You see them every day. They fasten your shirt together, hold your pants up, and maybe make a fashion statement on your new sweater. Buttons! Almost everyone has some buttons stashed away in a box or jar. They can be plain and simple, or truly elegant works of art. Due to our natural hoarding instincts, buttons find their way into nooks and crannies in our homes. It is time for them to step up and take their rightful place as a popular collectible. History of Buttons Buttons have been in use for hundreds of years. In very early times, clothing was fastened with ties or pins, but gradually toggles and buttons as we know them came to be in use. Many ancient burials have included buttons or button-like objects. In the Early and Middle Bronze Age, large buttons were primarily used to fasten cloaks. By the 13th century, buttons were widely in use, mainly as decoration. As most clothing of that time period was closed with lacing or hooks, garments didn’t use buttons as methods of closing on a regular basis until the last half of the 16th century. Most of the buttons from this time period were small, but over the next century or so they became larger and very ornate, often using precious metals and jewels. During the 17th and 18th Century, most buttons were worn by men. By the 18th century, buttons were becoming larger, and had even more elaborate designs. Buttons continued to make a fashion statement and the button-making industry hit such a high standard that the period from 1830-1850 has become known as the Golden Age. As mass production techniques progressed, and new synthetic materials were developed, the general standard declined. From 1860 on, women have been the main consumers of “novelty” buttons. A button is officially an object that can be used to fasten garments, with either a shank (usually a loop) on the back used to sew the button to the clothing, or with holes in the center to allow thread to pass through the body of the button. Design of Buttons Buttons have been made from almost every material found in nature or created by man. Metals are one of the most popular materials, including everything from iron to gold. Another popular material used in button making is mother of pearl, or shell of any kind. Bone, ivory, cloth, glass, stone, cinnabar, horn, antler, leather, papiér maché, ceramic, celluloid, Bakelite, and wood, plus any combination of these, have been used to fashion these miniature works of art. One of the most interesting and misrepresented materials used in buttons is jet. This is a naturally occurring mineral, with a carbon base. It is lightweight and fragile, so surviving examples are very hard to come by. Queen Victoria started a fashion in 1861 by wearing black jet buttons to mourn the death of her husband Albert. Since jet was such a rare and expensive mineral, black glass came to be substituted by the rest of the population for their mourning attire. Consequently, black glass buttons are still very common today, but are often mislabeled as “jet” buttons. Adding to the confusion were a number of companies that made black glass buttons and marketed them as “French Jet.” One way to test whether that black button you found is jet or glass is by giving it the floating test. Glass buttons will sink to the bottom in a glass of water, but the lightweight jet buttons will float. Fashion of Buttons Throughout the years, the decorations on buttons have reflected both the fashion and passions of the time. Nearly everything has been pictured on a button. Animals are one of the most popular subjects, along with plant life and objects like belt buckles and hats. Some buttons are shaped like the item they portray, and are known as “realistics” for their realistic appearance. Others simply had the design engraved, stamped, painted or enameled on the surface of a conventionally shaped button. Many of the antique buttons feature very detailed paintings in miniature. A rare and very unusual type of button is called a “habitat.” These have a metal back, with a dome shaped glass cap. But what makes them special is what is UNDER the glass. These buttons include dried plant and animal material, usually arranged to create a natural looking scene. Sometimes whole insects were used. Because of their age, and lack of preservation techniques used in the past, these buttons are rarely seen, and often in poor condition. A good quality habitat button will often sell for several hundred dollars. People and their many activities is another popular subject. Architectural objects like buildings, bridges and monuments also decorated many buttons. Political candidates, opera stars, and fairy tales are richly represented, and are favorites with collectors. Some buttons even portray risqué subjects. Buttons produced for George Washington’s inauguration are some of the most sought-after buttons in the United States. Uniform buttons fall into a special category all their own. Most of us automatically think of the military when we think of uniforms, but there are an amazing variety of uniforms in our society. Both Police and Fire Departments have their own buttons, often with the name of the city stamped on the front. Bus lines, airlines, shipping lines, city or state employees, hotels, railroads, banks, and even schools have their own unique buttons. A related field is Livery buttons. These buttons were worn by servants in large households, usually in England, and had the family’s coat of arms or crest on it. There are many collectibles related to buttons. It is not unusual to find a button collector that also hunts out belt buckles, cuff links and studs, buttonhooks, netsuke, or bridle rosettes. These are another way to add variety to your collection. Passion One advantage button collecting has over many other collectibles is that many of them are very reasonably priced. They can range in price from a few cents for […]
Muffin the Mule was a puppet character on the British children’s television show For the Children that first aired on the BBC in 1946. The show featured a wooden puppet mule who would interact and dance along with human characters. Although the show was very popular with children, it also had an appeal for adults. The humour and wit of the show made it entertaining for all ages. Over the years, Muffin the Mule has become an iconic figure in British culture. He is often referenced in popular culture and has been featured in commercials, movies, and books. For many people, Muffin the Mule is a reminder of their childhood and a symbol of British culture. We take a brief look how Muffin the Mule was created and look at some of the Muffin the Mule collectables and Muffin the Mule merchandise over the years in this Collecting Muffin the Mule feature. The original Muffin the Mule puppet was created in 1933 by puppet maker Fred Tickner for puppeteers Jan Bussell and Ann Hogarth. Although we know him as Muffin, the puppet was originally unnamed. The puppet was part of a puppet circus made for the Hogarth Puppet Theatre. The couple had met while they were both working as puppeteers in London. They married in 1932 and decided to open their own puppet theatre. The original Muffin the Mule puppet was made from papier-mâché and had a wooden head. It was operated by two strings, one attached to each side of the head. Muffin was used for a short while but as Jan Bussell and Ann Hogarth moved on to more experimental and dramatic puppetry he was put away, re-appearing some 12 years later 1946. Bussell and Hogarth were working with presenter Annette Mills (sister of actor John Mills). Annette Mills named the puppet mule “Muffin”, and it first appeared on television in an edition of For the Children broadcast on 20 October 1946, where she performed as a singer, pianist and story teller. She wrote the songs and the music, including Muffin’s popular signature theme song “We Want Muffin! (Muffin The Mule)”, some of which appeared Muffin the Mule songbooks, as well as making records. Ann Hogarth wrote the scripts for the series. The show ran on the BBC until 1955 when Annette Mills died. During the show Muffin the Mule used to clip-clop and dance around on top of a piano which was being played by Annette Mills. Annette and Muffin would interact and the show appealed to not only children but to adults as well. Other characters were later added to the show including Prudence the Kitten (who went on to have her own show), Mr Peregrine the Penguin, Sally the Sea-Lion, Louise the Lamb, Oswald the Ostrich, and Morris and Doris the field mice. As Muffin the Mule’s popularity grew a range of merchandising, toys and comics were created mainly on Muffin but a few products were created featuring other characters. Lesney created a die-cast movable puppet which according the Museum of Childhood in Edinburgh was “the first toy to be marketed under licence as a result of a successful TV appearances”. Other items include Toy Television Sets, a Muffin the Mule Pelham Puppet, games, Metal figures by Argosy Toys, licensed pottery, tins and much more.
Since history began man has attempted to smoke various burning herbs in different ways, but the first appearance of the pipe, functioning on the principle of the familiar briar, is a matter for conjecture. Pictured left: An American Indian Stone Pipe With Lead Inlay To The Bowl And Stem 6In. (15Cm.) Long. Sold for £1,320 at Christies, London, The Fine Art of Smoking sale, May 2006. Image Copyright Christies. The earliest known pipes have been discovered in the neolithic barrows of the Mississippi valley, and were made of porphyritic and other hard stone, tubular in shape or consisting of a tube with a central bowl. Many of these pipes, which are over 5000 years old, are elaborately carved with representations of animals, and from that time to this day, a lot of care and artistry has gone into the making of pipes all over the world. The Maya tribes, who migrated from North America to the Yucatan peninsula and other parts of Mexico before the Christian era, have left in their stone carvings representations of priests smoking pipes of a similar design—a design not far removed from the modern American Indians’ calumet, or pipe of peace. Excavations in many parts of Europe have led to the discovery of iron and earthenware pipes, used for smoking herbs other than tobacco, which was only introduced into the ” Old World ” in the sixteenth century, while many of these finds are attributed to the first and second centuries A.D. Pictured left: A Haida Argillite Pipe – The Bowl Carved As A Head, The Stem With Bird And Figure – 6in. (15Cm.) Long. Sold for £2,640 at Christies, London, The Fine Art of Smoking sale, May 2006. Image Copyright Christies. The first Europeans to smoke tobacco pipes were sailors of the Columbus expedition and those of other navigators of the time such as Vespucci and Magellan, who, having adopted the habit from the Indians, brought home with them calumets and tobacco. The custom and ” the weed ” spread from Spain and Portugal to France— where it was introduced by the French ambassador to the Portuguese court, Jean Nicot, whose name is perpetuated in the plant’s botanical name, Nicotiana Tabacum. From France it spread to the Low Countries and thence to Britain. Sir Walter Raleigh did much to popularise the habit of smoking the pipe in England, but it is difficult to ascertain whether he actually introduced it, or whether this distinction belongs to his great contemporaries and fel- low sailors, Drake and Hawkins. It is, however, an established fact that pipe smoking was common in this country before the end of the sixteenth century and the pipe makers of London became an incorporated body by 1619. The pipe found its greatest vogue in the nineteenth century, when some of the most beautiful specimens were made and this vogue grew as the century advanced becoming quite a cult with our Victorian grandfathers. The following passage from ” The Diary of a Nobody” by George and Weedon Grossmith, published about 1880, illustrates this fact: ” Cummings unexpectedly dropped in to show me a meerschaum pipe he had won in a raffle in the City, and told me to handle it carefully or it would spoil the colouring if the hand was moist.” The materials used for making pipes were many and varied—the main reason for their selection being suitability— but there were cases when the only substances available at the time and place were used. The neolithic stone pipes have already been mentioned. While these were made of hard stone, a softer type of rock was used until quite recently, to make pipe bowls, in Palestine. This is a dark grey bituminous limestone found on the western shores of the Dead Sea and these pipe heads were used in conjunction with a long wooden stem. Soap-stone bowls were often made for the calumet which had a stem of reed or painted wood about 21 feet long, decorated with feathers. The Eskimos have fashioned pipes out of reindeer antlers, while in parts of central Europe the antlers of red and fallow deer were used for the same purpose. Pictured right: An Eskimo Walrus Ivory Pipe Incised With Fishing Scenes, Inscribed Autsis Look 16½.In. (42Cm.) Long. Sold for £5,040 at Christies, London, The Fine Art of Smoking sale, May 2006. Image Copyright Christies. Glass has been used from time to time, and the best known specimens were produced in the first half of the nineteenth century at the Bristol and Nailsea works, in all the delightful shades for which these factories were noted. These glass pipes—be they of clear glass with white or coloured symmetrical waves, or of an opaque milky-white texture with blue or red waves—were very attractive but it is doubtful if any but the smallest were ever smoked. Some of the very large ones—up to four feet long, with a bowl capable of holding a pound of tobacco — were most probably used to adorn some Georgian or early Victorian tobacconist’s window. Corn-cobs suitably dried and toasted, fitted with a short straight stem of wood or cork and a bone mouthpiece, have enjoyed long popularity in the United States. Calabash, which is a fruit of the gourd family, has been used for making bowls and was much smoked in this country during the 30 or 40 years preceding the first world war. The rim of the pipe and the end of the stem, where it adjoins the curved amber or ebonite mouthpiece, were generally protected by a silver band and the pipes can be dated from the hallmark carried by the silver. Early in the nineteenth century, a Budapest shoemaker is supposedto have discovered the process of waxing a mineral white in colour, soft, chemically a silicate of magnesia, quarried mostly in Asia Minor and known as ” meerschaum” (a German word meaning sea-froth) because of its light weight. Pictured left: Finely carved meerschaum pipes. Image Copyright Christies. This discovery meant that the material could now be used for making pipes, the wax treatment […]
Up until recently, male dolls were very few and far between, but over the last few years, as the trend for character dolls has grown, men have been making their presence felt – and how. Dolls are made to represent footballers, pop stars, sportsmen and even politicians. Here, though, we’re looking at the movie men, those who star on tv or in the films. Sometimes, like Indiana Jones, they are brave and fearless, others, such as Spiderman, are crime fighters in strange outfits, then there are the suave sophisticates; Henry Higgins, Rhett Butler. The fourth category falls to those inoffensive, often funny types – think Dick van Dyke, in Mary Poppins. A collection of male dolls, all testerone, trousers and teeth, makes a fun group, and might even prove a bit of an investment, certainly if you buy some of the cheaper types. If this sounds an odd theory, it’s really very simple – there are some wonderful versions of male dolls produced by designers such as Robert Tonner. However, these top of the range models are intended for collectors, who tend to keep them safe, and with their boxes. They are unlikely to undress them, let alone comb their hair or give them rides up the garden path on a skateboard – but the cheaper dolls intended for children will soon be unboxed, undressed and scuffed. These character dolls usually have quite a short shelf life because movies are constantly changing, and new heroes are produced. So in a few years time, if you resist temptation to debox your handsome hero, you may suddenly find he is demand. Perhaps the most modelled male film character has been Harry Potter; there are dozens of different types from small plastic figures through to expensive Robert Tonner versions. Many of these dolls featured in Dolls To Delight last October, so I won’t dwell on them here, but suffice to say that the Tonner types are stunning, while the large Gotz figures and many of the Mattel versions are very good, too. In a similar vein are the Ron Weasley and Draco Malfoy figures. Even so, with the best will in the world Harry Potter doesn’t really fall into the ‘handsome swash-buckling hero types’; for those we turn to characters such as swashbuckling Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom from ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ or adventurer Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones. The Tonner version of Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) features an elaborate costume, and the beading in the hair has been painstakingly reproduced. A much more affordable version, by Zizzle, was in the toy stores a couple of years ago as a 12 inch high doll. Although this one had moulded hair, the resemblance to the actor was amazing, and the costume still very intricate. Zizzle also made an Orlando Bloom as Will Turner, in a choice of outfits – either a ‘piratey-loo king’ red shirt, black waistcoat and black trousers, or a black leather outfit with a cream brocade waistcoat. Tonner, too, have depicted Will in his pirate outfit. A recent introduction is Hasbro’s Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones, as a talking version, with phrases such as ‘I think we’ve got a big problem’ and ‘That’s why they call it the jungle, sweetheart’. His mouth even moves as he speaks. Dressed in his typical leather jacket, coarse trousers and battered hat, this is a super doll and certainly one to look out for. Doctor Who, in his David Tennant reincarnation, is made by Character Options. Wearing a battered suit, he comes complete with, of course, his sonic screwdriver. This doll bears an excellent likeness to David. While we are on a space theme, there have been many Star Wars dolls (or ‘Action Figures’ as boys prefer to call them!) made over the years. In the 1980s a series of 12 inch high dolls were made by Palitoy, and are very collectable today; various others still appear from time to time. Likewise figures from ‘Babylon Five’, ‘Star Trek’ and similar cult sci-fi films, such as the Mego figures from the mid-seventies. Of course, you don’t have to be constantly warding off aliens, pirates, villains or dark forces to be a hero. You might be the suave and polished kind. Recently, Tonner created a Clark Gable doll in his role as Rhett Butler from ‘Gone With The Wind’, while in 1996 Mattel came up trumps with an excellent ‘enry ‘iggins as portrayed by Rex Harrison, from ‘My Fair Lady’. Dressed in his tweeds, Henry is depicted as the typical aristocratic gentleman. In contrast, we have Bert (Dick Van Dyke), who most certainly could have done with a few elocution lessons from Henry Higgins. The presentation of this recent doll from Mattel is most attractive – Bert is riding a carousel horse from the fairground scene in Mary Poppins. Very popular at the moment are the High School Musical dolls, and of course, Troy (Zac Efron) is included in the range by Mattel, and available in various outfits. John Travolta in his ‘Grease’ days was issued by Mattel a couple of years ago – but this was a mini-John, as modelled by Tommy, friend of Kelly, Barbie’s little sister. Barbie herself was depicted alongside James Bond in 2003. James has also appeared in Action Man special issues, though no attempt was made to capture any of the actors’ features, and more recently by Sideshow Collectables. More mystical are the ‘Lord of the Rings’ dolls. Characters such as Aragon have been expertly modelled by Applause and Toy Biz. Other fantasy figures include the comic book heroes; Batman, Superman, Spiderman – all of these have been produced in doll form, but I’m sure that most will have endured rough handling by their young owners, so pristine or boxed versions are certainly worth acquiring for your collection. That goes for ‘Thunderbirds’ dolls and Captain Scarlet too. Most heroes are handsome, or at least, reasonably presentable. If you want something a bit out of the ordinary though, then […]
Pomp, Pre-Fabs And Poodles – Dolls in The 1950s by Sue Brewer Just as a black and white film explodes into technicolour, this decade dawned grey, but ended in dazzling colour. This eventful ten years gave young people more power that ever before, and propelled Britons into a completely new lifestyle. Though the war had ended five years previously, many goods were in short supply and some rationing was still in force. Bomb sites scarred many areas, and thousands dwelt in ‘pre-fabs’ – prefabricated buildings designed as emergency accommodation for those who had lost their homes during the bombing. Britain needed something to cheer her up, and the Festival Of Britain was a great start. Held in 1951, on London’s Southbank alongside the Thames, and dominated by the Dome of Discovery, it featured all that was new in design. Towering above the site was the Skylon, a delicately-shaped edifice which was illuminated at night, and which entranced me as a child. Millions of people thronged the festival, which spilled over into nearby Battersea Park. One of the great attractions there was the Guinness clock, a marvellous timepiece which featured toucans and other creatures popping out of windows and doors on the quarter-hour. Ideas seen at the exhibition gradually filtered through into people’s lives – geometrical designs were in vogue, bright colours, and, conversely, black and white patterns. The most famous 1950s ceramics’ range is probably ‘Homemaker’, which featured black and white drawings of coffee tables, cutlery, settees and lamps. Homemaker, designed by Enid Seeney, was made by Ridgway and sold in Woolworths stores throughout the country in the mid-fifties. Black pottery ‘African’ hands and figurines were in vogue, as was formica, spindly-legged furniture, coloured ‘atom’ knobs on small fixtures, ballet scenes on crockery, open-plan living, and poodles on everything! In 1953, patriotism was truly to the fore – Queen Elizabeth II was crowned in Westminster Abbey. Union Jacks fluttered from lamp posts, commemorative mugs were give to school children, and street parties were held throughout the country. Young and old sat down to enjoy cakes, sandwiches and jellies, and to raise a toast to her Majesty in tea or lemonade. People crowded the front rooms of those fortunate enough to own television sets to watch the beautiful young Queen ride in a fairytale coach along the Mall from the palace, and to see the Archbishop of Canterbury place the crown upon her head in Westminster Abbey. For one lady, Peggy Nisbet, the Coronation proved a career change when she was inspired to dress small dolls which were sold through the prestigious Harrods store. Little could she have known that those small dolls would be the start of a huge concern, which would go on to produce millions of Peggy Nisbet costume dolls over the next three decades. Naturally, other manufacturers jumped aboard the bandwagon, most notably Pedigree Toys, who issued an 14 inch hard plastic doll called Little Princess. Th is doll had blonde, curly hair, just like the toddler Princess Anne, and her outfit was designed by Norman Hartnell, the man responsible for the Coronation gown. Pedigree also issued a ‘Bonnie Charlie’ doll, presumably modelled on Prince Charles, and a slender, teen-type called Elizabeth. All these dolls are very much sought-after today by collectors. Hard plastic was extensively used in the world of doll manufacturing for much of the 1950s. Developed during the war, it was enthusiastically embraced by toy makers, being light, colourful and cheap to produce. It rapidly replaced the older-style composition dolls, and many beauties were made during this time. Towards the end of the decade, however, an even more revolutionary product, soft vinyl, was introduced. Vinyl enabled the hair to be rooted directly into the head, and didn’t crack when it was dropped. Soon vinyl replaced the hard plastic, though for a time, dolls often sported vinyl heads on hard plastic bodies as the new machinery was expensive to install. Barbie, the most successful doll of all time, made her debut in America in 1959, created by Ruth Handler. This sophisticated curvy teen in her black and white striped bathing costume, was a sensation, though she was scarcely known in Britain until the 1970s. Girls in the United Kingdom were less mature than their American counterparts, and although teen dolls were gradually arriving, they were softer-featured and tended to wear the everyday fashions of the time – flared skirts, blouses, smart coats and dainty hats. Even in their early teens, girls still read ‘Girl’ comic, filled with colourful comic strip adventures featuring nurses, schoolgirls or ballet dancers – children were unsophisticated in those days. Palitoy issued a tie-in ‘Girl’ doll, who wore a white dress patterned with the logo of the comic. Her knickers and hair-ribbon bore the same motif while her belt had a plastic ‘Girl’ head as a buckle. At the beginning of the decade, teen girls dressed like their mothers, often wearing twin-sets and pearls, but as the fifties progressed, they rebelled. Permed hair gave way to ponytails, and skirts were full, often with layers of net or ‘paper nylon’ petticoats beneath. ‘Pedal-pusher’ trousers, which ended at mid-calf. were in vogue for a while, as were ‘sloppy Joe’ sweaters, but, on the whole, girls still had a very feminine look – the love-affair with blue denim was not, as yet, widespread. Music-wise, Rock ‘n’ Roll was in – Bill Haley and Elvis Presley were listened to on large 78 rpm records which broke when they were dropped. However, Britain had its own teen stars too, especially Tommy Steele who appeared on the ‘6.5 Special’ tv programme every Saturday, rocking to the music. Teddy Boys loved Rock ‘n’ Roll, and wore narrow drainpipe trousers, long jackets and winklepicker shoes, combing their hair into a quiff. Skiffle groups, who performed on guitars, washboards and broom handles affixed to tea-chests, were also extremely popular. As the decade progressed, television grew to play a large part in people’s lives; programmes were followed so avidly that […]
Do you know where Sailor’s Valentines originated from? If you guessed that they were made by sailors for their loved ones, you would be wrong! In fact, the majority of high specification Sailor’s Valentines originated from the Caribbean, principally Barbados. These Sailor’s Valentines are now a highly sought-after collectors item, with some pieces selling for thousands at auction! There are also many shellcraft items actually made by sailors but many of these are quite primitive and might for example be a sewing needle case decorated with shells. In this feature we look at the boxed form examples made by the artisans in the Caribbean in the 19th century. What are Sailors Valentines? Sailor’s Valentines are a type of folk art that were typically composed of seashells arranged in a frame, and they often include colorful designs and romantic and sentimental messages. A classic sailor Valentine is an octagonal, glass-fronted, hinged wooden box that is 8 to 20 inches (20 to 51 cm) wide and features beautiful symmetrical decorations made completely of tiny sea shells of different colours that have been attached to a background. The name comes from the fact that the designs frequently include a focal point, like a compass rose, heart, or flower basket and that occasionally the tiny shells are utilised to form the letters of a motto or a special message. Messages noted include ‘ Think of Me ‘, and ‘ Remember Me When This You See ‘, ‘Love The Giver ‘, ‘ Love Be True ‘, and ‘ Home Sweet Home ‘. Origins of Sailors Valentines While the exact origin of Sailors Valentines is unclear, it is believed that they originated in the 19th century and were at their most popular between 1830 and 1890. They were designed to be brought home from a sailor’s voyage at sea and given to the sailor’s loved one or loved ones. The romantic notion was that they were made by the sailors whilst on their travels but it now thought that they were actually made by artisans in the Caribbean and sold as gifts. One shop in Barbados, the New Curiosity Shop, has become recently noted as being one of the principal places selling these Sailor’s Valentines. Some cases have been found still bearing the shops label – B.H. Belgrave Barbados. B.H. (Benjamin Hinds) Belgrave opened the New Curiosity Shop – featuring “Marine Specimens and Native Manufactures in Fancy Work” – in Bridgetown Barbados in 1878. Now known as the primary source of Sailors Valentines, the shop was later taken over and operated by his brother, George Belgrave, from 1895 until his death in 1925. The market for Sailor’s Valentines There is a strong market for high specification examples in excellent condition. The market is stronger in North America with many more examples appearing at auction there. Fine examples sell for upwards of £2,000 / $2,500.
Nothing prepared me for the overwhelming feelings that burst through me when, on a recent trip to Barcelona, I first discovered the works of Antoni Gaudi. A sheer genius, never before have I felt so encapsulated by one designer as his use of the natural world combined with Gothic and medieval influences made me hungrily want to take in every tiny detail. Hard to place into words, you really cannot appreciate this talented architect, artist and designer’s individualism until it is confronting you, however I can tell you that in my own opinion Gaudi was not only a pioneer of his time but also one of the most unique architectural talents I have ever encountered. Born into a simple life in Reus, provincial Catalonia to a coppersmith and his wife on 25th June 1852, Gaudi was one of five children. However, as a child he developed a rheumatic problem, which was to stay with him throughout his life. This disease effected him during his childhood as it prevented Gaudi from mixing with other children his own age because the pain when walking was so intensifying that he was forced to travel by donkey whenever he left the house Although Gaudi did attend school he had periods where he had to miss lessons due to the rheumatic illness and so would use this time to observe plants and animals. It is these organic shapes of nature that became prolific in his later architectural works which are found entwined with the gothic and medieval influences which he became so passionate about. In 1868 Gaudi moved to Barcelona in order to study architecture at university. It was whilst attending this course that he also took classes on Aesthetics, history, philosophy and economics. He had a strong belief that the various architectural styles did not necessarily depend on the aesthetic ideas but instead were heavily influenced by political and social affairs. Much of Gaudi’s influences and inspiration was gained from medieval books, along with the strong Gothic styles that were beginning to appear. He was also heavily impressed with the new Art Nouveau style which replaced the rigidity of straight lines with a more organic flowing form of design. Unfortunately Gaudi’s studies were interrupted for a while as he had to fulfil military service. Working as a draughtsman he finally completed his term and returned to graduate from the New School of Architecture in 1877. He then went on to open his office in 1878, with one of his first commissions being for the lampposts in Plaza Real, Barcelona. He designed two models, one of which had three arms and the other with six. They are still standing today and many people walk past them not realising that they are actually one of the first Gaudi works that he created. Other work started to appear and Gaudi created furniture, alter pieces and even gloves for the Comella firm to show at the Paris Exhibition of 1878. However, it was the friendship that he formed with Eusebio Guell which really took his career into another dimension as Guell was to commission much work for Gaudi in the following years as well as introducing him to other like minded artists. Joan Martorell was a talented architect who became a strong influence on Gaudi’s life. Especially as it was Martorell whom suggested in 1883 that Gaudi should officially take over the project of the ‘Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Familia.’ This was to become his lifelong project and in turn his most momentous work. An extremely religious man, Gaudi saw it as God’s will and so dedicated 43 years to the construction of the temple. Aside from Sagrada Familia Gaudi was also commissioned to work on many other projects, especially as now he had become a well known and respected architect. Many of his works were for the Guell family, and this included the famous park. His friend, Eusebio Guell planned to build a ‘suburban city’ and although 60 plots were allocated for housing, only three were actually built. Two of which are today owned by the Trias family and one was created as a show house, although Gaudi actually bought it for himself in 1906. The park is surrounded by a rubblework wall which Gaudi crowned with ceramic ‘trencadis’ (mosaic made from broken ceramic pieces.). At each end there are two pavilions which are often referred to as gingerbread houses, and each possess the common trait of not having any straight lines or angles anywhere within the house or to the exterior. Another fascinating building which is a vision of modernism and one of Gaudi’s exceptional masterpieces is Casa Batllo. The owner Josep Batllo intended to tear down the building but changed his mind and decided to remodel it. Gaudi was instructed to carry out the work and as with all his projects created something so unique that this is probably one of the most amazing private homes I have ever seen. The façade of the building has an undulating surface covered in polychrome circles of glazed ceramics and broken fragments of glass. When built Gaudi personally told the workman how to position each piece by directing them from the pavement outside and this stunning façade has been compared to the ‘Water Lilies’ series of oil paintings by Monet. However, when you get onto the roof it resembles mystical animals and legends, as the sinuous shape of the roof together with multi-coloured ceramic scales on the main façade give you the effect of standing behind a dragon’s back. Pere Mila had seen the Batllo house after its completion and was so enthusiastic about it that he approached Gaudi and asked if he could build a large building which could be turned into flats. To say that Gaudi mixed his architectural styles is an understatement, this particular project the ‘La Pedrera (Casa Mila) otherwise known as the Quarry House, is so far away from the design of the Batllo house. Based on wrought metallic girders and […]
The Wind in the Willows is a classic of children’s literature by Kenneth Grahame, first published in 1908.
Louis Wain was one of the most famous British artists of the early 20th century. He is best known for his paintings and drawings of cats in various humorous and abstract poses, but what some people may not know is that he also created a series of Cubist Cats. Some art experts believe that the Cubist Cats are a reflection of Wain’s mental state at the time, as he was diagnosed with schizophrenia later in life. Others believe that the cats simply reflect his love of experimenting with different styles and mediums. Regardless of the reason behind them, the Cubist Cats are an important part of Wain’s oeuvre and offer a unique glimpse into the mind of one of Britain’s most famous artists. The Cubist Cats were created between 1910 and 1912, at the height of the Cubist movement. They are considered to be among his most avant-garde and experimental works. Many of the cats in these paintings are shown in fragmented, geometric forms, with their features often distorted or hidden. This was in keeping with the Cubist style, which sought to break down objects and images into their basic shapes and forms. While the Cubist Cats may not be as well-known as some of his other works, they are significant in that they show the artist’s experimentation with new styles and techniques. They also provide a rare glimpse into his process and thinking at this stage in his career. The collection was made first by the Max Emmanuel factory and later by Amphora. The Cubist cats first appeared at an exhibition in 1914 where Wain designed a set of nine cats, a pig and a dog. Most were given a Lucky name such as: The Lucky Futurist Cat, The Lucky Black Cat, The Lucky Knight Errant Cat, The Lucky Haw Haw Cat and The Lucky Master Cat. One of the rarest is The Lucky Sphinx Cat. Louis Wain’s Cubist ceramic models of cats and animals were created in very small quantities, and one batch bound for the US was hit by a torpedo and the shipment lost. Being produced in small numbers means they are quite rare and are much sought after when they come up for sale in galleries or at auction. It is clear that Louis Wain was a talented and versatile artist, who was always exploring new ideas and styles. The Cubist Cats are a great example of this, and they provide us with a rare glimpse into his early development as an artist. Related Louis Wain and His Cats Life & Pottery The Life and Cats of Louis Wain
Baccarat Paperweights Baccarat Crystal is a manufacturer of fine crystal glassware located in Baccarat, France. The Musée Baccarat, on the Place des États-Unis in Paris, displays many of its finest productions. Pictured: A very rare Baccarat concentric millefiori `fireworks’ paperweight circa 1848, it was made specifically to commemorate the French Revolution of 1848. This brilliant object is one of only two examples of this type known. Image Copyright: Bonhams. History 1764-1816 In 1764 King Louis XV of France gave permission to found a glassworks in the town of Baccarat in the Lorraine region in eastern France to Prince Bishop Cardinal Louis-Joseph de Laval-Montmorency (1761-1802). Production consisted of window panes, mirrors and stemware until 1816 when the first crystal oven went into operation. By that time over 3000 workers were employed at the site. 1817-1867 Baccarat received its first royal commission in 1823. This began a lengthy line of commissions for royalty and heads of state throughout the world. In 1855 Baccarat won its first gold medal at the World’s Fair in Paris. Pictured: A Baccarat spaced concentric millefiori weight and a Baccarat spray weight mid 19th century and 20th century, the second with stencilled mark. The first enclosing a central cane encircled with six others including three silhouettes of a goat, a cockerel and a dog, within an outer circlet of canes; the second with a spray of white lilies with orange stamens and green leaves on a white honeycomb-ground. Sold for £900, May 2006, Christies, London. Baccarat first began marking its work with a registered mark in 1860. The mark was a label affixed to the bot tom of the work. In the period 1846-1849 Baccarat signed some of their high quality glass paperweights with the letter B and the year date in a composite cane. A special paperweight dated 1853 was found under the cornerstone of a bomb damaged church in Baccarat when construction recommenced after World War 2. The crystal production expanded its scope throughout this period, and Baccarat built a worldwide reputation for making quality stemware, chandeliers, barware, and perfume bottles. 1867-1936 The Imperial Era ended in 1867 with the defeat of Napoléon III. Influences outside of France began to have a stronger influence on Baccarat’s work during this era, particularly imports from Japan. Strong growth continued in Asia for Baccarat. One of the strongest production areas for Baccarat was perfume bottles, and by 1907 production was over 4000 bottles per day. Pictured: A Baccarat dated carpet ground weight signed and dated on a single cane ‘b1848’ The clear glass set with assorted scattered brightly coloured millefiori canes, including animal silhouettes of a stag, a peahen, a horse, an elephant, a butterfly, a cockerel, and a monkey, set on a ground of red and white canes, some with blue star centers. Sold for $13,145, October 2004, Christies, New York. In 1936 Baccarat began marking all of its works via acid or sandblasting. 1936—Present Baccarat created an American subsidiary in 1948 in New York City. By 2007 there were stores in Chicago; Costa Mesa; Dallas; Houston; Greenwich, Connecticut; Honolulu; New York; Troy, Michigan; San Francisco; Palm Desert, California; Las Vegas; and Atlantic City. A 12th location is set to open in Atlanta in 2010. A retrospective was held in 1964 at the Louvre Museum to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the crystal works. In 1993 Baccarat began making jewelry and in 1997 the company expanded into perfume. Copyright (C) 2000,2001,2002 Free Software Foundation, Inc. 51 Franklin St, Fifth Floor, Boston, MA 02110-1301 USA Everyone is permitted to copy and distribute verbatim copies of this license document, but changing it is not allowed.