The Wind in the Willows is a classic of children’s literature by Kenneth Grahame, first published in 1908.
In England from quite early times leather vessels were used very generally. The black jack was a kind of leather pitcher or jug always lined with pitch on metal, of massive and sturdy build, corpulent and capacious. It quite dwarfed all rival pots, mugs, or pitchers of leather. Pictured right: A Charles II Silver-Mounted Leather Blackjack Jug Unmarked, Circa 1682. The silver rim with hatched lappets, the front with oval silver plaque pinned on below the spout which is inscribed The Gift of George Barteram to Abigail 1682 11 in. (28 cm.) high. Sold for £2,750 at Christies, London, March 2009. Image Copyright Christies. In the fifteenth century they were called ” jacks ” ; New College, Oxford, in 1414 pur-chased ” four leather jacks two holding a gallon each and two a pottle each, the four costing four shillings and eightpence.” The vessels were not known as black jacks till the sixteenth century, being occasionally described before then as ” Jacke of leather to drinke in.” The word jack was used for various articles—there were ” kitchen jacks” to turn the roasting spits, and leather coats were ” jacks of defence.” This defensive coat was known in England for several centuries as “the jack,” and when adopted by the French archers was called ” jaque d’Anglois ” ; the prefix ” black ” was no doubt added to the drinking jack to distinguish it from this leather jerkin, which would generally be made of buff leather and as a rule of lighter colour ; the vessels were not known as “black jacks” jacks till the sixteenth century, the full title was used in 1567 when Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, purchased a black jack for one shilling. Pictured left: A William And Mary Leather And Silver-Mounted Black Jack, Circa 1690 Of tapering form 7½ in. (18.5 cm.) high. Sold for £1,375 ($1,907) at Christies, London, January 2009. Image Copyright Christies. The black jack was a feature of the cellars, butteries, and dining halls of our ancient hospitals, colleges and grammar schools till modern times. The chief reason for its survival in such places is that the jack was essentially a vessel for the refec-tory or the baronial hail; it held a high place while the ancient mode of living prevailed, and every man of substance took his meals in his hall with his family and servants. When more luxurious fashions came in and the lord took his meals privately in parlour or dining room, the leathern pot re-mained in the servants’ hall with the excep-tion of those that were silver mounted. These latter were small as a rule and more richly treated; they were edged with silver and often lined with that metal or with pewter in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and were highly prized. There exist to-day (mostly in private collections) quite a number of these silver mounted jacks; they were more numerous than the plain ones. They no doubt owe their preserva-tion to the fact of their greater value and the ornamental treat-ment and extra beauty of work-manship bestowed upon them. Jacks were not rimmed or lined with silver from a fastidious dislike to drinking from leather, for jugs and cups of various materials, earthenware, wood, coconut vessels and even china were habitually so mounted. Pictured right: Doulton Lambeth Black Jack Leather Silver Rim Beer Pitcher Motto Jug 1880s. Sold For Us $425.00 Approximately £271.05 on ebay, April 2012. The black jack did not require a lid and was seldom made with one, but occasionally lidded ones are mentioned in old inventories. At the Guildhall Museum there is an interesting jack which has a curious lid of leather, but it is obviously an addition that was made at a remote period in the jack’s history. The lid not only covers the top but reaches nearly an inch down the sides ; it was a hinge of iron which has a long strap over the lid itself in which is a thumb-piece to enable the person holding the ack to raise the lid with the same hand. Sometimes a wooden lid was used attached to the handle by a leather strap by means of which it could be fastened down to a buckle on the spout. It is probable that ]acks with lids were used when it was necessary to fetch drink from a distance, not every village having an alehouse. Besides the wooden cups, which were so numerous in past times, cups of horn, pots of pewter and other metals, would all compete with leathern mugs, and help to render them unnecessary. By the middle of the seventeenth century many of these were in general use and the necessity for leather pots of small size would not be great ; records of them are scarce. Pictured left: Doulton Lambeth Blackjack jug “The Landlords Caution”. Made from stoneware that’s impressed with leather when still wet and then fired. It gives a very convincing leather effect that’s complete with stitching detail and grain. 7 1/2″ tall and 7″ spout to handle. The jug has the words from the poem “The Landlords Caution” “THE MALTSTER HAS SENT HIS CLERK – AND YOU MUST PAY THE SCORE – FOR IF I TRUST MY BEER – WHAT SHALL I DO FOR MORE” written about it in an unordered way. I believe the idea is that as long as the landlord hasn’t drunk too much of his own product he should be able to work out the order (as a former Landlord I can relate!). This particular jug was stamped as made for Sidney W Allen of 39 White Rock, Hastings. It also has a Doulton Lambeth stamp as well as Doulton and Slaters patent stamp. Sold for £65 on ebay, April 2012. The warden of Win-chester College in 1897 remembered that when he was a boy at school the black jacks were in daily use, the beer being brought into Hall in them and transferred to pew-ter mugs. Thomas Tusser, the author of” Five Hundred […]
Portmeirion Pottery The name Portmeirion to many people conjures up images of the beautiful Italian style village in North Wales or they find themselves reminiscing the cult 1960s television series “The Prisoner”. To collectors the name Portmeirion is innovative and decorative designs in pottery created by Susan William Ellis. Sir Clough William-Ellis created the idealic Portmeirion village in North Wales back in 1925 to encourage visitors to holiday cheaply in pleasant but unusual surroundings. His daughter Susan had a love for art and had always had made design part of her life but it was not until she began work for the Portmeirion gift shop situated in the village that her designs became her own and Portmeirion pottery started to evolve. Susan married Euan Cooper-Ellis in 1945 and together they ran the gift shop. They bought in cheap souvenirs to sell to the holiday makers but Susan became frustrated wanting to buy more saleable objects that caught the customers eye. Her father had an association with the “Grays” factory well know today for Susie Cooper’s early designs. Susan found a copper plate depicting the picture of a lady in Welsh costume and sent this to the factory, Gray’s then produced an exclusive range of souvenirs for the gift shop from Susan’s design. From then on Susan designed many items including Portmeirion Dolphin – all the earlier pieces bear the yellow ship back stamp. Unfortunately the pottery was losing money and demand from Susan was high as she now had another shop owned by her and her husband in Pond Street, London. In 1960 Susan and Euan made the decision to buy the Grays factory in order for Susan to produce more designs. The following year another pottery was purchased, Kirkhams Ltd. This enabled Susan to concentrate on actually making pottery as well as designing. Kirkhams was very run down and needed modernising, once this was finished, the Grays pottery was sold, all the staff moved to the Kirkhams site and “The Portmeirion Potteries Ltd” was born. One of Susan’s first creations “Totem” was launched in 1963 and is highly sought after by collectors today, reasonably easy to find on the secondary market it was produced by cutting abstract shapes into the moulds. This particular design resulted in putting Portmeirion on the map. Such was the demand that Portmeirion had trouble keeping up with the orders. “Cypher” had been introduced along side “Totem” which again proved an instant hit! “Jupiter” a similar design but with a pattern or small circular shaped impressions was introduced in 1964. Both Cypher and Jupiter were in the shape of the new “Sherif” range. Unfortunately Jupiter had a problem in the glaze – it marked easily when used from certain acid substances such as fruit, so this was quickly discontinued. Examples of this design are now extremely hard to find. Other potteries began to copy the “Totem” design and sell at cheaper prices, causing Susan to come up with more design ideas and to bring the “Totem” range to an end. Samarkand was also available around this time, launched in 1965 again it was extremely popular. All of the early designs were produced in the cylinder shape which is easily recognisable to collectors of Portmeirion today “Magic City” produced in 1966 was probably the most popular design of its time and is extremely sought after by collectors eager to buy pieces on the secondary market, expect to pay from £70 upwards for a coffee pot in mint condition. It depicts scenes inspired by Susan’s travels and is also part of the “Sherif” range. “Magic Garden” introduced four years later was not as successful as “Magic City” but now collectors frantically try to find examples for their collections. Aztec and Phoenix amongst others were produced in the 1960s with usually gold, platinum and copper lustre designs on a black background. Extremely attractive and eye catching these too have a similar value as “Magic City” on the secondary market. The 1970s saw the creation of Pormeirion’s most collected and successful range to date, “Botanic Garden”. This design is transfer printed and is produced in the “Drum” shape. Originally launched in 1972, more than thirty years later this design is still in production and is the main stay of the pottery. Inspiration for this range was drawn from books purchased by Susan. The illustrator of the book “ Morals of Flowers” was William Clarke, a botanical painter; his drawings resulted in the patterns for the “Botanic Garden” range. Floral designs in this range include flowers such as Venus’s Fly Trap, Purple Iris, Spanish Gum Cistus, Honeysuckle, Speedwell and many more. All avid Portmeirion collectors know there are hundreds of different designs and shapes that it is almost impossible to cover all of them, this also applies to the designs in the Botanic Garden range. Rare items such as the Yellow Crown Imperial and Manchineel Tree plates can fetch in excess of £100 on the secondary market with collectors desperate to lay their hands on them. Stephen P McKay author of “Portmeirion Pottery” published by Richard Dennis publications says “Prices are all over the place at the moment due to world wide financial uncertainties. American Botanic Collectors are paying up to £100 for rare plates and the Double Camellia and Austrian Lilies are hitting £200 when they appear. Rare coffee pots are going for £70 to £150 for Magic Garden. All the above prices are typical for E-Bay and Antique fairs, you can still get bargains at local auctions and car boot sales if you can spare the time to look. ” With over forty years under its belt and going from strength to strength Portmeirion is without doubt one of the most successful potteries still in existence today. COLLECTORS CLUB There are dedicated collectors clubs for Botanic Garden as well as the general Portmeirion pieces. Collectors of Botanic Garden are predominantly ladies who have built up their collections over the years, adding new items as they are introduced and […]
In the 21st Century they put the finishing touches to any outfit and are a sign of status and adornment but shoes were originally the simplest way to protect the feet. Early shoes were made of large leaves, bark and grass tied together with vines. The decades have seen progression in the design of footwear so it is the modern shoes that are sought after by collectors. Boots were the favoured footwear for the 19th century, worn by both men and women styles varied from the front laced Balmoral boot to the button boot. Delicate shoes were also worn and made of satin, silk, reptile and leather. The styles were not too different from modern day shoes with mules being popular with both sexes for indoor wear and the classic court shoe being worn from 1860s/1870s onwards. Towards the end of the 19th century shoes with extremely high heels became fashionable, almost impossible to walk in. Known as “Barrette” because they were fastened with bars and buttons. The Northampton Museum houses over 12,000 pairs of shoes dating from 1620 to the present day. One of the highlights of their collection are shoes worn by Queen Victoria on her wedding day. Made of white satin and trimmed with bands of ribbon they were made by Gundry & Son, shoemakers to the Queen and are the epiphany of Victorian style By the 1920s and the “Age of Jazz” shoe design became more prolific. Bar shoes were still popular and brightly coloured fabrics were the height of fashion which reflected in the fancy footwear. The 1930s saw more innovative styles with radical modern shapes being introduced. The middle of the 20th century saw the biggest turning point for shoe design; the 1950s introduced the stiletto heel or “little dagger” as it was also known. A complete turn around from the chunky designs of previous decades, highly collected the retro 1950s is where most collectors start buying. Good examples can still be found around car boot sales and jumble sales for a few pounds – also vintage clothes shops stock many 1950s and 1960s shoes for as little as £50 upwards. From the Rock ‘n’ Roll years into the swinging sixties shoes became a fashion statement. Beatlemania saw the reintroduction of the elastic-sided Chelsea boot, which had been fashionable over 125 years previous. Fashion designers such as Mary Quant, started to experiment with plastics using bright psychedelic colours producing hip and trendy footwear for the fashion conscious. The platform boot dominated the mid 1970s with inspiration taken from the “Glam Rock” pop groups of the decade. The film “Tommy” was released in 1975 and starred “Elton John” as the pinball wizard. The famous boots worn by the star were modelled on “cherry red” Dr Martens, moulded in fibre glass they stand 4ft 6.5″ high. These boots can be viewed at the Northampton museum as they are on loan from R Griggs makers of Dr Martens who purchased them at auction when Elton sold them through Sothebys in 1988. The museum also owns a pair of Vivienne Westwood green mock crocodile super elevated Gillies. M ade especially for the museum they are similar to the blue ones worn by supermodel Naomi Campbell when she toppled over on the catwalk in 1993. Westwood is one of the top names in the collecting world and her products can make large amounts of money on the secondary market. Expect to pay from between £400 to £600+ for a pair, especially those dating from the 1980s. This may seem a lot of money but when you take into consideration a brand new pair of Jimmy Choo’s can cost up to £1,000 from a retail outlet, the vintage ones are a bargain. Modern shoe designer Patrick Cox is constantly aware of the collectors market and produces limited edition shoes for this purpose. Last year an exclusive pair of his Swarovski crystal-encrusted red stilettos was auctioned for “Art of Fashion” and raised £7,000 for Breakthrough Breast Cancer. Other lots included white stilettos by Stuart Weitzman customised by celebrities such as Dido and Sophie Ellis-Bextor, these raised £200 – £220 a pair. Shoes design has progressed increasingly over the last century with new technology and material available allowing shoe designers to become more innovative and experimental.. Rebecca Shawcross of Northampton Museum’s advice is “shoes will not make you a fortune but buy what you like, wear them and love them”. FACTS Judy Garland’s “Ruby Slippers” from the film “Wizard of Oz” made $666,000 at Christies in 2000. The first Dr Marten rolled off the production line on 1st April 1960 Shoes have been found in buildings where they have been hidden to protect the house and the inhabitants from evil and misfortune St. Crispin is the patron Saint of shoemakers. The oldest shoe in the world was made 8,000 years ago and found in the USA in a cave. For further information on the Northampton Museum and its shoe collection visit www.northampton.gov.uk/museums
At a recent exhibition at the Acorn Gallery, Pocklington we had the pleasure of interviewing a favourite artist of ours at WCN, the very talented Marie Louise Wrightson. Marie’s work and imagining of Alice in Wonderland has caught our attention and her clever use of props, novelties and frames for her art make her an artist to watch. Have you always been a fan of Alice in Wonderland? Being Dyslexic, I have always loved the illustrations in books, for me, they bring the stories to life in so many ways. Alice in Wonderland has always been my favorite book, I think it’s that mix of escapism, fantasy and the wonderful portrayal of the creativity of Lewis Carroll in his story telling. Who is your favourite character? My favorite character has to be the Mad Hatter, because of his love of tea and fabulous quotes. Do you collect Alice in Wonderland books? I have a large collection of of Alice in Wonderland objects and around 70 books, many favorites, but I do have a Russian copy with some amazing illustrations. I am constantly inspired by the drawings, paintings and illustrations from the books, a fabulous resource of imagery. You also create designs featuring wonderful hair arrangements. How did you come up with the idea and how do you select the items that appear? I started painting a grown up Alice with large cups on her head and long hair with all the related objects not long after I graduated from art school. I like creating that almost dream like effect with my figures, a head full of dreams. What else inspires you? I’m a bit of a DC fan and have painted many characters from the comics and films, would love to paint a Bane and Batman piece, many next year. Favorite comic characters has to be Harley Quinn and Cat Woman, always fun to paint. More about Marie Louise Wrightson Marie Louise graduated from Duncan of Jordanstone School of Art, in Dundee, in 2005, having completed her degree in Fine Art and then later her Masters. Marie’s modern twist on a very fine art style has gained her an excellent reputation. Marie was born in Lincolnshire but has lived in Scotland for the past twenty years. Further information You can find Marie on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/MarieLWrightson/ Marie Louise Wrightson at the Acorn Gallery
The George Ohr Pottery is one of the most fascinating ceramic art movements in history. The eccentric artist George Edgar Ohr was its founder, and his unique pottery has become highly sought after by collectors. However, much of George Ohr’s fame, recognition and interest in his work came posthumously. In this feature, we will take a look at the history of the George Ohr Pottery and explore why it is so unique. We will also discuss the life and work of George Edgar Ohr, and see why he is considered to be one of the most important ceramic artists of all time. George Edgar Ohr was born in Biloxi, Mississippi in 1857. He was the second of five children, the son of a German immigrant who ran a successful grocery business. As a young man, Ohr showed an interest in art and began to experiment with clay. He later studied ceramics at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and then apprenticed in 1879 with a local potter and family friend Joseph Fortune Meyer at his factory in New Orleans. After a couple of years of learning to be a potter Ohr travelled throughout America discovering the art-pottery movement. After learning how to “boss a little piece of clay into a gallon jug,” Ohr set out on his own to see what other potters were doing. In the early 1880s, he traveled through 16 states, dropping in on ceramics studios, shows and museums. By the time he got back to Biloxi in 1883, he had absorbed the essence of America’s burgeoning art-pottery movement. In Cincinnati’s Rookwood studio and a few others, potters were decorating their wares based on Japanese or French ceramics, adding animals, birds and bright floral designs. Ohr returned home determined to make art, not pots. (Bruce Watson) On his return Ohr opened his own pottery studio and shop in Biloxi, actually next to his father’s house. He found and used a red clay for the pottery along the banks of the Tchoutacabouffa River. Initially he created utility pieces such as pitchers, planters and chimney flues. He would later experiment with pots in anatomical shapes and eventually with pieces he called his “mud babies”. He did take his experimental pottery which featured unusual shapes glazed with wild colours to exhibitions in New Orleans and Chicago but they were not greatly received and did not sell well. The Mad Potter of Biloxi More eccentric than mad, George Ohr was happy to self proclaim as the “Mad Potter of Biloxi”. This was fuelled by the way he looked and his pottery and shop which was unlike anything that had been seen before. It is also said that his eccentricity can be seen in his pots. Several striking features were evident his large stature, his amazing 18 inch mustache and his eyes. Bruce Watson mentions “And there was something in Ohr’s eyes—dark, piercing and wild—that suggested, at the very least, advanced eccentricity.” The George Ohr Pottery was a mass of colour and the signs advertising the pottery and on the pottery also provided a great deal of humour including “Pot-Ohr-E”, “Get a Biloxi Souvenir, Before the Potter Dies, or Gets a Reputation”, and “Unequaled unrivaled—undisputed— GREATEST ARTPOTTERON THE EARTH.” He was certainly way ahead of his time. His work really evolved after a great fire in 1894 destroyed a lot of downtown Biloxi including Ohr’s fathers shop and his own pottery. Ohr collected his “killed babies” (the burned pots he had made) and apparently kept them forever. Ohr was able to rebuild his pottery including its pagoda. The fire ignited a new desire in Ohr to make pottery as distinctive as he was. He stopped glazing pots stating “God put no color in souls, and I’ll put no color in my pottery”. The best of Ohr’s pots are formed, thrown paper thin and then manipulated with twists, crinkles, crimping, ruffling, off-centering, twisting folds and dimples using his coil and pinch method. He threw perfectly formed pots and then misshaped them. He was creating Abstract Expressionist objects 50 years before the movement started. There is debate on how he could have created such fine, thin pottery at the time and it is possibly something in the red clay he gathered himself. He was against large scale factory production and thought that only real art could be made by the individual. Ohr’s work is extraordinarily idiosyncratic and he practiced his own mantra of “no two alike.” George Ohr stopped potting in 1909 having claimed he had not sold a pot for years. Articles and features suggest that at the time of his death in 1918 there were some 7,000 (although some articles refer to 10,000 to 20,000) pieces of unsold pieces. One reason that Ohr did not sell many of his pots was the high prices he put on them. “When I am gone, my work will be praised, honored, and cherished. It will come.” George Ohr Surprisingly, it was not until fifty years later that the collection was once again discovered and a few years later started to trickle into the market. In the 1980s his work started to receive critical acclaim and pottery that a hundred years previously struggled to sell were now selling for thousands of dollars. Artists, including Jasper Johns and Andy Warhol, bought Ohr’s pots, as did several collectors, though the curator of ceramics at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History protested Ohr’s inclusion in a show in 1978, calling him “just plain hokey.” Only in 1984, when Ohr pots appeared in paintings by Johns at New York’s Leo Castelli Gallery, did praise and critical esteem begin to flow. After a series of one-man shows of Ohr’s work, collectors such as Steven Spielberg and Jack Nicholson purchased pieces and drove prices up. Today, the same pots scorned a century ago sell from $20,000 to $60,000 each. (Bruce Watson) George Edgar Ohr is considered the most important US ceramic artist for several reasons. First, he was a […]
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.
Everything about our lives is influenced by design, whether it is the offices that we work in or the clothes that we wear – someone, somewhere has taken a vision and made it reality. Design appears in all industries from fashion to architecture and art to furniture but one of the most affluent areas of contemporary design has to be that of Ceramics. Pictured right: Keith Murray for Wedgwood: a green glazed bomb shape vase, 20cm. Sold for £125 at Bonhams, Oxford, 2012. The Art Deco period erupted in an explosion of colour and geometric shapes with female designers such as Clarice Cliff and Susie Cooper at the helm, but there was one man, so ahead of his time, that although his pieces were created in the 1930s they sit just as well in any display cabinet today. Keith Murray’s simplistic modernist designs are not only sought after but are proof that the Art Deco period was responsible for some of the most innovative designs of our time. Pictured left: Keith Murray at work Born Keith Day Pearce Murray in Auckland, New Zealand on 5th July 1892, he originally trained as an architect in London. However, after qualifying he found it difficult to obtain work so instead started to sketch illustrations for an architectural magazine. It was on his travels sketching buildings that he visited Paris and discovered the beautiful French and Scandinavian glass. Realising that he too, could produce designs for glass he approached Arthur Marriott Powell of the Whitefriars Glass factory in London with his ideas. Unfortunately Powell didn’t find them suitable for the factory and so couldn’t offer Murray work. Refusing to give up he landed himself a freelance position with ‘Stevens and Willams’ at Royal Brierley Crystal where he produced over 1200 stunning designs in glass between 1932 and 1939 with Cactus being his most recognised design. Although Murray was a highly accomplished glass designer, it is his designs in ceramics that command high prices today and are eagerly collected. Pictured right: Keith Murray A Wedgwood cream glazed vase – sold for £470 (inc premium) and a Keith Murray A Wedgwood moonstone vase – sold for £352 (inc premium) at Bonhams, Edinburgh, 2006. Murray’s ceramics career started when Josiah Wedgwood invited him to visit the Wedgwood Factory. He was then employed to produce designs for dinner and teaware. It is here that Murray’s famous ribbing designs began to form and today these early pieces can fetch unbelievable prices on the secondary market. The first range that Murray worked on was titled ‘Annular’, and working alongside Tom Wedgwood he helped finalise this range. Murray then took his inspiration from the Annular range to produce other pieces, which included vases and bowls. Murray’s work was also heavily influenced by his architectural background; rather than heavily decorated pieces like Clarice Cliff and Susie Cooper each piece was stylised, so visually more distinctive by shape and form. The technique used was very simple; the throwers created the basic shape and then lathe-turned the item to create the ribbing. This was a technique that Wedgwood had used in the 19th Century and it worked well on Murray’s more modernist designs. Once a piece had been made it was then decorated in high quality monochrome glazes, which were originally created by Norman Wilson when he joined Wedgwood in 1927. The glaze finish was another distinctive feature of Murray’s work because each piece was matt, semi-matt or celadon and not the usual high gloss glazes that you see on earthenware pieces today. Colours ranged from matt green to moonstone and there are even black pieces available on the market, these being extremely desirable as they are rarer than the other colours. Pictured left: Keith Murray, Football Vase. Image Copyright Bonhams. The most collected of Murray’s designs from this period are the clean, crisp engine –turned fluted vases (1930), they fetch around £500- £800 on the secondary market. A Bulbous ribbed vase (1932) can realise £800 to £900 and a matt green desk (1932) set would set you back in the region of £1,000 to £1,500. Although the prices are starting to hit the same dizzy heights as Clarice Cliff’s designs you can still pick up good examples at reasonable prices. A small matt green sweet dish (1932) would only cost around £40-£50 and the same for a cup and saucer. If you decided to collect Murray’s work you will soon realise that it is easily recognisable as it stands out from any other piece from this period. Early pieces always bear Keith Murray’s signature above the Wedgwood mark and this was used from 1933 onwards. On smaller pieces it was difficult to use the full Murray signature so the letters “KM” were used instead. Murray’s designs proved a sensational hit so in 1933 he exhibited his work at the John Lewis Store in London. His work was beginning to show in Wedgwood’s annual turnover so he was then asked to diversify and produce some decorative tableware patterns. Murray agreed, although he did not like the intricate patterns that he had to produce, as he was a designer to the core and preferred to work with shapes rather than paint patterns. The tableware patterns that he designed are not as sought after by collectors but they may well be in the future so look for patterns such as ‘Weeping Willow’ and ‘Pink Flower’ because not only are they more affordable, they could raise in value in years to come. Murray continued to design in earthenware and glass but in 1934 the Royal Silversmiths Mappin and Webb approached him and asked if he could produce bowls and vases in silver working to the same designs as his Wedgwood pieces. One of his most successful Wedgwood items was a beer mug and this was reproduced in silver for Mappin and Webb. By 1936 The Royal Society of Arts had awarded Murray as a Royal Designer for the Industry because of his professional achievements and he even went on to […]
Wemyss Ware Wemyss Ware (pronounced Weems) is named after the castle situated on cliffs between East Wemyss and West Wemyss in Fife, which was the home of the Grosvenor family who became patrons of the Fife Pottery in Gallatown, near Kirkcaldy. The Fife Pottery was built in 1817, traditionally the Fife Pottery had paid its way by producing useful domestic wares, and it was not until the 1880s when the production of the hand-painted earthenware, with characteristically bold decoration, recognised today as Wemyss Ware began. The first piece of Wemyss Ware appeared in 1882 on the initiative of Robert Methven Heron. R. M. Heron had studied painting at the studios of the Edinburgh artists of his time and had travelled extensively in Europe. The production of Wemyss style pieces, particularly with traditional subjects such as the cock and hen patterns, had already begun when R. M. Heron brought back to the pottery six continental artists to augment the staff at the Fife Pottery. Five returned, and the one who remained was Karel Nekola, who became chief decorator and instructor at the pottery. Karel Nekola introduced a new style of ware to the pottery which was initially fired at a low temperature in order to produce a soft ‘biscuit’ body which would be able to absorb the colours from the decorator’s brush. It is this initial firing which is responsible for giving Wemyss Ware a body which is very fragile. After being painted and dipped in a soft lead glaze the pottery was again fired at a very low temperature, this time so as to avoid spoiling the brilliant colours. Wemyss Ware was decorated with natural subjects, such as flowers, in particular the red cabbage roses, but also buttercups, honeysuckle, sweet peas, carnations, Canterbury bells, thistles, irises, violets; and fruits are to be found including: cherries, plums, apples, pears and oranges may be seen, but also rare fig pattern, or lemons and grapes. Pictured: A Wemyss ‘Cabbage Roses’ ewer and basin – The basin painted by Karel Nekola, ewer 16cm high, 19cm diameter, both impressed WEMYSS and with green painted Wemyss mark, ewer with blue printed T.Goode & Co mark. Sold at Bonhams, Edinbugh for £275, August 2011. Image Copyright Bonhams. Wemyss Ware was a instant success, and with interest shown in the pottery by the Grosvenor and other Scottish families, Wemyss became an exclusive, expensive product much sought after by the affluent. Thomas Goode & Co. the well-known Mayfair china shop, became the companies sole retail outlet in England. Goode’s would often request special shapes and designs. Pictured: A large Wemyss Ware pig, with sponged black markings, the details picked out in pink, 46cms long, impressed WEMYSS WARE, R.H. & S., and bearing red printed retailer’s mark for T.GOODE & Co. Sold at Bonhams, Edinburgh for £1,995, December 2004. Image Copyright Bonhams. Karel Nekola continued to work at the pottery until disability prevented him and even then continued working at home, using a small kiln which was built for him in his garden, so that at his death in 1915 he had completed 30 years arduous service for the pottery. Edwin Sandland became chief decorator to the Fife Pottery following the death of Karel Nekola. Edwin Sandland, was from a family of potters and was a decorator in the Staffordshire area, and was posted to Perth during the Great War. He joined the pottery until his own death in 1928. New designs were introduced at this time and typical Wemyss motifs were painted over an all-black ground. Another innovation was to paint the design over splashes of various colours thus producing a gaudy effect. At the same time means were successfully found to raise the temperature of the final firing and so produce a glaze which was free from crazing. Despite new designs and new techniques the great economic depression of the 1930s meant that the pottery ceased trading in Fife. Wemyss Ware at Bovey Tracy 1930-1957 Thus the Fife Pottery came to an end in 1930, but Wemyss Ware secured a kind of extended life when the patterns and designs were taken over by the Bovey Pottery Co. of Bovey Tracey in Devon. Here Joseph Nekola, Karel Nekola’s son, following in his father’s footsteps, continued the familiar style of painting on a harder, whiter body, under a brilliant glaze which was free from crazing. A number of pieces produced during this time are marked as “Plichta.” Jan Plichta was a Czech immigrant that sold and exported wholesale glass and pottery, and items he ordered from the Bovey Pottery were marked with his name. Wemyss decorators produced items for Plichta, which sometimes leads to confusion, but in general Plichta items are inferior in quality. One of the lead apprentices at the pottery was Esther Weeks who went onto become head decorator in 1952 when Jospeh died. The pottery at Bovey Tracy closed in 1957. Wemyss Ware and the Griselda Hill Pottery Ltd® In 1985 Griselda Hill started producing Wemyss Ware® back in its birthplace in the heart of Fife. Griselda was inspired by the memory of her grandmother’s Wemyss® pig, which she discovered to have been made locally when she moved to Fife in 1984. The first product was a cat modelled on an example in Kirkcaldy Museum, and over the years since then the Pottery has developed a range of Wemyss Ware® which can easily stand alongside the originals. Pictured: A modern black and white Wemyss Ware pottery cat from the Griselda Hill Pottery Ltd®. This and other cats etc are still available at https://www.wemyssware.co.uk/ As with the original Wemyss Ware®, the success of the Pottery is based on the quality of the hand painting and the beauty of the designs and colours. All the artists have been working at the Pottery for over fifteen years, and have become very skilled at their work. While some new technology has been introduced to minimise production problems and environmental pollution, the techniques of hand decoration remain the same as ever. Being hand painted, each piece is unique. Pictured: A modern small clover Wemyss Ware pottery pig from the Griselda Hill Pottery Ltd®. This and other animals etc are still […]
Colour Box Holiday Time by Susan Brewer Peter Fagan, creator of those delightful Colour Box series of figures, depicted his cats, bears and other creatures in all kinds of situations – including holiday scenes. The Colour Box characters enjoyed a holiday just as much as we do – they knew there was nothing to beat sand beneath their paws, seaweed tangling their fur or saltwater damping their tails. And through the talent of sculptor Peter Fagan we saw the cats, bears, and many other creatures, having fun on the beach. Much of the excitement of a holiday is the anticipation and the packing – at least, Robert seemed to think so. The super sculpture Holiday Bear (TC 210) issued in 1988, showed the little bear perched on top of a large blue trunk, obviously bound for a holiday destination. The trunk was beautifully modelled to show the straps, fastenings, and name label, and Robert had his own red bucket and spade, ball, bag of chips and lollipop. This was one of the larger pieces in the Teddy Bear Collection, as was Bathing Beach (TC113) 1990, which depicted Christopher sitting on a towel with his picnic lunch of a banana, orange drink and a sandwich close by. Nearby a notice warned ‘No Bathing’ (and in tiny letters underneath ‘by order of P Fagan’)! A seagull perched on top of the notice, while beneath was a collection of items including a bucket, spade, pebbles, shells, length of rope and a bottle of Fagan’s Pop. Amongst the bears you might possibly encounter at the seaside were Jimmy, Martin or Bosun. Jimmy (TC618) 1991, looked a rather shy bear, who, according to his booklet was ‘champion at building sandcastles. He lived in Bournemouth near the beach, where his family ran a fish and chip shop.’ Jimmy wore smart blue and white striped bathing trunks, and one white woolly mitten. Martin (TC121) issued 1993, was a smart Able Seaman bear, who carried a canvas kitbag and wore a sailor’s hat with ‘HMS Teddy’ around the brim. He was dressed in navy shorts and a white shirt decorated with a motif of a cruise liner. Bosun (TC074) 1997 was an unclothed bear, except for his official peaked hat. Cats don’t seem so keen on the seaside, but Beach Boy (HS536) 1991, showed a black cat on the sand with a sailboat-decorated red bucket and the beginnings of a sandcastle, while in the delightful Sixpenny Cornet (HS528), also 1991, we saw a cheeky ginger and white striped cat busily licking an ice cream cone while snuggling up to a tub of Fagan’s Dairy Ice Cream complete with a large silver spoon. Picnic Puss, a Colour Box club special depicted those naughty cats stealing food from a picnic hamper, though whether it was on the beach or not, I couldn’t say! The dogs weren’t forgotten. Sea Dog (DG302) 1991, from the Personality Pups collection was a smashing sculpture of a very hairy brown and beige mutt perched on top of a red bollard. Ropes were entwined around the bollard, and the dog had an expectant look, which, according to the story booklet was because he was based on Peter’s boyhood dog who would jump on top of a bollard waiting to be fed batter from Peter’s fish and chips! Tethered to the bollard by a silver chain were two grey and black dogs, which could also be bought separately as Fatherly Love (DG205) 1991. Pennywhistle Lane collection featured a piece called Old Sea Salt (PL203) 1994 which showed Sam the pipe-smoking monkey dressed in beige trousers, dark red jacket, yellow-spotted blue scarf and jaunty blue hat standing on top of his old green sea trunk ‘full of past treasures’. Sitting on the end of the trunk was a cheeky little mouse wearing a sailor suit. The trunk was amazingly detailed, with all the brass studs, rivets, padlock and handles carefully accentuated in gold. Sam held a thick length of rope. The Hopscotch range included several tiny creatures you might find on your holiday, including a bright scarlet lobster (H106)), a beige crab (H105)), a plump orange fish (H104), and a cheeky blue clam peeking from its shell (H103), all issued in 1996. The Miniatures Collection also contained many animals and birds associated with the coast, for instance, Puffin (MC16) 1987, standing on a grey-green base. This model could also be found with a sand-yellow base. The Seal (MC49) 1989, and Seal and Pup (MC6) 1983, were both highly-detailed models, with the water, stones and rocks realistically depicted, as well as the creatures themselves, in tiny sculptures less than one-and-a-half inches high. If you were very lucky, you might just have caught a glimpse of a shimmering blue tail glinting in the sun, or perhaps noticed a friendly paw rise for a moment from the waves. Then you would have known that you had seen a Merbear (TC158) 1998, one of Colour Box’s prettiest-ever creations. Guardian of the Ocean, she cared for those who travel on her seas, as well as looking after the marine life. Many other sculptures from the Colour Box range featured holiday topics, including limited editions or club pieces such as Sail Away, All at Sea, Lifeguard and Out For a Run. Early Colour Box sculptures can often be found at collectors fairs, or on the net, and are worth collecting for their amazing detail and smile-making subjects. Colour Box & Peter Fagan Related Colour Box & Peter Fagan