1996 saw the centenary of the death of William Morris. William Morris has increasingly become a household name and as the father-figure of the Arts and Crafts movement has had a great impact on 20th century design. He was the first to champion such art and craft principles as “truth to materials” and simplicity in art. This simplistic nature was also seen in his attitude towards life where he propagated an ideal of rustic living. His utopian socialism beliefs and his affinity for natural, hand-crafted details made him the spiritual leader of the Crafts Revival of the 20th century. Pictured: William Morris tile panel – the architect of Membland Hall in Devon commissioned this sumptuous design for bathroom tiles from William Morris (1834-1896). Morris had the tiles painted in the studios of William de Morgan (1839-1917). They represent a rare collaboration between these two creative geniuses. From Collections at the V&A click for more details © Victoria and Albert Museum, London William Morris was born into a wealthy local pottery family on March 24, 1834, at Elm House, Walthamstow. He was the third of nine children (and the oldest son) of William and Emma Shelton Morris. In his childhood Morris showed a great passion for all things medieval and a great affinity with nature. Pictured: William Morris tapestry The Forest – William Morris’ use of birds and animals in his early tapestries is a forebear to his later carpet patterns. This design, one of his most successful compositions, uses a dense cover of trailing acanthus leaves, as seen in his first tapestry ‘Acanthus and Vine’, into which have been placed Philip Webb’s five studies of animals and birds. It is possible that Henry Dearle supplied foreground floral details, although these are similar to Webb’s preparatory drawings. The verse was later published under the title ‘The Lion’ in Morris’s Poems By the Way. The tapestry was woven by Morris & Co.’s three most senior weavers ‘under the superintendence of William Morris’ according to the 1890 Arts and Crafts Exhibition catalogue. Bought by Aleco Ionides for 1 Holland Park, in London, it hung in the study together with an acanthus-leaf panel. From Collections at the V&A click for more details © Victoria and Albert Museum, London In 1847, Morris’s father died, and the following year, aged fourteen, he entered Marlborough College. He left in 1851 to continue to study at home. In 1853 Morris entered Exeter College at Oxford, where he met Edward Burne-Jones, who was to become one of the greatest of the Pre-Raphaelite artists, and began to study architecture and write poetry. In 1856 Morris began work in an architects office where he met Philip Webb, who would become another close friend and associate. He took rooms with Burne-Jones, already embarked on his career as an artist, and before the end of the year Morris himself abandoned architecture for art. Pictured: William Morris wallpaper Trellis design – ‘Trellis’ is typical of Morris’s early wallpaper patterns. It combines simple bird and flower forms with a plain coloured background. It is a compromise between the boldly coloured pictorial patterns which were then popular with the general public, and the formalised flat patterns in muted tones which were promoted by the design reform movement. Philip Webb, the architect of the Red House, drew the birds for this wallpaper design. From Collections at the V&A click for more details © Victoria and Albert Museum, London In 1859 Morris married Jane Burden. In 1861 along with others Morris founded “Morris, Marshall, Faulkner and Company” (later Morris & Co.). Morris excelled in the design of flat patterns, derived from organic forms, particularly fruits, flowers and birds. He was especially talented in designing carpets, fabrics, stained glass and wallpapers. In 1878 the Morris family moved to Kelmscott House in Hammersmith, where Morris began to experiment with tapestries. Morris is credited with over 600 designs. Pictured: William Morris furnishing fabric Strawberry Thief – This printed cotton furnishing textile was intended to be used for curtains or draped around walls (a form of interior decoration advocated by William Morris), or for loose covers on furniture. This is one of Morris best-known designs. He based the pattern and name on the thrushes which frequently stole the strawberries in the kitchen garden of his countryside home, Kelmscott Manor, in Oxfordshire. Despite the fact that this design was one of the most expensive printed furnishings available from Morris & Co., it became a firm favourite with clients. The pattern was printed by the indigo discharge method, an ancient technique used for many centuries mostly in the East. Morris admired the depth of colour and crispness of detail that it produced. He first attempted to print by this method in 1875 but it was until 1881, when he moved into his factory at Merton Abbey, near Wimbledon, that he succeeded. In May 1883 Morris wrote to his daughter, ‘I was a great deal at Merton last week … anxiously superintending the first printing of the Strawberry thief, which I think we shall manage this time.’ Pleased with this success, he registered the design with the Patents Office. This pattern was the first design using the technique in which red (in this case alizarin dye) and yellow (weld) were added to the basic blue and white ground. From Collections at the V&A click for more details © Victoria and Albert Museum, London Morris was becoming more and more interested in politics and despite his wealthy background developed strong utopian, socialist views. He became a prominent speaker and theorist and wrote several poltical texts including Art and Socialism. He saw Socialism as a way of solving many of the problems present in Victorian society such as poverty and unemployment. Pictured: William Morris wallpaper Acanthus design – This wallpaper was printed for Morris’s company by the London firm Jeffrey & Co., who specialised in high quality ‘Art’ wallpapers. It required thirty wood blocks to print the full repeat, and used fifteen subtly different colours (more than any previous design by Morris). ‘Acanthus’ was issued in two colour combinations – one […]
Most of us have heard of Holly Hobbie, but perhaps Sarah Kay and Betsey Clark are slightly less familiar. All three artists specialised in drawing greetings cards, lending their names to the characters they drew, which were later issued in doll form. The Betsey Clark character is an old-fashioned miss, quite distinctive with her pointed, elfin-type face, teardrop-shaped eyes, high forehead and wispy blonde hair caught up with a thin ribbon into a bunch on top of her head. Pictured right: Betsey Clark doll She is a poor waif, with patches on her clothes and oversize shoes. This adorable child was created by her namesake, Betsey Clark, who lived in Amarillo, Texas. Betsey showed early promise for art and design, winning awards for drawing while still a child. In the early 1960s she began work at Hallmark cards, producing greetings card designs which depicted her so-called Whimsical Waifs. These soon caught the public’s imagination. Later, various dolls featuring her characters appeared, to the delight of both children and adults. Additionally, the German company of Goebel were commissioned by Hallmark to produce a series of Betsey Clark figurines for collectors. According to a collector’s site on the internet, Betsey proclaimed that she loved to ‘work off in a little bitty corner, with the drapes pulled around me’. She died in 1987, but her enchanting characters live on. A range of Betsey Clark dolls was issued by Knickerbocker in the 1970s. Amongst them was an 8″ tall vinyl-headed, soft-bodied girl, dressed in a pretty pale blue outfit of patterned dress and striped apron. Her apron bore two patches. The pale colouring of the dolls’ features and clothing reflected the delicate hues in Betsey Clark’s illustrations, and the attractive box featured a picket fence, topped with a robin, with the Betsey doll standing behind. A verse on the box read, ‘Betsey’s the very best kind of a friend, whenever you need her, she has time to spend. You can tell her your troubles when something goes wrong, and wherever you go, she likes going along! She can make you smile brightly when you’re feeling glum, when you tell her your secrets, she’ll keep every one! She can make almost anything more fun to do, and she’s coming to stay and have fun times with you!’ Betsey was also available as a small all-vinyl doll and as a rag doll, while in 1985 a delightful 6″ porcelain collector’s doll was created. Betsey Clark dolls seem more difficult to obtain here in Britain than those of Sarah Kay and Holly Hobbie, which is a shame as they are very cute with their wistful faces and large, sad eyes. Artist Sarah Kay seems to be something of a recluse. Apparently, she shuns all publicity, preferring to talk through her delightful portrayals of little girls in old-fashioned summer dresses and mob caps. Often confused with Holly Hobbie, Sarah Kay’s creations tend to wear clothes featuring spotted fabrics, while Holly Hobbie uses patchwork and small floral prints. Pictured left: Sarah Kay doll She lives in Australia, and trained at art college before joining an advertising agency. When her daughter Allison became very ill, Sarah needed something to soothe her worries, and began to work on a series of drawings featuring carefree children in an idyllic, old-fashioned country setting, gaining her inspiration from her own childhood, spent on her grandparents farm. The drawings were noticed by the Valentine Greetings Card Company, and were produced as popular cards and stationery. Pedigree decided to manufacture dolls based on the little girls in the drawings, producing a range during the late 1970s and early 1980s. Some of the most delightful had vinyl faces with round, painted eyes and softly coloured lips. A few freckles were scattered across the bridge of the nose. Pictured right: Sarah Kay Pedigree doll Sweet Thoughts These dolls had rooted hair and soft bodies, and stood 13″ tall. They had names such as Gentleness, Tenderness, Sweet Love, Sweetness, Cheerfulness, Happiness, Joy, Affection, Kindness and Sweet Thoughts, and each wore a different colour or pattern; for instance, Gentleness wore mainly green, Tenderness blue, Sweet Love red and so on. Several versions were available including rag dolls in assorted sizes, and Pedigree also marketed a nightdress case, shaped like a Sarah Kay doll, under the Burbank name. Sometimes the dolls wore bonnets or mob-caps, while others had straw hats. In their 1979 catalogue, Pedigree proclaimed, ‘The most beautiful rag dolls ever. High quality material. Detailed replicas of world famous greetings cards.’ The House of Anri, founded and maintained by the Riffeser family over several generations, is famed for its creative range of wooden figurines, which are made at St. Christina, located in the Dolomite mountains of South Tyrol, Italy. Amongst their products are ornamental models of Sarah Kay characters. These delightful pieces are hand-carved from Alpine maple and are extremely popular. Several kinds of Sarah Kay jointed wooden dolls have also been carved, including Martha, a sweet little girl, 14″ tall, made in a limited edition of 750. She has the trademark freckles across her nose, and is dressed in a typical Sarah Kay outfit of cotton frock and bonnet. As you might expect, these painted, wooden creations are expensive, but they are extremely beautiful and collectable. Most famous of the three designers is Holly Hobbie. During the 1960s, people became intrigued by her designs featuring a little girl, facing sideways, dressed in a long patc hwork frock, with a large bonnet totally obscuring her face. This pose tended to create an urge to see the expression which lurked beneath the brim. Grannies, especially, adored this nostalgia theme, imagining it was their granddaughter lurking under that floppy bonnet, and the whole concept happily coincided with the fashionable look of the day – long, floaty dresses, small prints, Laura Ashley, country style, femininity and pastel shades. Pictured left: 1975 Knickerbcoker Holly Hobbie doll Holly Hobbie created her designs for the American Greetings Card Company for many years, featuring children in […]
English glass of the early eighteenth century was plain with the Queen Anne taste for simplicity clarity, and as such there was no for applied decoration. Several factors saw this change including a period of peace with the Treaty of Utrecht, which was signed in 1713, and led to an opportunity for the glasshouses of Silesia, Bavaria and Prussia to increase their exports to London. The passing of the Excise Act of 1745, whereby glass was taxed by weight, led to growth of drinking glasses of slender proportions, using smaller bowls of curved profile on air-twist stems (cotton twists, opaque twists), sometimes combined with white or coloured enamel twists. The reduction in the content of lead in the metal deprived it of the deep glow of the earlier body, and there was a move to applying decoration in the form of engraving, gilding and enamelling. Pictured: Bonhams Beilby Goblet Record Price at Auction. The Prince William V Goblet. A highly important Beilby enamelled and gilt Royal armorial Goblet, circa 1766 The deep round funnel bowl painted in colours and gilding with the arms of the Nassau Princes of Orange encircled by the Garter and surmounted by a crown and mantling, the lion supporters on a ribbon bearing the motto JE.MAIN.TIEN.DRAY, the reverse with a white butterfly and floral sprig beneath the signature in red, traces of gilding to the rim, set on a multi-knopped stem and conical foot, 30.2cm high Signed Beilby Newcastle pinxit in red enamel. Sold for £109,250 inc. premium at Bonhams, New Bond Street, November 2011.The art of enamelling had long been familiar in Germany. The process required a paste combining equal parts of lead and tin, together with colouring matter, mixed with a flux and an oil medium. This prepared enamel was then painted on the glass, fired at a low temperature and reannealed by allowing the enamelling furnace to cool gradually. German glass was harder than the English metal and more suitable for enamel decoration as the colours were less likely to flood in the firing, but the reduction of lead content in English glass following the Excise Act made it a readier vehicle. This enamelling method was used by William and Mary Beilby of Newcastle who adopted the technique, worked entirely in the tradition of German independent decorators or “hausmaler” by purchasing plain vessels from the glasshouses of their home town and decorating it in their home. The style of their work was entirely individual and belongs in spirit to the English interpretation of Rococo. William Beilby (1740–1819) was the fourth child of a Durham jeweller and goldsmith William Beilby Senior. One of a family of seven, William was placed as an apprentice with a Birmingham enameller in 1755 and while he was there the family moved to Newcastle. A younger brother, Thomas, went to Leeds where he found employment as a drawing master and is later recorded as having his own academy. When William returned, perhaps in 1761, his father was still in business, while a younger brother, Ralph, and his sister Mary (1749–97), were also at home. Ralph was an engraver and earned a reputation for his industriousness and his willingness to undertake any type of engraving. In particular he was an heraldic specialist and engraved coats-of-arms and crests on silver. Thomas Bewick, whose exquisite wood engravings were later to reveal a sensitive and poetic artist, was apprenticed to Ralph in 1767 and lived in the Beilby home. It is, in fact, to Bewick’s memoirs, written many years after his life with the Beilbys, that we owe so much information about the family. Bewick states that both William and Mary had “constant employment of enamel-painting on glass,” and while William also taught drawing in the town, he evidently instructed his young sister so that she could help him in his enamelling. As well as armorial decorations, there are examples of landscapes painted in colours to which Mary may well have contributed and also a series painted in white enamel with flowers, avian motifs or picturesque scenes of ruins and figures. The enamel of these monochrome decorated pieces has a faintly bluish tinge. Of the type of wine-glasses chosen for decoration, the bucket-shaped bowl provided the larger surface for painting, but small glasses with straight-sided or ogee bowls and straight stems containing white enamel twists, are also found. The series continued probably until 1778. Mary is known to have had a stroke in 1774, while the household was probably broken up by Ralph Beilby and Thomas Bewick going in to partner ship three years later. Mrs. Beilby died in 1778, when William and Mary evidently gave up their workshop and left Newcastle for Fifeshire. By this time English glass had abandoned the Rococo manner and the moment for such individual achievement was over.
Royal Dux Porcelain has been produced since 1853, in the small town of Duchcov, located about two hours to the North West of Prague, the capital city of the recently formed Czech Republic. From 1918 until December 31st 1992 the country was known as Czechoslovakia, situated behind the so called “Iron Curtain” from 1948 till 1990. As the Berlin Wall crumbled so did the hard line communist government in Czechoslovakia. The “Velvet Revolution” (so called because of its lack of blood-shed and violence) began in November 1989, in the streets of Prague, initiated by students, but supported by the entire country. In January of 1990 Vaclav Havel (the famous dissident writer) was elected president of a free Czechoslovakia. However, in the winter of 1992 the Czech and Slovak factions decided to split and form two separate countries, The Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic. This split has become known as the “Velvet Divorce”. Today the Czech Republic is a thriving country on the rocky road back to capitalism. Tourism is absolutely unbelievable, with millions of visitors per year. The country is very beautiful and full of historical buildings, castles and natural wonders with at least five different sites, (one of them being the city of Prague) protected by UNESCO. From Nazi occupation just before World War II, all the way through more than forty years of communist tyranny, the Royal Dux factory never stopped to produce the beautiful porcelain pieces, figures and figurines for which they are so famous. Now, no longer part of a huge government owned monopoly, Royal Dux Porcelain has now been fully privatized and is making great strides to return to its once impressive past. Although most “Westerners” don’t realize it, the short time span between World War I and World War II was all that was needed to give the Czechs a chance to become one of the five wealthiest and most industrialized countries in the world. This era is most often referred to as “The First Republic” and holds a fond place in the hearts of all Czechs. Before the Nazi invasion in 1938 the company had produced over 12,000 different molds and exported beautiful porcelain and faience figurines all around the world. The fall of the Iron Curtain has made it possible for all lovers of fine porcelain art to once again have access to the amazingly wide range of porcelain items that are produced at the Royal Dux factory. However the fall of the communist government in 1990 brought about many new and painful changes which have, at times put the company’s survival in peril. Changes in management and chaos followed the revolution and for a time no one was sure what was going to happen. With the lack of accountability always comes fraud and deception and the Royal Dux factory suffered its share. Huge amounts of inventory “mysteriously” disappeared to customers who just couldn’t be located and company assets went missing without a clue as to who could be the culprits. Now the company is in the hands of private owners who have an agenda to put the company back on its feet. The company is in the process of developing its own sales and marketing strategies, which until now were dictated by government owned trade and export companies located in Prague. At the present, some of the molds dating from before WWII are being brought out of the archives and being revamped for production. New decors and glazing techniques are being used, and the company is making plans to produce “Limited Edition” pieces and to begin concentrating more on the “Collectible” market. Fresh ideas are being examined by the new directors and those that are needed will be implemented as quickly as possible. With plans to attend this year’s “International Collectible Exposition” in Rosemont, Illinois, Royal Dux hopes to make a statement to collectors worldwide that Royal Dux porcelain, Royal Dux figurines, and Royal Dux figures will indeed take its rightful place among the world’s top collectibles. Royal Dux Porcelain Price Guide These three amazing Art Nouveau centers sold for 75,000 EUR at Balclis Auctions, Barcelona in 2013.
Fieldings Crown Devon The history of Fieldings Crown Devon spans more than a hundred years from 1878 until 1982. During that period the company experienced two very distinct peaks in terms of design and output. The first period saw the company achieve great success with high quality ‘Vellum’and hand painted wares. The second major phase of the company’s success arrived with designer, Enoch Boulton, in 1929 and lasted until the outbreak of World War Two. Boulton’s influence as an Art Deco designer of note carried the company to new heights. One of the features of this later period was a ‘neck-to-neck’ commercial race with rival Wiltshaw and Robertson for supremacy in working and middle class markets. In 1878 Simon Fielding, the owner of a colour mill, bankrolled a group of potters to manufacture majolica, green-glaze wares, toilet wares and fancies. Hackney, Kirkham & Co languished soon after and the Fieldings family took over the pottery to preserve their investment. From those rather shaky beginnings, Fieldings rapidly built a business of note, greatly extending the range of products and exploiting market gaps in fancy tablewares, toilet wares, art vases and dinnerwares. By the turn of the century the company was recognised in the trade press and indeed the marketplace as a leading manufacturer of a vast range of quality products for middle class Britain. The company’s expansion was underpinned by a range of labour saving advances and design breakthroughs. Abraham Fielding, son of Simon, is credited with the invention of a gas flow-through biscuit oven that allowed major efficiencies and savings. He also invented new glost oven designs, revolving dryers and implemented numerous other improvements that placed the Fieldings factory in an enviable commercial position. Fieldings had seven of the largest kilns in the potteries and the practice of improving quality and efficiency, coupled with constant release of new lines, strengthened Fielding’s position in the domestic and overseas markets. Collectable early period wares include a broad range of Vellum shapes in patterns such as Thames, Etna, May, Elm, Erin and Wick. Good quality examples of Indian are also highly collectible as is early Majolica. Fieldings also produced a range of ‘Royals’, such as the eminently collectible Royal Devon, Royal Chelsea, Royal Windsor, Royal Sussex and many others featuring extensive hand painting of the patterns. Art vases, plaques and chargers, similar in style to Royal Worcester, featuring hand painted roses, peacocks, cattle, rural scenes, and dogs are highly sought after and fetch high prices at auction. Most of these pieces are signed. Some of the most sought-after Fieldings Crown Devon wares are from the 1930s. In 1929, when Abraham Fielding was in the twilight years of his life, he began a talent search to fill the gap that would be left when he went into semi-retirement. His choice to lure Enoch Boulton away from his major competitor, Carlton Ware, to take on the role of design chief at Crown Devon was a masterstroke. It helped create conditions for a unique combination of inspiration, motivation and expansionary zeal that positioned Fieldings to make the most of the economic circumstances of the time. Soon after Boulton’s arrival at Crown Devon, the company’s back stamp was changed from a somewhat tired Edwardian logo to a modern Art Deco motif that, in hindsight, was a strong portent of what was to come. Interestingly, one of the actions Boulton took in the earlier stages of his role as design chief at Carlton Ware was to redesign its back stamp, again signalling the beginning of a new design story that ultimately changed the course of that company’s history. At the Devon Pottery, Boulton presided over an extraordinary upsurge in the development of contemporary decoration, overseeing a significant improvement in both quality and design. The results of this burst of activity were the subject of much trade comment. The Pottery Gazette of April 1st, 1932 recorded that, “Many wonderfully attractive lines of altogether fresh interest and above all at very popular prices are continuing to pour out of this source”. One of Boulton’s great successes was Mattajade, which, combined with a rich array of sybaritic designs is one of the most collectible of all Crown Devon patterns today. Another success was the Amazine ground. A matt, azure tone emulating the lightest of turquoise colouring, it provided an ideal canvass upon which to create enamelled designs, amongst which were the Swallows and Exotic Bird patterns. The Mattita, Mattasung and Mattatone series are further examples of Boulton’s genius as a designer. He was particularly prodigious in producing designs and shapes for the Mattita range, from quirky novelties to modernistic shapes hosting dramatic Art Deco designs. He is also responsible for Crown Devon’s highly popular musical novelties. In fact, he can be seen as a trailblazer in the design and manufacturer of musical novelties in the United Kingdom. His Daisy Bell musical jug, incidentally, became a favoured possession of the young Princess Elizabeth. Boulton worked with Kathleen Parsons, Margareta (Greta) Marks, a Bauhaus graduate, and Olga Hartzeg to produce many of the most memorable Crown Devon figures, of which the Flapper, Rio Rita, Peasant Girl and Russian lady with Borzoi are some of the most memorable. Boultons lustre wares are the equal of anything that came to market in the 1930s. The most decoratively important and collectible Crown Devon patterns include Fairy Castle, Parrot, Spider Web (Copied by Carlton Ware) Fantazia (More decoratively balanced than Carlton’s Fantasia), Swallows, Coral Trees, Dragonfly, Dragon and some of the later sybaritic floral patterns. More often than not Boulton opted for sybaritic Art Deco design for his lustre wares, while Carlton Ware in many instances chose to follow the path of modernism. There is curious and somewhat uninformed snobbery occasionally expressed by Carlton Ware collectors and sometimes reciprocated by Crown Devon devotees in respect to the superiority of one factory’s lustre wares over the other’s. It is more accurate, however, to state that both Carlton and Crown Devon produced lustre and other wares of such […]
Demétre Chiparus (Demétre Haralamb Chiparus) was a Romanian sculptor who lived and worked in Paris, France during the Art Deco era. He is best known for his carved and patinated bronze sculptures of elegant Art Deco dancers and is considered to be one of the most important sculptors of that time period, and his work has been highly influential on later artists. Chiparus was born in 1886, in a small town in Romania. In 1909 he travelled to Italy to study sculpture classes under master sculptor Raffaello Romanelli. In 1912 he moved to Paris to study at the prestigious Ecole des Beaux-Arts. He first came to prominence in 1914, when several of his early sculptures were exhibited at The Salon in Paris. These works attracted the attention of wealthy patrons and critics alike and helped to establish Chiparus as one of the leading exponents of the Art Deco style. His early work also included a series of child figures. His work is characterized by its Art Deco style, as well as its use of exuberant, sometimes even whimsical, designs. Chiparus was greatly influenced by the Ballets Russes (Russian Ballet), French Theatre and Ancient Egypt. Many of his sculptures feature dancers in fanciful costumes and other pieces incorporated elements of mythology and folklore into his work. His female figures were full of movement and dynamism and were normally lithe with long and slender models. They often featured full flowing dresses, athletic equipment such as hoops and hounds. During the 1920s and 1930s, Chiparus was one of the most important sculptors of the Art Deco era. His work was highly influential, and he was praised by many art critics. He died in Paris in 1947. His works are on display in museums around the world. Related Demetre H. Chiparus Art Deco Clara Sculpture
Having already attained the accolade and recognition for being France’s premier jeweller, by 1905 Rene Lalique had begun to focus his attention to the possibilities of commercial art glass. Additional impetus came in 1907 after being approached by Francois Coty, the celebrated parfumier, and his neighbour in the fashionable Place Vendome. Coty asked Lalique to design the embossed gilt paper labels for various perfumes, whereupon legend has it that Lalique took umbrage and only agreed on the strict understanding that he was also commissioned to design the actual glass bottles. In agreeing to this demand Coty could hardly imagine how this would send his business into a veritable overdrive, such was the response and increase in demand for those perfumes retailed in bottles designed by Lalique. At this time such bottles were manufactured by Legras et Cie as Lalique did not then have the sizeable glassworks needed for mass production, although Coty had also used the services of the Baccarat factory in previous years. The dramatic success of this venture resulted in a growing procession of recognised perfume companies approaching Lalique in the quest of emulating their competitor’s success. Such pre war commissions came from household names such as Roger et Gallet, Worth, D’Orsay, Arys and Rosine amongst others. Today these early bottles are keenly sought after by collectors as they manage to encapsulate their designer’s uncanny ability of transforming a utilitarian object into a desirable work of art. Such vessels allowed him to develop designs that borrowed from nature whilst making great play of both the mystical and magical elements readily evident in such Coty commissions as ‘Cyclamen’ and L’Effleurt de Coty (The caress of Coty), with the former later reworked with two additional forms of button stopper. Lalique soon recognised that the demand for stylish perfume bottles was big enough for his own ‘Maison Lalique’ creations that were available for the purchaser to then fill with an essence of their own liking. The combined ranges became so extensive that many collectors are content to restrict their collections to just perfume bottles. Initially he had made use of a small glass furnace located on his country estate at Clairfontaine on the outskirts of Paris, but the increase in demand dictated that he should acquire a larger facility. In 1909 he purchased a much larger concern at Combs la Ville that allowed for greater mass production with an estimated workforce of about 50-100 craftsmen and where output continued until closure until 1937. However it was the setting up in 1921 of the present day glassworks in Wingen sur Moder near to Strasbourg in the Alsace region of eastern France that allowed production on a truly grand scale, this time with a workforce that exceeded 500. Rene Lalique might be recognised as a designer who invariably thought ‘out of the box’ and one who recognised the almost limitless possibilities offered by such an elastic medium. In years gone by he has, on the odd occasion, suffered the indignation of having his creations labelled as nothing more than moulded glass. Fortunately, with the passage of time, collectors and design historians alike give a secondary consideration to the method of production and now place primary importance on both design and effect. Lalique was to show himself to be the absolute master of exploring the potential of glass whilst ready to embrace the growing technology and chemical science that allowed him to invariably remain several steps ahead of any would-be competition. The publication in 1932 of his illustrated trade catalogue, reprinted in recent years and an essential for collectors and enthusiasts, manages to give some indication of the sheer variety available to the discerning public of those interwar years. Within the pages, alongside the perfume bottles, can be found boxes, sculptures, paperweights, car mascots, clocks, lighting and all manner of tableware, dishes, bowls, architectural fittings and even glass jewellery. Perhaps the most readily available and affordable, depending on size and colour, are his vases, bowls and dishes, which are amongst the majority of his wares that tend to surface in many of today’s auctions. Desirability here is also decided by rarity and the all important condition of a piece. Having no wish to scaremonger it is worth pointing out that the present day market place has its fair share of repaired or doctored pieces. Consequently it is always prudent to purchase from a respected dealer or auction house. As a broad generalisation, unless considered a rare design, simple clear and frosted glass examples tend to be the least desirable. The addition of coloured staining or ‘patine’ helps to accentuate the definition of a design and adds both to the attraction and value. Again, another word of caution, as some pieces have been subjected to modern day staining. In order to determine old from new it is essential to build up an understanding of the original staining used as well as be aware that such early stains were liable to wear, whereas the modern colours have so far proved permanent. Opalescent glass, i.e. the inclusion of an internal milky blue effect that is invariably synonymous with Lalique glass, is more desirable, with value often enhanced by the intensity of the internal colouration. The overall effect is determined by the thickness of the glass that plays host to a chemical reaction that occurs during the cooling process. Lalique is known to have preferred the use of a demi-cristal which incorporated half the usual 24% of lead oxide used by makers of lead crystal such as St Louis and Baccarat. Demi-cristal offered a less white and softer grey hue to the metal – glass is actually a super cooled liquid but technically referred to as a ‘metal’. It also allowed for greater definition when using expensive steel moulds and was relatively lighter than lead crystal. The milky blue effect was all down to incorporating a tiny amount of cobalt oxide into the glass mix plus two specific fluorites that acted as opacifying agents. When heated, the […]
Royals, Romantics And Rubiks – Dolls of The 1980s by Sue Brewer The tragic murder of John Lennon outside his New York apartment in December 1980 was a huge blow to the world of popular music. His wife, Yoko Ono, watched in horror as Mark Chapman fired the fatal shots. A few years later Madonna, destined to become a superstar, made her chart debut – her song ‘Holiday’ was a success on both sides of the Atlantic. Glam rock and Romanticism arrived, and British charts were dominated by stars such as Wham!, Boy George, Duran Duran, The Pet Shop Boys, Michael Jackson, David Bowie and Bryan Ferry. The 1984 famine in Ethiopia prompted Live Aid, a huge charity concert organised by Bob Geldorf, which was a resounding success. Prince Charles married Princess Diana at Westminster Abbey in 1981, and Britain went crazy. Shops were filled with memorabilia, thousands of books appeared to commemorate the event, and most neighbourhoods held street-parties, with the kids in fancy-dress. Diana was a highly popular figure, a fashion icon. Her choice of a full-skirted, romantic-style, silk wedding dress influenced brides for over a decade. There was another Royal wedding in 1986 when Prince Andrew married Sarah Ferguson – once more street parties were in full swing. Suddenly babies were big news, almost a fashion accessory. Prince William was born in 1982, Prince Harry two years later, and Princess Beatrice was born to Sarah in 1988; Princess Anne’s second child, Zara, had made her entrance in 1981, while children were also born to Princess Richard of Gloucester and to Princess Michael of Kent. The Royal family was rapidly increasing. The latest fashion was ‘New Romantics’, encouraged by people such as Vivienne Westwood who designed a swashbuckling ‘Pirates look’, and singer Adam Ant who dressed as a highwayman. We all trotted around in pixie boots and puffball skirts. However, as a complete contrast, many women favoured ‘power dressing’, as seen in the tv soap Dallas, with wide padded shoulders, dominant colours and ‘big hair.’ One of the most maligned garments of all time springs from this era – the shell suit. Originally introduced as a sportswear item, it rapidly spread as a fashion garment, and both young people and ‘golden oldies’ could be seen sporting these bright turquoise, pink and emerald two-piece track suits. This was also the time of the ‘Mullet’, an odd hairstyle with long and short sections, sported by many men including footballer Kevin Keegan and singer Limahl. Perhaps the strangest craze of all was for ‘bonce-bouncers’ – colourful balls or ornaments on springs, worn on a headband. The doll world made dramatic headlines in 1983 when Cabbage Patch Kids first entered the shops. They caused riots, with adults fighting over them and even stealing them from children. Brainchild of Xavier Roberts, the ‘one of a kind’ soft-bodied Kids were promoted as being for adoption, rather than for sale, and prospective parents had to solemnly vow to take care of them. Cabbage Patch Kids are still sold today, and continue to cause controversy between those who love them and those who loathe them. Large dolls, such as those made by the German manufacturer Zapf, were very popular, especially babies and long-haired toddlers. Barbie, the queen of the doll world, celebrated her twenty-fifth birthday in 1984, but didnâ€™t look any older. In the UK, Barbie and Sindy were enormous rivals; Pedigree’s Sindy, though introduced in the 1960s, was probably at her peak, at one point sporting a Princess Diana-influenced hairstyle. There were many royal dolls around, notably those produced by Peggy Nisbet to commemorate the Royal Wedding, in both the standard 7 inch models, and a new 18 inch size. Peggy Nisbet also issued a stunning set of vinyl dolls intended to represent the two Princes, William and Harry. These dolls were beautifully dressed, in a range of clothing inspired by the royal wardrobe, though all had the same faces. The major change in the doll world was the introduction of small ‘collectables’ dolls. Children were encouraged to accumulate sets of the dolls and their accessories, tapping into a pocket-money treasure trove. Dolls such as Strawberry Shortcake, Rainbow Brite, Flower Fairies and Lady Lovelylocks were all the rage, as were Care Bears, Ninja Turtles, Transformers, Star Wars figures and My Little Ponies. The toy with the most influence was Rubik’s cube, a hand-held puzzle. The craze instantly spread across the globe and hands clicked and twisted as people attempted to correctly align the coloured squares. In 1984, the Apple Macintosh personal computer was developed, and a year later came Windows – the world would never be the same again. Another invention, pioneered in 1984, was the CD which most people thought would never catch on. Nintendo, Walkmans, Prozac and Karaoke all jostled for attention, but perhaps the most influential gadget, certainly in Britain, was the Breville sandwich toaster! For a few years Briton’s gorged themselves on toasted cheese sarnies. Margaret Thatcher proved she could stand up to threats when she sent battleships to defend the Falklands against the Argentineans, the Berlin wall came down opening up the eastern bloc, and construction began on the Channel Tunnel, enabling trains to travel from Britain to Europe. The beautiful Princess Grace of Monaco was killed when her car veered over the mountainside, while at Lockerbie, in Scotland, a bomb aboard a jetliner downed the plane onto a small town, resulting in hundreds of deaths. Shopping malls sprung up everywhere; the face of Britain was changing, losing its individualness, while a trendy acronym, Yuppie – Young Upwardly Mobile Professional Person – typified a new breed of spending power and wealth. Yuppies worked hard and spent hard. In Britain, the eighties ended with a window on the world – satellite television became available for the first time. Related Dolls at WCN
Antique and vintage glass rolling pins vary from simple clear examples, to the famous Bristol Blue colours, to elaborate multi-coloured Nailsea examples and to examples with motifs and words. Glass rolling pins although functional developed into quite an art form and also became known as love tokens as they were often given by departing sailors to there loved ones with words on such as ‘be true to me’, ‘remember me’, ‘forget me not’ etc. They were often hung upon parlour walls and prized as emblems of good luck, only to be taken down when pastry was ceremoniously prepared for a wedding feast. Such pastry was believed to bring good fortune to all who ate it. Nautical themes were also common on rolling pins with sea-faring motifs, ships, mottos and inscriptions. These would be applied as painting, gilding and printing. Some of the designs are quite intricate and attractive original Victorian are much sought after. Rarer examples include anti-slavery messages, and those marking special events such as coronations. They were hollow in form and often served as dual purpose for holding salt. They would have had a cord and would have been hung in the kitchen or by a fire to keep the salt dry. During the 17th to 19th centuries salt was taxed heavily and was considered a luxury item. Later, in a clearer bottle glass, they were used also as containers of tea and the standard rolling pin measuring 15 inches in length and 2 inches in diameter will hold exactly one pound of tea. They were also sold as fairings with sweets and treats inside. The rolling pin used to hold salt or tea or comfits was fitted at one end with a ground-in ballheaded stopper of glass: when the purely ornamental rolling pin came into fashion both ends consisted of matching solid knobs. The production of a Nailsea glass rolling pin The Nailsea examples were not only made at the Nailsea works in Somerset but also Bristol, Newcastle, Sunderland, Wrockwardine Wood in Shropshire, Alloa in Scotland and elsewhere. Nailsea has become the generic term for the type of glass produced in these areas. These rolling pins were created from hot molten glass and rolled in coloured and/or white enamel chips which were sprinkled on the marver plate. The glass is then reheated and blown into shape with the glass rolling pin incorporating the selected colour such a purple, blue, mottled and striped. Antique and Vintage Glass Rolling Pins price guide Related A Look at Nailsea Glass Fairings – Fun at the Victorian Fair
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.