details of the 2005 Club Convention have just been announced
by Madame Alexander.
"Do you know the way to San Jose? Let the Madame Alexander
Doll Club help you find fun in the northern California sun at
their annual convention, California Dreamin. Being
held June 16-18, 2005, at the Fairmont Hotel in San Jose, California,
the annual convention is the place to be for any Alexander collector!
Begin your trip to San Jose with a day (or two) of touring
the area. Organized tours will be available for our attendees.
During the convention, there will be many events to please any
collector of Madame Alexander dolls! Exclusive, limited-edition
Alexander dolls from Cissy to Wendy have been
created by the designers at the Alexander Doll Company for the
collectors club events.
Filling your time in San Jose is an easy thing to do! With
many seminars, workshops, competition, raffles, and a great
sales room, all attendees will find something to do when not
enjoying a conversation with another Alexander collector.
The final event of the convention is the Banquet and
the unveiling of the convention doll. Will she be a Wendy? Will
she be a Cissette? Or will she be someone else? Come join us
and see for yourself! Registration is limited so be sure and
contact the club office soon.
Registration for the convention is $275 per person. Breakout
events are additional. Contact the Madame Alexander Doll Club
office at 212-368-1047 or via email at [email protected]
for further information."
For more details visit the Madame
Alexander web site.
Visit the WCN Madame Alexander
information pages and message board.
Write for WCN
Random Collecting Feature
Graceland is the name of the 13.8 acre estate and large white-columned mansion that once belonged to Elvis Presley, located at 3734 Elvis Presley Boulevard in Memphis, Tennessee, USA. It is located south of Downtown Memphis, less than four miles north of the Mississippi border. It currently serves as a museum. It was opened to the public in 1982, was listed in the National Register of Historic Places on November 7, 1991 and declared a National Historic Landmark on March 27, 2006. Elvis Presley, who died at the estate on August 16, 1977, his parents Gladys and Vernon Presley, and his grandmother, are buried there in what is called the Meditation Gardens. Graceland History Graceland was originally owned by S. E. Toof, publisher of the Memphis newspaper, the Memphis Daily Appeal. The grounds were named after Toof’s daughter, Grace, who would come to inherit the farm. Soon after, the portion of the land designated as Graceland today was given to a niece, Ruth Moore, who, in 1939 together with her husband Dr. Thomas Moore, had the present American “colonial” style mansion built. Pictured right: This beautifully detailed brass ornament shows a 360 degree view of the Graceland mansion. Elvis purchased Graceland in early 1957 for approximately $100,000 after vacating an East Memphis house located at 1034 Audubon Drive. He moved because of privacy and security concerns, and the opposition of neighbors to the enthusiastic behavior of the many fans who slowly cruised by his home. Elvis moved into Graceland together with his father Vernon Presley and his mother Gladys. After Gladys died in 1958, and Vernon married Dee Stanley in 1960, the couple lived there for a time. Wife-to-be Priscilla Beaulieu also lived at Graceland for five years before she and Elvis married.After their marriage in Las Vegas on May 1, 1967, Priscilla lived in Graceland five more years until she separated from Elvis in late 1972. Pictured left: Thomas Kinkade painting of Graceland marking the 50th Anniversary of the purchase by Elvis Presley. On August 16, 1977, Elvis died in his bathroom at Graceland allegedly of a heart attack, according to one medical examiner report at the time. However, there are conflicting reports as to the cause of his death. According to Peter Guralnick, the singer “had thrown up after being stricken, apparently while seated on the toilet. It looked to the medical investigator as if he had ‘stumbled or crawled several feet before he died.’ ” The author adds that “drug use was heavily implicated in this unanticipated death of a middle-aged man with no known history of heart disease…no one ruled out the possibility of anaphylactic shock brought on by the codeine pills he had gotten from his dentist.” After initially being buried at Forrest Hill Cemetery, and fo llowing an attempt to rob his grave, Presley’s remains were moved to Graceland. The estate has become a pilgrimage for Elvis fans across the world. Graceland architecture and modifications The mansion is constructed of tan limestone and consists of twenty-three rooms, including eight bedrooms and bathrooms. The entrance way contains several Corinthian columns and two large lions perched on both sides of the portico. After purchasing the property Presley carried out extensive modifications to suit his needs and tastes, including: a fieldstone wall surrounding the grounds, a wrought-iron music styled gate, a swimming pool, a racquetball court, and the famous “jungle room” which features an indoor waterfall, among other modifications. One of Presleys better known modifications was the addition of the Meditation Gardens, where he, his parents Gladys and Vernon, and grandmother are buried. The garden was opened to the public in 1978. For more details concerning the decorative arts that makes Elvis’s mansion seem a creation as well as a site, see Karal Ann Marling, Graceland: Going Home With Elvis (Harvard University Press, 1996). Graceland’s “act of faith in serial novelty,” the author argues, synthesized the “intense concern for personal style” that made B. B. King notice a teenaged Elvis in a pawnshop years before he was famous and the fashion sense informing the “theme clothes” of the ’70s — “carapace[s] of sheer, radiant glory.” Graceland grew from 10,266 square feet when originally bought by Presley to 17,552 square feet today. Managers of the complex announced a major renovation project that will include a new visitors center, a 500-room convention hotel and high-tech museum displays. The current visitors center, souvenir shops, the 128-room Heartbreak Hotel, and museums will be torn down and replaced with the new facilities. The project will take approximately 3 years to complete. Elvis Presley at Graceland According to Mark Crispin Miller, Graceland became for Elvis “the home of the organization that was himself, was tended by a large vague clan of Presleys and deputy Presleys, each squandering the vast gratuities which Elvis used to keep his whole world smiling.” The author adds that Presley’s father Vernon “had a swimming pool in his bedroom”, that there “was a jukebox next to the swimming pool, containing Elvis’s favorite records” and that the singer himself “would spend hours in his bedroom, watching his property on a closed-circuit television.” Pictured left: Plate featuring Elvis at the Gates of Graceland. Graceland was Lisa Marie Presley’s first official home, and residence after her birth on February the 1st 1968 and her childhood home, although her main state of residence was California where she lived with her mother after she divorced Elvis when Lisa was in elementary school. Every year at Christmas time Lisa Marie Presley, and all her family go to Graceland to celebrate Christmas together. Lisa Marie Presley often goes back to Graceland for visits. When she turned 30, Lisa Marie inherited the estate and she sold 85 percent of it. According to Brad Olsen, “Some of the rooms at Graceland testify to the brilliance and quirkiness of Elvis Presley. The TV room in the basement is where he often watched three television sets at once, and was within close reach of a wet bar.” Elvis […]
One thing that often appeals to us collectors is a sense of order.
Polly Pocket & Polly Pocket Collectables by Susan Brewer (follow Sue on Twitter @bunnypussflunge) Small children love small items; they get enormous pleasure from a tiny doll hidden inside a walnut shell or a matchbox filled with beads. Obviously, the smallest toys aren’t suitable for a baby, but as soon as they get past the ‘toys in mouth’ stage, they seem to revel in the miniature. This was something Beatrix Potter understood very well, and why she insisted that when her famous Peter Rabbit series of books were first published in the early 1900s, they were of a size to fit the hands of a small child. They have been published that size ever since. So, when a gentleman called Chris Wiggs had the bright idea of turning a powder compact into a doll’s house for his daughter’s tiny doll to play in, success was almost guaranteed. It was the 1980s, a time when dozens of new and exciting girls’ toys were flooding the market – Strawberry Shortcake, My Little Pony, Flower Fairies and Care Bears, to name but a few. Even so, when Chris showed the toy to Bluebird Toys of Swindon, they snapped up the idea and, despite all the competition, it soon proved a hit. Polly Pocket compacts were neat, tidy toys, and girls loved them. The compacts were small and secretive, and as well as containing a tiny doll they were moulded inside as room settings, with staircases, furniture and other items. Although there was hardly enough room inside for the tiny doll to breathe, there was plenty of room for a child’s imagination. The compacts were hinged, just like a powder compact, and came in a variety of colourful shapes, including circular, square, shell, heart and oblong. The original Polly Pocket dolls were very small – around an inch high – but they were beautifully made, with hinged waists so they could fold when the compact lid was closed. When opened, each compact revealed extremely well planned interiors with every scrap of space utilised. The interior of the lift-up lid would be a house, for instance, while the base was a garden with moulded paths, flowers and ponds or paths and often a small revolving turntable so that the tiny Polly could move or dance. She could also be fitted into various holes in the mouldings. Frequently other characters or animals were included as well. All the detail was amazing, and to a child, almost miraculous. Even the exterior moulding was impressive; the plastic was smooth and rounded and was pleasant to hold. Picking up an unfamiliar, closed Polly Pocket compact was an adventure, there was a feeling of anticipation and, on opening, an air of wonder. Some of the specials, such as the Christmas versions with their sparkly interiors, were beautiful. Parents liked the toys too, because they were the perfect toy for children to take on a journey. They were small enough to fit inside a pocket or bag, and as the dolls stored neatly inside the compact, there was little chance of losing pieces. As more and more of the toys were made, children became spoilt for choice, and it wasn’t long before there was a Polly Pocket to suit every occasion, or so it seemed. In addition to the little houses, Polly Pocket compacts could also be obtained containing such delights as a Studio Flat, Hair Salon, Movie Star’s House, Winter Chalet, Parisienne Hotel, Dance Studio, Pet Shop and many, many more. In 1993, the Gamleys chain of toy shops were advertising an extra large play set, called Polly’s Dream World. They stated ‘The dream house has two wings that open out to reveal lots of beautiful rooms. In Polly’s dream world there are so many secret places to visit and exciting things to do. It’s everything you ever dreamed of for Polly!’ At the time this set cost £24.99, over five times more than the average Polly Pocket compact price of £4.99, and, like many other Polly Pockets, is beginning to be quite sought after today. Eventually over 350 different compact sets were produced. The toys continued to be made throughout the following decade, but in the late 1990s Mattel, who had taken over production from Bluebird, decided to redesign them. They made Polly larger, bringing out different designs and larger play sets – although she is still imaginative, she seems to have lost much of that miniature magic which charmed little girls during the late 1980s and for most of the 1990s. However, the larger dolls are more realistic with ‘real’ hair rather than the moulded hair of the Bluebird dolls, and also have removable clothing. Mattel still make some small types, such as the recent ‘Polly Wheels’ – tiny cars containing a 1.5 inch high jointed-at-the-waist doll – though these items are not as small as the originals. Running alongside Polly Pocket were the Polly Pocket Walt Disney compacts, which were also made by Bluebird. They were called the Tiny Collection but were invariably referred to as ‘Polly Pocket Disneys’. These themed play sets, made to resemble scenes from Disney films, were charming, and contained minute Disney characters. Some of the sets were in compacts, just like the original Polly Pockets, but many were slightly larger and shaped like buildings, the outside decorated like a house so it was an attractive item in own right, lacking the plainness of the compacts. Some sets were even larger, though the scale was just the same, with the characteristic little characters. For instance, the thatched Snow White cottage was delightful, and it even lit up. Snow White and the seven dwarves were included, and the cottage could be closed up with the characters inside. Some of these larger play sets came with their own compacts, which could be played with separately. Amongst the Walt Disney films which appeared in the Tiny Collection were Bambi, The Little Mermaid, 101 Dalmatians, Hunchback of Notre Dame, Pocahontas, Cinderella, Alice In Wonderland, Beauty and the […]
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?
Known as Britain’s first ever independent industrial designer, Christopher Dresser was a major contributor to the British Anglo Japanese and Arts & Crafts movement.
The Chad Valley Company was one of the most successful and best-loved of all English soft toy manufacturers and although it ceased trading in 1978, the memory of its golden years lives on. Today, Chad Valley teddies and other animals are highly popular with collectors for a variety of reasons. Pictured right: Classic Chad Valley Magna bear For a start, they were well-designed and generally made of good quality materials, and in the firm’s heyday its inventive designers came up with one appealing product after another. Then there is the identity factor – Chads are often easy to identify, even without their original labels – making them particularly attractive to novice collectors. Finally, price is a key factor in the collectable status of Chad Valley bears. With a few exceptions, they rarely cost more than a few hundred pounds because there are still quite a lot of them available in good condition, and are therefore accessible to collectors with limited budgets. Pictured left: Chad Valley Magna Teddy bear, English 1930’s Golden mohair bear with orange glass eyes, stitched nose, mouth and claws, swivel head and jointed at shoulders and hips, cloth paw pads, red ribbon to neck, label to right foot, 48cm (19in) tall – sold at Bonhams, Nov 2006 £120 – image copyright Bonhams. Having acquired and absorbed several smaller firms during the previous decade, the 1930s proved to be something of a boom time for Chad Valley. Through ingenious marketing which played on people’s suspicions of soft toys as carriers of infectious disease, the company positioned its products as clean and hygienic compared with the competition. So successful were they during this period that by 1938 Chad Valley were granted a Royal Warrant of Appointment as Toymakers to Her Majesty the Queen and labels appeared on their bears proclaiming them ‘By Appointment Toymakers to H.M. The Queen.’ In 1953, following the death of King George VI and the accession of Queen Elizabeth II, the wording changed to read ‘By Appointment Toy Makers to H.M. Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother.’ (If original labels are present today, this enables the modern collector to date Chads of this period to within a few years). During this period of growth and development, one of the most distinctive of all Chad Valley teddies was produced. Known as the Magna bear, it was launched around 1930 and featured an unshaved muzzle, smallish, widely spaced ears and a narrow, horizontally-stitched oblong nose. It is this instantly recognisable nose that allows aficionados to unhesitatingly pick out a Magna from a room full of similar bears. The slightly serious, perhaps even grumpy expression common to Magnas has made them well-liked by collectors although they were not terribly popular in their own day. This could be because their admirers of today are adult collectors who appreciate any teddy idiosyncrasies, whereas in their early days Magnas were intended to be played with by children who are more inclined to appreciate a friendly rather than an austere expression. In any case, UK production of teddy bears was severely curtailed during WWII and its immediate aftermath, and when it resumed in the 1950s styles and tastes had changed dramatically, leaving no demand for the old-fashioned Magna. In its own way, this characterful English bear is as much an evocation of the 1930s as a Clarice Cliff tea set and should be revered as such.
We all love a bargain, so it`s a bonus when one doll suddenly becomes two! It`s a lot more common than you might think – many dolls can be altered in appearance, giving extra play value, as well as novelty interest. Children love it when a sad doll becomes happy, or a doll in tatters is transformed into a princess, and numerous people nowadays are building up collections of `transforming dolls`. There are several ways in which a doll can change its appearance. Probably the most commonly-found are the topsy-turvy dolls, which consist of two half-dolls joined at the waist, sometimes with an extra doll attached at the back for good measure. Other transformable types include two-or-three-faced dolls, dolls with interchangeable heads, and dolls whose expressions change because their rubber faces are moulded over a moveable wire armature. The easiest topsy-turvy dolls to find are those made from cloth. Sometimes they are dolls which tell a story, such as Cinderella in rags turning into the belle of the ball with a flick of her skirts, or maybe Red Riding Hood who changes to grandma. The wolf might be incorporated too, giving even more value. The principle in all these dolls is the same – they wear long skirts and beneath them you`ll find another head and body, rather than a pair of legs. Recently, Jellycat, produced a topsy-turvy Alice in Wonderland doll who changes from Alice into the Queen of Hearts. Jellycat dolls are beautifully and elaborately made, and their other exciting upside-down dolls include the Frog Princess, Nursery Rhymes, Cinderella and the Enchanted Garden. Another maker, the North American Bear company, issue dolls which changed from witches to fairies and from Goldilocks to the Three Bears, amongst other innovative designs, while during the 1980s Peggy Nisbet made porcelain topsy-turvy dolls. One was Cinderella, who turned from rags to riches, the other was `My Fair Lady`, which altered from poor Eliza Doolittle to posh Eliza dressed for Ascot. Souvenir Topsy-turvys often seen, such colourful stockinette dolls from the West Indies, whose costumes change when they are reversed. Another form of costume doll has a moulded felt face with painted side-glance eyes, and turns from a Spanish senorita into a peasant girl. A few years ago, an Australian company called Milly Molly brought out a rag doll which turned from white to black, the idea being to promote racial harmony. Their slogan was ‘We may look different but we feel the same’, and the marketing theme was a ‘reconciliation doll for world peace’ The idea behind these charming dolls wasn`t new; the white to black theme has appeared many times, not just in cloth dolls but those made from other mediums too. Topsy-turvy dolls can be cloth, composition, plastic, china or celluloid. The American Madame Alexander doll company made a composition doll – a kind of plaster – in the 1930s, which consisted of a pair of dolls joined at the waist, one sprayed black, the other pink. The first had pigtails of black woolly hair, while the other doll`s hair was moulded and painted. These early Madame Alexander dolls change hands for around £150 in good condition. Plastic topsy-turvys i nclude a Roddy from the 1960s, with joined torsos. This was possibly a prototype, as few are around. A simple way of changing a doll`s appearance is to make a cloth doll with two fronts. This method was used for an attractive doll, Bobby Snooks, made by the US company, ToyWorks in the 1980s. On one side he is a smart soldier, but turn him over and he`s tattered and torn after battle, complete with a plaster on his nose. For years, manufacturers have puzzled how to produce dolls which change their expressions. Swivel-heads were often used in antique china dolls; the doll`s head might have two, or even three, faces, and a twist of a knob turned the head to reveal the desired expression. During the 1970s and 80s, this method was revived and a number of `cheap and cheerful` multi-faced bisque china dolls appeared in the shops. These dolls are now becoming sought by collectors, as the early ones are so expensive. The same technique has been used with plastic dolls. In America, they were particularly popular during the 1950s and 60s, and companies such as Ideal issued a series of them such as a soft-bodied girl with a knob on her head hidden by a bonnet. Her three faces changed from sleep, to smile, to cry. One of the most delightful two-faced dolls of recent times was made by Falca in the 1980s. She was a sturdy, 22 inch baby and her two faces – one happy, one miserable – were beautifully and realistically moulded. In addition, she featured a crying/laughing sound chip which, rather cleverly, would only operate when the correct face was forward! Various companies have made vinyl face-change play dolls from time to time, such as a small, 8 inch, unmarked Hong Kong baby dressed a blue floral hooded suit who featured a large knob on top of his head which, when turned, allowed three expressions. Another doll, `Toni Two`, was sold in packaging which boasted, `Turn my head and I`m mad, turn my head and I`m glad`. Toni Two was a toothy toddler wearing a red striped dress. Doll-designer Marie Osmond has featured two-face dolls in her collector`s range, including Missy, a beautifully-dressed doll in a turquoise gingham frock and mob cap, whose expression can be changed from happy to sad. Another way of changing faces is to model the doll`s head on a wire frame, using thin soft plastic, such as in the case of Mattel`s 1960 `Cheerful Tearful` or their later `Saucy` doll. Cheerful Tearful`s expression changed from a smile to a pout when her arm was raised, and she looked cute. In contrast, Saucy was hilarious. Operated in the same manneA collection of Dressel and Kister shoulder head and half-dollsr, she rolled her eyes, grimaced and made the most […]
Many collectors have a soft spot for Lee Middleton Dolls from the Lee Middleton Company; beautiful babies without the ugly wrinkles and creases which many manufactures feel obliged to mar their creations. I began collecting them comparatively recently, with my first acquisition dating only to 2001, but in fact the company has been active for twenty-five years. Pictured right: First Generation It all began in 1978 when the founder, Lee Middleton, from Ohio, wanted dolls resembling her own children, and she decided to make them herself. She sculpted those first dolls on her kitchen table. Very soon, relatives and friends asked Lee to sculpt dolls of their children, too. Lee’s talent was obvious, and before long she had formed a company, finding herself in charge of a cottage industry. She received her first nomination for a DOTY (Doll of the Year) Award in 1985. Larger premises were needed, eventually leading to the opening of a manufacturing facility in Belpre, Ohio, in 1989, and soon the company were producing more baby dolls a year than any other manufacturer in America. In fact the Mayor of Belpre declared the city to be “The Baby Doll Capital of the World.” Lee Middleton changed the way collectors felt about vinyl dolls; before, most designers had insisted on working with porcelain, but Lee’s dolls helped show that vinyl could be just as collectable. Her dolls went from strength to strength. Then, in 1997, tragedy struck – Lee died from a heart attack. Naturally, her employees were devastated. However, out of the heartbreak came an unexpected twist with the discovery of talented Canadian doll artist, Reva Schick, who would not only carry on the Lee Middleton tradition of creating exquisite dolls, but would take the company to new heights. Pictured left: Pride and Joy Lee Middleton had believed that her artistic talent was a gift from God, and Reva Schick holds the same belief, continuing the charming custom of including a tiny Bible in each doll box. In 1998, she was nominated for a DOTY award, and since then, has received almost forty prestigious awards and nominations. Yet in spite of all her sculpting, Reva still finds time to go on national doll signing tours and attend conventions, meeting thousands of fans. The dolls appeal to celebrities, too, who are just as tempted by the sweet faces – Oprah Winfrey and Demi Moore are both enthusiasts. The dolls from the Middleton Doll Company are life-size and weighted. Every year new dolls in various skin tones, eye colours, hair colours and sizes are introduced, made from a soft to touch vinyl, which feels very authentic. Their facial f eatures are realistic, and the babies have often been mistaken for real babies, with stories of police chastising women for holding their ‘babies’ on their laps instead of putting them in a restraint, or of leaving them unattended in cars. Pictured right: Tulip The quality of the Lee Middleton Dolls is excellent, and this extends to the clothing where only the finest materials are used. Beautiful lace, silky dresses, embroidered flowers, crocheted caps and patent shoes, as well as more trendy cords, anoraks, modern prints and even ethnic traditional dress ensure there is a baby to suit every taste. In 2004, Lee Middleton Original Dolls expanded its line to include ‘Breath of Life Babies’. This collection of incredibly lifelike preemie-sized dolls features a new skin-like vinyl called ‘New Baby Skin’ and rooted ‘Baby Fine’ hair. More than half of the first collection of Breath of Life Babies sold out before even being featured in stores. Interestingly, unlike most other companies, the dolls are not given conventional names; instead they are given a short description such as ‘Young At Heart’, ‘Holiday Wishes’, ‘Spring In Paris’, ‘Love Makes the World Go Round’ or ‘Uniquely Yours’. This allows the purchaser to bestow a name of her own choosing onto the doll, and also means that the name does not sway the choice. (For instance, if you were bullied by a Linda at school, or disliked a person called Mavis, you are not so likely to buy a doll if it bears those names!) Pictured left: Love Makes the World Go Round The various face sculpts also have titles; ‘Sweet Lips’, ‘Munchkin’, ‘Small Wonder’, ‘Lil’ Darlin’’, ‘Little Sunshine’, ‘Cutie Pie’ and ‘Beautiful Baby’ – there are dozens of them, and it’s amazing how, just by varying skin tone, eye colour or hair, the face can appear totally different. Some collectors aim to collect an example of every doll issued which features their favourite face. A few years ago the company set up ‘The Newborn Nursery’ at their store in Belpre, Ohio, and it proved so successful that department stores throughout America now contain these nurseries. Designed to look like a real hospital nursery, the Newborn Nursery lets children go through a fun baby doll adoption process before bringing their new bundles of joy home. When children choose to ‘adopt’ a Middleton Company baby, they can go along to a centre where sales associates wearing nursing uniforms teach the girls how to properly care for their dolls and give the new dolls health ‘check-ups’. They are handed ‘adoption papers’ before the baby is presented to the new little mummy. These nurseries have proved so popular that summer club events are organised where girls and their baby dolls gather to play. Recently, the company opened a museum to show the history and development of the Lee Middleton doll. It’s a must for collectors visiting Ohio, and can be found near the retail store. The tour begins with a replica kitchen table, illustrating how Lee Middleton began her sculpting, and traces her humble beginnings in rural south-eastern Ohio. Dolls on display include rare and interesting doll collections on loan from long-time collectors. Many creations by Reva Schick are exhibited, including one of her earliest works, a fascinating baby created with bread dough and made at her kitchen table! Pictured left: Happy Birthday Teddy Over the […]
Sunderland lustre (luster and lusterware in North America) is a general name given to a type of pottery with a pink lustre glaze made by a number of potteries in the 19th century including Leeds, Newcastle, Liverpool, Bristol and Swansea but principally and most famously by a number of potteries in the Sunderland and Wear area. The wares produced are also called Sunderland pink, pink lustre and even purple lustre. The ‘colour was originally derived from and tin powdered compound known as purple or cassius’ 1. Adding lustre to pottery was not a new method and examples of the lustring technique can be seen in wares from the middle east in the 9th and 10th century. Wedgwood used the technique on their Moonlight Lustre from 1805 to 1815 and later on their famous Fairyland lustre pieces in the 1920s. According to Michael Gibson 2 and The Sunderland Site 3 there were 16 potteries in Sunderland of which 7 are known to have produced lustrewares. These seven potteries also produced items under multiple names and include: Garrison Pottery; Dixon & Co; Dixon Phillips & Co; Dixon & Austin; Anthony Scott & Co.; Anthony Scott & Sons; Ball, William; Dawson, John; Dawson & Co.; Dawson’s Pottery; Dawson’s Low Ford Pottery; Thomas Dawson & Co.; Deptford Pottery; Dixon & Co.; Dixon Austin & Co.; Dixon, Austin, Phillips & Co.; Dixon, Phillips & Co.; Dixon, Robert; Garrison Pottery; Hylton Pot Works; Maling, William (the Maling Pottery was established at North Hylton, near Sunderland, in 1762 but moved to the Newcastle area in 1817); Messrs. Dawson & Co.; S. Moore & Co.; Moore’s Pottery; North Hylton Pottery; Olde Sanders Low Ford Pottery; Phillips & Co.; Scott Brothers & Co.; Scott’s Pottery; Snowball, Thomas; Southwick Pottery; The Sunderland Pottery; Thomas Snowball’s High Southwick Pottery;and the Wear Pottery. Many Sunderland lustre pieces are often difficult to attribute as they were unmarked. The pink lustre was that associated with Sunderland was added to many gift items such jugs, mugs, chamber pots, and wall plaques and often decorated with black transfer prints. A large number of items were commerorative wares and gifts for sailors and featured many repeated scenes including: the Wearmouth bridge, Ironbridge, symbols of Freemansonry, the Sailor’s Farewell and the Sailor’s Return, and countless sailing ships. Other items with lustre include watch-stands, rolling-pins, puzzle-jugs, frog mugs and carpet bowls. Sunderland Lustre and Pottery Reference 1 Collecting for Pleasure China introduced by Tony Curtis 2 19th Century Lustreware by Michael Gibson 3 The Sunderland Site – a really excellent web reference on the industrial history of Sunderland with a number of pages devoted to Sunderland Pottery. Collecting Frog Mugs – A Nice Surprise!
Whitefriars Glassworks, an institution in British glass making survived over 300 years before the last of the burning furnaces was put out in 1980. Although this glass is no longer in production pieces by designers such as Geoffrey Baxter have become one of the most sought after collectables in Studio Glass today and prices are going through the roof! The original home of Whitefriars glass was near Temple in London, it is because of this site that the glassworks was given its name. There originally stood an ancient monastry where the monks were dressed in white habits and were known as the “White Friars”. This glassworks has changed hands several times since being established in 1680. During its long history and before James Powell bought the works, the owners were a family called Holmes who successfully ran Whitefriars for over fifty years. It was in 1834 when James Powell, a famous wine merchant purchased the works and changed the name to “James Powell & Sons”. The original name of Whitefriars was not reverted back until 1963. In 1873 Harry Powell, grandson to James joined the works and by 1875 became Manager. Harry was responsible for some of the most innovative designs of the Arts and Crafts period and carried the works right through the First World War until his death in 1922. In 1923 the original works which stood in the heart of the City of London on the site of the monastry was moved to a new site in Wealdstone. A long tradition was that the furnaces should remain burning at all times, so when the site was moved a lit brazier was carried to the new site and used to ignite the very first furnace there. There are many designers which made Whitefriars Glass such an institution in the world of glass blowing including Harry Powell and James Hogan but today’s collectors seem to favour the designs of Geoffrey Baxter and his pieces are reaching huge prices on the secondary market at the moment. Geoffrey Baxter born 1922 was employed at the works as assistant designer in 1954. Working under the instruction of William Wilson, then Managing Director, he was the first permanent employee to be employed outside of the Powell family. Baxter graduated from the Royal College of Arts Industrial Glassware and was without doubt going to drive the company forward. The post war Britain realised that Sweden along with Finland and Denmark were pushing the glass making forward with the studio glass movement. This encouraged Baxter to take his influence from Scandinavian designs and combine them with his own contemporary ideas. He was responsible for creating the cased glass, this was coloured glass encased with clear crystal glass. The colours were rich ruby red, blue and green, produced in 1955. This was the start of the new modern trends from Baxter. He successfully created a balance between the traditional look and his bolder modern designs which in turn put Whitefriars Glass and British glass making back on the map. In 1964 William Wilson and Harry Dyer launched the “Knobbly Range” at the Blackpool Fair. These were free blown pieces of glass that were heavier and thicker than any other pieces produced before with a lumpy finish to the outside. Baxter was involved with producing the colours for the range, there were two choices either solid coloured cased glass or streaky colours in brown or green. The “Knobbly Range” was in production right through until 1972. Baxter went on to drive the company forward and give it a completely new lease of life, probably his most famous and definitely collectable ran ge is the “Textured Range” launched in 1967. It is no secret that Baxter produced the moulds for his new innovative design at home in his garage. Using natural materials such as tree bark he lined the moulds so that when the glass was blown into them it created a textured feel to the outside resembling the bark of a tree. He drew his inspiration from other natural and man-made materials. Once his moulds were created he used the factory to produce trials that he left on Wilson’s desk for him to see the minute he arrived back in the office from a holiday. Wilson was over the moon with the new range and it was given his blessing to go into production. Baxter used coiled wire to create other effects and then Baxter’s favourite vases was made by using irregular slabs of glass and building them together to make blocks on top of each other. This is the highly collectable “Cube Vase” or more commonly known today as the “Drunken Bricklayer”. Recently watching secondary market prices on internet auctions and at collectable fairs I have seen a rare 8” Aubergine colour Drunken Bricklayer sell from £600 up to as much as £1200. If you are starting a collection of Whitefriars then I highly recommend the “Bark Vases”, I bought my tangerine coloured vase for £40. They also come in various colours such as Kingfisher blue, Ruby and Pewter to name but a few. There are many variations on the “textured range” which include “Banjo”, ”Sunburst” and clear glass designs such as “Glacier” and “Everest”. Most of these designs were made during the 1960’s so have a real retro feel to them which again is extremely popular amongst collectors at the moment. As with anything popular other companies began to make cheaper copies of this range and so in the mid 70’s only the Bark vases and some of the Glacier pieces were being made. Peter Wheeler who was only at Whitefriars for a very short time designed with Baxter the “Peacock Studio Range” in 1969. This was a fantastic design using a combination of colours, Peter was also responsible for the gold and orange vases which formed part of the “striped Studio Range”. Whitefriars are also well known for their millifiore paperweights. Extremely difficult to make as all hand made and crafted Whitefriars became […]