s Tiny Tears. Larger size teens were in vogue too, especially those with ‘growing hair’ such as Sheena and the Crissy series. And, by complete contrast, simple rag dolls such as Holly Hobbie and Sarah Kay, or hard vinyl Sasha dolls with dreamy, barely-there features, were purchased by those who wanted to rebel against the high-tech playthings. Katie Kopycat, Penny Puppywalker, Baby Won’t Let Go, Miss Happy Heart, Tracy Tea Party and Baby Alive are amongst those which today’s collectors seek out; they are remembered with affection and are classics of their time. Many of the dolls, despite being made or marketed in the United Kingdom, used American moulds or technology and therefore have US counterparts, though often bearing different names. Katie Kopycat, by Palitoy, was a distinctive girl with a hard plastic body and limbs which were unusually jointed at the elbows. Her head was of softer vinyl with blonde hair and painted eyes. Katie came with her own desk and could write or draw with the aid of a pantograph. Bradgate’s Penny Puppywalker was operated by means of an air-filled pump, which allowed her to take her puppy for a stroll, while Miss Happy Heart’s chest contained a ‘beating heart’, a controversial mechanism which unnerved many people. This doll, resplendent in a red and silver lame mini dress, was made by Bluebell. Kenner’s Tracy Tea Party, a pretty girl with a beaming smile, made herself useful by pouring tea and handing round the biscuits. She was distinctive with her jointed wrists and twist waist, and could also bow and seductively flutter her eye-lashes. Palitoy’s Baby Won’t Let Go had ‘magic gripping hands’, while Baby Alive, by the same company, could be fed a special food, sold in powdered form and mixed with water to make it palatable. This was one of their most successful dolls. Other Palitoy successes included a series of talking dolls operated either by pull cord or battery. As a tie-in with the nostalgia trend, many of these were dressed in Victorian-type print dresses and white pinafores. Perhaps the two most distinctive dolls from the era were Pedigree’s Popsy Posy and Palitoy’s Blythe. Popsy, clad in a flower-power trouser suit, could assume all kinds of strange […]
Throughout the horrors of the First World War, artist Bruce Bairnsfather managed to raise smiles with his drawings of life in the trenches. But who was he?
Perfume Bottle Collecting has grown in popularity forming a part of our social and design history. Walk into any cosmetics department and the sweet smell of perfume fills the air. You can choose from designer brand names such as Christian Dior and Chanel to celebrity endorsed scents by pop princesses’ Jennifer Lopez and Brittany Spears. But from a collectors point of view it is not the smell that entices them to the shelves but the collectability of the innovative designed bottles. The word perfume is taken from the Latin word per fumum, which translated means through smoke and has been used for different reasons throughout the Centuries. The Egyptians used scented bandages when embalming, as it was supposed to be a symbol of eternity, in later centuries perfume was used as a method of hygiene to cover up repulsive smells but today it is purely for cosmetic reasons, to make us smell nice and attract the opposite sex. Throughout the ages perfume has been packaged in various shaped bottles made of many different materials. The ancient world used blown glass and alabaster whilst the Victorians favoured silver topped glass bottles. One of the most collected Victorian bottle is the dual-purpose double-ended one, two bottles fused together they are usually found in green, ruby or blue coloured glass, one end contained the flowery scent that the Victorian ladies liked to wear and the other for their smelling salts. Prices vary depending on where you buy but expect to pay £200 retail or £100 plus for one at auction (in April 2005 Dreweatt Neate Saleroom sold a collection of three double-ended bottles for £310.) It was the turn into the 20th Century when the perfume industry began to introduce pre-packaged scents for women to buy directly over the counter. Perfumeries commissioned glass manufacturers like Baccarat and Lalique to produce high quality bottles to house these scents. The Lalique ones have become highly sought after by collectors and some command big money at auction, a rare “Bouchon Mures” Lalique bottle was sold at Bonhams saleroom in 1990 for a staggering hammer price of £38,000, but don’t despair if this is a little harsh for your pocket, as you can purchase Lalique bottles for much more affordable prices. The “Girlandes de Perles” and “Cactus Pattern Globular” bottles each made a hammer price of £240 at Dreweatt Neate’s salerooms, and if you shop around you can buy a small bottle of the well-known scent “L’Air du Temps” by Nina Ricci for about £100. A Lalique perfume bottle of any sort would be a centrepiece for any perfume bottle collection. Baccarat was other leading glass manufacturer that created amazing innovative bottles to house ladies scents. One of their most recognised designs was for French Perfume h ouse “Guerlain”. The bottle has an inverted heart shaped stopper and displays the “Guerlain Paris” label on the front. “L’Heure Bleue” was the first scent to be launched by Guerlain in this bottle in 1912 and they used the same design for “Fol Arome” and “Mitsouko” in the following years. I managed to buy an example in its original box holding half the scent for £85 but I suspect it is probably worth in the region of £120 – £150. As with any female fashion collectable such as handbags or jewellery, perfume bottles really came into their own in the 1920’s. Women became more aware of their looks embracing the Jazz Age with vibrant colours, short skirts and even shorter hair. Many designer houses moved with the times and encouraged the women to complement their looks with classy scents in stylish bottles. Coco Chanel launched its signature scent “No.5” in 1921, the bottle was very stylish and chic epitomising the era that it was launched, very simple in design it oozed class and also enabled women to buy a piece of Chanel at an affordable price, especially appealing to those who could not afford the Chanel clothing ranges. One of these original bottles today, can fetch around £35-£45 if still with box or £20-£25 without the box. “Schiaparelli” was another leading fashion designer who presented her perfumes in beautiful designs, “Shocking” one of her most famous scents was inspired by the actress Mae West, this bottle is very similar to Jean Paul Gaultier’s designs today as it is in the shape of a shopmaker’s dummy, whilst Jean Paul Gaultier bottles are in the shape of female and male torsos. A rare piece, the Schiaparelli bottle can cost £250+ on the secondary market. Another of her sought after bottles are those shaped like candles, they housed the scent called “Sleeping” and were designed by Baccarat, these can fetch around £100 – £200 depending on the size and condition. The fifties continued with imaginative bottles; Max Factor produced the velour covered cat to hold their scents “Electrique”, “Primitif” and “Hypnotique.” These dome covered felines are reasonably common and cost around £10 – £20. The 1960’s saw Avon dominate the novelty perfume bottle industry producing containers for scent in every possible guise, also producing solid perfume containers that could be worn as pins on ladies clothing. Another major fashion designer of the 60s was Barbara Hulanicki founder of the Biba chain. She produced everything from scents to oils in stylised black bottles with the trademark gold logo, and these bottles are highly reminiscent of the Art Deco period in design. Today there is a huge array of different scents and novelty bottles to choose from in the commercial perfume industry but collectors are also attracted to the studio glass bottles that are skilfully made by various glassmakers. All leading manufacturers of these art glass creations, each bring a different trait to their trade and have their own personalities imprinted into their designs, these bottles are made as decorative pieces rather than functional and are to be displayed and admired. Look to manufacturers such as Isle of Wight, Okra and Glasform for high quality hand created art glass perfume bottles. Perfume bottles have […]