On a recent trip to Brittany and the magnificent Mont St Michel I came across a wonderful display of modern Quimper Faience Pottery and notably Henriot Quimper. Many of the designs and colours were instantly recognisable and based on the traditional The Petite Breton pattern, but there were also many new modern and very attractive patterns. The handpainted French faience known as Quimper Pottery (pronounced “cam-pair”) was founded by potter Jean Baptiste Bousquet and has been manufactured in Quimper, Brittany, France since 1690. The Locmaria area of Qimper had an abundance of clay, a navigable river and skilled labour and was to be an ideal place for Jean Baptiste Bousquetto build his kilns. The firm was known as HB Quimper. In 1772, a rival firm was founded by Francoise Eloury known as Porquier. A third firm formed in 1778 by Guillaume Dumaine which was known as HR or Henriot Quimper. The pottery made by the three companies was similar featuring the Breton peasants and sea and flower motifs. In 1913, Porquier and Henriot merged with HB joining the others in 1968. The company was sold to a US family in 1984. More changes followed and in 2011 Jean Pierre Le Goff purchased the company and changed the name to Henriot. Henriot Quimper continues the tradition producing the traditional patterns featuring the Breton figures as well as many new more modern designs. The superbly talented resident artists at Henriot still hand-craft every piece of Quimper Pottery. Historically, the Quimper factories hosted artists in their studios which continues to this day. Quimper pieces are still produced from casts and works by major artists who have created works for the various Quimper factories, including Berthe Savigny, Louis Henri Nicot, R. Michaeu Vernez, Rene Quillivic, Beau & Porquier & George Robin. In addition, contemporary artists, such as Paul Moal and Loic Bodin continue to work with Henriot. Further details Henriot-Quimper : Actualité
Every good, middle or upper class Victorian gentleman worth his salt would have owned one. A small silver propelling pencil, perhaps attached to an Albert chain with a fob watch on the other end and stored in a waistcoat pocket, or kept with a notebook for a day’s important jottings. These retractable, sliding pencils were not inexpensive, and as such were bought or received as prestigious gifts and kept for a lifetime. They were made in enormous variety, with the size, shape, materials and level of decoration being a display of both your wealth and tastes. A little like today’s mobile phones or handbags, I suppose. Pictured: A Victorian gold and hardstone mounted propelling pencil, by Sampson Mordan & Co. Estimate £250-£350. Image Copyright Bonhams. Although there were many makers and retailers, there’s one name that jumps out as being bound inextricably with these pencils, right back to their inception and development in the early 19th century. That name is Sampson Mordan, famed and (once) famous silver and goldsmith. However, having said this, all is not so clear. The precise details of the development of this indispensable writing tool lie with someone else. Pictured: A Victorian Sampson Mordan & Co, London 1895 propelling pencil – A good quality Victorian fully hallmarked silver sliding Propelling Pencil, the cylindrical body with deep foliate scroll engraved decoration, an engraved cartouche with the owners name, the screw-off seal terminal set with a bloodstone. The image is Copyright of Steppes Hill Farm Antiques who have a speciality in pens and writing equipment. Visit https://www.steppeshillfarmantiques.com to view their site. As with many important inventions, the name of the real brain behind it is not the one that is most widely known. In this case, the real inventor was an engineer called John Isaac Hawkins. An interesting and innovative man who shared his life between the US and UK, Hawkins was also responsible for developing a polygraph and an upright piano, as well as conjuring up the name ‘bi-focals’. Hawkins had seen that most pencils were made from a long lead bound in wax and rope or fabric, or cased in wood or metal. As they were used, they needed to be sharpened, requiring extra tools. Surely the lead could be placed in a mechanism allowing it to be telescoped out on a spiral as it wore down through use? This would also then allow all manner of elaborate cases to be developed, widening the market for his invention. So, in 1822, the twist-screw mechanism behind most propelling pencils was developed. Precisely what Mordan had to do with this is, I believe, as yet unknown, although he is credited as co-inventor despite apparently having had little experience of inventing or engineering himself. However, Mordan had studied under another inventor, Joseph Bramah, who also had a hand in developing writing instruments, so perhaps he met Hawkins and grew his knowledge this way. Pictured: A Victorian Sampson Mordan & Co novelty propelling pencil c 1880 – A rare Victorian novelty silver Propelling Pencil formed as a 19th century Golf Club, the pencil emerging from the handle with a twist mechanism. The image is Copyright of Steppes Hill Farm Antiques who have a speciality in pens and writing equipment. Visit https://www.steppeshillfarmantiques.com to view their site. Whatever, Mordan was able to acquire the total rights to the design in the same year. Quite why Hawkins sold them outright so quickly to Mordan is a mystery. Some say that Hawkins was primarily an inventor and engineer and was not interested in business, and there is evidence to back this up. To use two clichés, Mordan took the bull by its horns and really went to town. He built a highly successful business that, by the mid 19th century, was arguably unrivalled in terms of its expertise, skill and inventiveness. Many thousands of examples were produced with their cases ranging in form from simply decorated cylinders to novelty shapes such as owls and even people. However, by the early 20th century, people began to turn their back on Mordan’s costly confections. The development of brightly coloured plastics, and the rise of famous names such as Parker, Waterman and MontBlanc, sounded the death knell. People wanted more, for less, and they could have it. When the Mordan factory was bombed during WWII, the final end came. Even so, the company he founded lives on today, having been bought by traditional maker Yard-O-Led, part of the Filofax group. Despite what I have said above, and the precious materials used, the majority of examples found will have values of somewhere between £40 and £400. This really isn’t expensive for what they are, when you think about it. After all, these are made from solid silver or solid gold, and were made entirely by hand with skilled use of machines for certain tasks, including making the finely engineered internal parts. Just think how much similar work would cost today if you walked into, say, Asprey? There are four primary concerns when thinking about value. Firstly, there is the material. Solid gold is obviously more valuable than solid silver. It would have cost considerably more at the time, so is rarer today as fewer would have been sold. High (18) carat gold is even scarcer, particularly in fine condition as gold is a comparatively soft and easily worn material in high carats. Look closely too, as there are three colours of gold; yellow, green and rose/pink. The addition of precious stones is also a sign of rarity. Whilst small turquoise cabochons were often used during the 1860s & 70s, and seed pearls can also be found, precious stones such as rubies and sapphires are much scarcer. A pencil like the tiny one shown here combines all of these– three colours of solid gold, pearls and precious stones – rare indeed. In fact, only four have ever been seen by collectors. Other materials found on Mordan pencils include ivory, tortoiseshell and carved wood. Despite its humble origins, carved wood can be quite rare, particularly if […]
As an obsessive follower of fashion one of my favourite pastimes is spending copious amounts of money in the designer shops lining London’s smartest streets. Just recently I caught the train home armed with bags bearing the names of Gucci and Lulu Guinness, but if I’d had enough money then the bag that I would have definitely carried home would have been blazoned with the word “Chanel”. Pictured: Gabrielle Chanel, A Little Black Dress, Circa 1926 – classic silk dress in tunic form, with integral overblouse which ties at back waist, short sleeves and square neck, finely pleated apron panel, labelled Gabrielle Chanel Paris, numbered ‘2924’. Sold at Christies, London, Nov 2007 for £875 ($1,806). Born Gabrielle Chanel on 19th August 1883 in Saumur, France, into a poverty stricken family, she spent most of her childhood growing up in the austere area of Auvergne. Chanel’s mother was a sickly woman and her father a philanderer. Life became even harder for Chanel at the age of twelve when after her mother’s death from Tuberculosis she was abandoned at an orphanage by her father. Pictured: A Chanel Wedding Gown And Train 1930 – Composed of a dress with elaborately gored and top stitched bodice and skirts, the detachable train appliqué with cream velvet flowers, fixing to shoulder with hooks and eyes. Labelled CHANEL, with couture number ‘99409’ Sold at Christies, London, Nov 2013 for £40,000 ($63,520). Chanel’s passion for fashion started whilst at a boarding school in Notre Dame; she studied the other girls clothes and fabrics, then learnt to sew. After leaving school she found employment in a lingerie shop and took a second job with a tailor, but her biggest ambition was to leave the life of poverty behind. Intent on seeking wealth without marriage she knew that rich men would shower her with gifts and introduce a grandeur way of life. This dream became reality when Chanel found work as a cabaret singer in a bar at night. She sang two songs and one of these was called “Who has seen Coco”. This became her signature tune and gave her both a new name and the start of a relationship with Etienne Balsan, a wealthy man whose family money was made from textile manufacturing. Life as a mistress was a little uncomfortable at first, as she had a boyish figure and short hair, which was very different to the other mistresses who wore elaborate, corseted dresses and knew how to conduct themselves properly. Chanel decided to adopt her own unique style by wearing men’s clothing, and although this look was a little strange compared to other elegant women Chanel felt more comfortable and continued to dress in this manner. It was during this period that she started to design her own range of hats; this was the first stepping-stone of her successful career. Women craved to wear her millinery creations and it wasn’t long before she was recognised as an important hat designer, forcing her to open a workshop in 1909. Chanel’s first shop was opened in Paris in 1910, and by 1912 she had left Etienne Balsan for Boy Capel, a successful businessman. Capel took a personal interest in Chanel and backed her business financially, thus encouraging her to fulfil her dreams. She opened a boutique in Deauville in 1913 and then began to expand by designing clothing as well as hats. Using hand knitted fabrics she created jackets and skirts. These fresh new designs became an instant hit with the wealthier women, liberating them from their corsets, thus liberating their minds. Chanel wanted women to no longer be reliant on men but to think for themselves and saw that this could happen through the clothes that they wore. In 1915 Chanel’s business was thriving and she was able to open a second house of couture in Biarritz. Completely selfsufficient she no longer needed Boy Capel’s finances but he was the one true love of her life. Chanel was devastated; when in 1919 tragedy hit; Boy Capel was killed in a car crash, and once again she felt abandoned, coping with the grief by throwing herself into work. It was in 1921 when Chanel’s signature scent first appeared on the market. She asked Ernest Beaux, a perfumer, to create an innovative perfume and the result was a fresh smell that lasted longer than any other scent. She set about designing packaging that would capture what the name “Chanel” was all about; clean, crisp and modern. The perfume was housed in a square shaped plain bottle and she did what no other designer had done before by attaching her own name to the scent, “Chanel No. 5”. It was then launched at a Spring Fair on the 5th day of the month. “Chanel No. 5” has become one of the world’s biggest selling scents and the earlier bottles are highly sought after in collecting circles. Another popular area of Chanel collecting is costume jewellery. She was inspired by her own collection of precious stones to create a range of costume jewellery that would complement her clothing ranges. It was sold in a Chanel box and materials used varied from enamel and glass to crystal rhinestones and faux pearls. Some of the rarer pieces are worth thousands of pounds, such as a Peacock pin, set with poured coloured glass and clear crystal rhinestones, produced in the 1930s. This can command £1,665-£2,335. Another rare pin is the enamelled frog brooch dating from 1927, again worth in the region of £1,500-£2,000. If your pocket will not stretch to such high sums, then you can find more affordable pieces of Chanel jewellery on the market. Look for pins in the form of the Maltese Cross which was a signature motif for Chanel. Unfortunately this design is not as popular with contemporary collectors as some of the other designs, so a pin would only cost £80-£100, but it’s a good place to start if you want to begin a collection of Chanel jewellery. Coco Chanel continued to make classic sophisticated […]
Space 1999 remains a cult classic and we take a look at some of the Space 1999 collectables, Space 1999 merchandise and Space 1999 toys that have appeared over the years.
Glass is the third most popular collectible in the world, and Crackle Glass is one of the most beautiful and interesting. Crackle Glass is also known by other names, such as Craquelle Glass, Ice Glass and Overshot Glass. How is crackle glass made? It was the Venetian glass makers of the 16th Century who invented this process. Even though there are many different processes, basically, the glass is immersed into cold water while it is molten, thereby cracking the glass. It was then reheated to seal the cracks, and either molded or hand blown into the desired shape. Glass makers from the 19th Century and even today are still using the same methods. Crackle Glass was reborn in the mid 1850’s as glass makers often used this process to cover up defects in their work. If there were cordings or striations in the glass (defects), they would crackle it. Crackle Glass comes in a tremendous variety of shapes, styles and colors. It was made by the common glass makers and the best glass makers, such as Galle, Steuben, Moser, Loetz, Stevens & Williams, Webb, etc. Collectors, who start collecting crackle glass, often start by purchasing the miniatures. These items are usually 3″ to 5″ tall. They will fit on any window shelf, and when the sun hits them, they sparkle beautifully. The best thing about collecting crackle glass, is that it’s one glass that has not been widely reproduced. There are only a few companies making it today, and there are some imports from China, Taiwan, and other countries, but the experienced collector can tell these apart from the old pieces.
If you combine Disney, ENESCO and talented artist Miss Mindy you get a wonderful and unique re-imagining of Disney with The World of Miss Mindy. The collection has definitely struck a chord here at WCN and everybody loves Miss Mindy’s take on Belle, Cogsworth and Lumiere. The launch collection of The World of Miss Mindy comprises of twelve figurines in differing sizes, the larger figurines have diorama scenes within the characters dresses that light up to add to their whimsical charm. Three classic Disney films are represented in the offering, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White and Beauty and the Beast along with the Cheshire Cat, Mickey & Minnie and Tinker Bell. Miss Mindy works in many mediums and her ‘Cartoon Folk Art’ ranges from fluid ink drawings and paintings, to her fabulously handcrafted sculptures in our launch collection. She plays with the characters’ lines — exaggerating their head shapes and enlarging the expressive eyes, whilst making other features more petite. Miss Mindy has been a prolific professional artist for many years. She paints commissions for her private collectors, and showcase her paintings and sculpture, whilst Character designing for animation studios like Disney, WildBrain, and Warner Brothers. She’s directed her own cartoon with Nickelodeon Animation, and has some treats in store for the future! Aside from Animation, Miss Mindy also creates illustration and ideas for Mattel, Hard Rock café, Zippo, and many others. She has also written and illustrated two books with Baby Tattoo Books Publishing and recently designed her own line of vinyl toys with Disney Vinylmation. For more information visit ENESCO or https://missmindy.com
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 […]
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.
Black dolls are special, they enhance and enrich any collection of dolls. They provide a focal point, and the eye is always drawn to the black beauties amongst a group of insipid ‘white-skinned’ dolls Pictured right: Lee Middleton First Generation Doll Whether pale chocolate, dark ebony or coffee coloured, black dolls bring contrast to a collection; certainly, a group of black dolls is a stunning sight, and many collectors specialise in them. With older dolls, especially, black versions are often more expensive than their white siblings because manufacturers tended to produce black dolls in smaller quantities than their white counterparts. In the case of some of Britain’s classic dolls, such as Tiny Tears, the black varieties were only sold abroad, while although many modern play dolls come with a leaflet advertising a black version, they are not always easy to obtain. For example, when my daughter wanted a black version of a Hornby/Tyco ballerina doll in the early1990s, Toys ‘R’ Us had to order it specially for her, even though it was depicted on the box as part of the range. Even today, though millions of people in Britain are ‘ethnic’, the vast majority of dolls in an average toyshop are white. Pictured right: Composition Topsy Doll When I was a child, no collection of dolls was regarded as complete unless crowned by a black doll; mine was a 1950s Roddy thumbs-up walker with a soft, black, mohair wig, amber eyes and ‘gold’ earrings. Hard plastic, she stood 12 inches high, and as she walked her head moved from side to side. Recently, I managed to find a replacement, she cost me almost £40, although an equivalent Caucasian version would have been at least £10 less. I have also added a Roddy ‘Topsy’ baby doll, which features three tufts of hair, as well as a larger Roddy bent-legged baby – both of these, too, cost more than the white versions. Many black dolls earn the Topsy name, taken from the popular novel, ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’ by Harriet Beecher Stowe. This book, first issued in 1851, did much to popularise black dolls, mainly due to the cheeky little character named Topsy. Years later, baby dolls with three tufts of hair sprouting from their heads became known as Topsy dolls, and were made by various manufacturers, becoming especially popular during the 1930s and again in the 1950s. Pictured right: Daisy Kingdom Daisy Doll Although some black dolls have Negro features, more often they are just a basic white doll painted black or chocolate brown to save the cost of making a special mould and given a black wig and brown or amber eyes. Dolls such as the Zapf black Baby Born make no attempt to depict the correct characteristics, while at the other end of the scale, creations by doll artist Philip Heath, are amazingly-detailed depictions of African children. A German catalogue dating from 1860 reveals that a fifth of the jointed wooden dolls made at the time were black. During the nineteenth century, dolls were often made from black wax or painted papier-mache, but when bisque became popular, manufacturers had problems with the black ones. Eventually they developed a technique to fix the colour during a second firing; before that, the colour tended to chip or flake from the bisque revealing pale patches. By the beginning of the twentieth century, black dolls were produced by manufacturers such as Kammer and Reinhart, Kestner, Heubach Koppelsdorf, Armand Marseille, Simon and Halbig, and others. Many were beautiful, with even colouring as techniques improved. French black dolls, by makers such as Bru and Jumeau, were luxury creations often painted in several different shades of black and brown to create a very realistic skin tone. Production of black dolls increased during the 1920s and 30s, coinciding with the popularity of the baby doll; dolls such as Armand Marseille’s ‘My Dream Baby’ and Grace Putnam’s ‘Bye-Lo Baby’ were created as black versions, though they still had Caucasian features. Black versions of bisque dolls can cost much more than their white counterparts, especially those displaying even colouring. Pictured left: Pedigree HP Boy Doll When composition dolls began to take over from bisque in the 1930s, it was noticeable how the black colouration varied considerably, with some showing a rich hue while others were blotchy and inclined to flake. Amongst the composition dolls were several Topsy types, including a 9 inch cutie with side-glance eyes, a floral romper suit and three woolly pigtails tied with scarlet ribbons, produced by the Gem Toy Co., of America. Several other companies produced dolls with the three-pigtailed style, while the British Cecil Coleman firm issued a crawling ‘Topsy’ in the 1930s. Effanbee, of America, produced their composition Patsy dolls in black as well as white, and these were copied by manufacturers such as Bouton Woolf, who produced ‘Phyllis’, a 12 inch girl. Phyllis was unevenly sprayed and had a strange waxy glaze prone to crazing. I have one of these in my collection, and in spite of her faults she is one of my favourite dolls. Pictured right: Pedigree Kizzie Doll Black dolls were also made from celluloid, until this material was phased out in the 1950s as a fire hazard. Many of these dolls were extremely pretty, and, produced by companies such as PetitColin of France and the German turtle mark Rheinische Schildkrot, were often dressed in ethnic costumes to be sold as souvenirs. Norah Wellings, a British dollmaker working in the 1930s – 50s, was famed for her character-type cloth dolls, and one of her most popular creations was the ‘South Sea Islander’, made from dark brown velvet, and wearing a grass skirt and a smile. The male counterpart sported a bright pair of trousers and a rather toothy grin. Black fabric dolls were also produced by Dean’s, Alpha Farnell, Chad Valley and Merrythought, but the majority are more difficult to find today than their white counterparts. During the late 1940s and early 1950s, not long after the war, […]
The RMS Titanic left Southampton on the 10th April 1912 headed for New York. Four days later she hit an iceberg and on the 15th April she sank.