In June 2008, The Canterbury Auction Galleries realised a record price for a Louis Wain ceramic cat figurine. Estimated at a modest £1,500-£2,00 the 20th Century Amphora pottery figure created in a ‘Cubist’ manner designed by Louis Wain went on to sell for a staggering £8,200 hammer price. One of the most prolific and highly successful artists of the 20th Century, Louis Wain is famous for his humorous pictures of cats. Today his paintings and illustrations are highly sought after with people prepared to pay into the thousands to own his original works. His images of cats can also be found on hundreds of postcards, within the pages of illustrated books and of course as extremely rare crazy cat pottery figures. Born in London on 5th August 1860 to a French father and English mother, Wain was the only boy of six children. His youngest sister was sadly committed to a mental asylum at the tender age of just 30 years old – a fate that Louis Wain would also be endured to much later into his life. Born with a cleft ear, on doctor’s orders Wain was not allowed to attend school or by taught until he was at least ten years old. Eventually when Wain did start his schooling he would often truant and instead spend his time wandering the streets of London. He realised his passion for art at quite an early age and so enrolled at the West London School of art in 1877. When Wain completed the course he went onto teach at the same school for two years but at the age of 20 his father died and so Wain was left with the huge responsibility of looking after his mother and sisters. Working as freelance artist, he began by drawing pictures of various country scenery and animals. He was then offered employment with the Illustrated London News where for four years he would draw large country houses, livestock and anything that was associated with agriculture. Wain soon found that he had a great skill for drawing animals, something that obviously came to the forefront when he began to illustrate the adorable cat pictures that we know him for today. One of his sisters had a governess by the name of Emily Richardson and at the age of 23 Wain married her. Sadly the marriage did not last more than three years as Emily contracted cancer and passed away. However, during the time of her illness Wain would teach her pet cat Peter to do silly tricks such as wear human glasses and pretend to be reading a book. This kept Emily amused during her illness and kept Wain busy as he would sketch the cat’s antics. This was the beginning of Wain’s huge talent for drawing anthropomorphic cats (human characteristics to non-human creatures) and in 1886 his first drawing was published in the Christmas issue of the Illustrated London News. This particular drawing showed 150 cats in total sending invitations, playing games and holding a ball and as a result projected him into the public eye, receiving huge recognition and success. Sadly, his wife, Emily died in 1887 so did not see Wain at his most popular however he continued with his illustrations which began to take on another level. Initially Wain’s early illustrations were not like those attributed to his work today as the cats were not depicted in clothes and were still drawn on all fours. Gradually though as Wain began to draw more cats they started to stand upright, have exaggerated facial expressions and worn human clothing. They also of course were always participating in human activities, such as playing cards, fishing or attending the opera. In the following years Wain would produce as many as several hundred drawings a year. His illustrations appeared everywhere from magazines and journals to children’s books and postcards. However, he constantly suffered financial difficulty throughout his life as he continued to support his family. Another failure was that he had little or no business sense and would sell his pictures without retaining the rights. It is believed that at this point he began to work with the idea of creating pottery three-dimensional cats, although most information is theory and very little is known how these ‘cubist’ cats came about. The Canterbury Auction Galleries informed me that they believe Wain took the idea for his pottery cats from the new Cubist movement which had been embraced by painters of the time such as Pablo Picasso. Initially he designed a set of nine small cats and an unknown amount of larger ones and initially used a factory by the name of Max Emmanuel to have them made. They were then shown at an exhibition in 1914, however the pottery cats were not received well in the UK but stores in America was interested and placed an order. Sadly, the ship carrying the cats to the States was hit by a torpedo from a German U-boat and Wain’s entire investment was lost, thus he did not receive any money as the goods had not been delivered. Later a Czechoslovakia pottery company ‘Amphora’ placed the cats back into production but it is also unknown whether Wain himself sold the designs to ‘Amphora’ or whether it was the original pottery Max Emmanuel. However Louis Wain’s name does appear on the later geometric angular cat designs, so he must have been involved somewhere along the line. Today these ceramic examples of Wain’s work are extremely hard to come by that when they do the prices soar. Although it is a record achievement for the one sold at Canterbury Auction Galleries recently, I am pretty sure that the cats will continue to increase in value as they are becoming few and far between. You can also tell from the pottery Wain cats that although replicating the ‘Cubist’ movement they are also a little bizarre and off the wall. Now this could be due to the fact that Wain himself […]
John Wyndham (full name John Wyndham Parkes Lucas Beynon Harris) was a British science fiction author who wrote several classic novels, including The Day of the Triffids, The Kraken Wakes and The Midwich Cuckoos. His works are highly collectible, especially in first edition form. Here we take a look at the value of John Wyndham first edition books published under his own name during his lifetime. John Wyndham was a British author who wrote science fiction novels and short stories. He is best known for his novel The Day of the Triffids, which was adapted into a film in 1962. Wyndham was born in 1903 in England. He began writing science fiction in the 1920s, but did not achieve commercial success until the publication of The Day of the Triffids in 1951. The Day of the Triffids, in particular, is considered a science fiction classic. It tells the story of a massive attack by alien plants that leaves humanity struggling to survive. The Day of the Triffids was first published in 1951, and a first edition can sell for upwards of £5,000 / $7,000. As with all first edition books the dust jacket condition is everything and prices vary greatly. John B. Harris and John Beynon However, Wyndham had actually been writing stories and short stories since 1925 under several aliases and pseudonyns. In 1927 he published a detective novel, The Curse of the Burdens, as by John B. Harris, and by 1931 he was selling short stories and serial fiction to American science fiction magazines. His debut short story, “Worlds to Barter”, appeared under the pen name John B. Harris in 1931. Subsequent stories were credited to ‘John Beynon Harris until mid-1935, when he began to use the pen name John Beynon. Three novels as by Beynon were published in 1935/36, two of them works of science fiction, the other a detective story. He also used the pen name Wyndham Parkes for one short story in the British Fantasy Magazine in 1939, as John Beynon had already been credited for another story in the same issue. The Kraken Wakes John Wyndham’s second novel was The Kraken Wakes which was first published in 1953, originally published by Michael Joseph in the United Kingdom in 1953, and first published in the United States in the same year by Ballantine Books under the title Out of the Deeps as a mass market paperback. . The novel is about an alien invasion of Earth by creatures known as the “Kraken”. The Kraken are giant sea creatures that are able to telepathically control humans. They use their powers to create a world-wide flood, which forces humanity to evacuate to the moon. The novel was well-received by critics and is considered to be one of the classic science fiction novels of the 20th century. It has been reprinted several times and has been translated into multiple languages. The Kraken Wakes is considered to be one of Wyndham’s most accomplished works. The Midwich Cuckoos John Wyndham’s The Midwich Cuckoos is a classic of British science fiction. First published in 1957, it tells the story of a group of children who are born with strange powers after a mysterious event in the village of Midwich. The book has inspired many writers and has been adapted for movies and TV series many times. A first edition in near fine condition with near fine dust jacket estimate £2000 / $3,000. Did you know? Wyndham began work on a sequel novel, Midwich Main, which he abandoned after only a few chapters. The Chrysalids, Trouble with Lichen and Chocky Price Variations In writing this feature as with many that include price guides it is always apparent that their is massive variation in prices even for similar books and objects. The prices given here are for near fine copies, so copies in excellent order. First editions of The Day of the Triffids, The Kraken Wakes and The Midwich Cuckoos will always be popular and sort after. Bibliography of books published in his lifetime under the name John Wyndham The Day of the Triffids (1951) The Kraken Wakes (1953) The Chrysalids (1955) The Midwich Cuckoos (1957) Trouble with Lichen (1960) Chocky (1968) Related BBC interview and feature with John Wyndham
From the late 19th Century through to World War 1, the German factory, Wurttembergische Mettalwaren Fabrik (more commonly known as WMF) was one of the most prolific in producing stylish, evocative and elegant designs in commercial continental pewter and silver plate metal ware.
Lowestoft Porcelain is a type of soft-paste porcelain that was produced in the town of Lowestoft in Suffolk, England. The porcelain was produced from 1757 to 1800/1802 and was known for its delicate painting and intricate decoration. The soft-paste porcelain used by the Lowestoft factory was a combination of local clay and a high level of bone ash. During the factory’s 45 year production period it produced a range of wares for which it has become well known for including motto ware, Lowestoft souvenir wares (many featuring the words ‘A Trifle from Lowestoft’), birth tablets, animals, and blue and white porcelain. The factory was actually the third longest lived soft paste porcelain company after Derby and Worcester. What is Soft-Paste Porcelain? – Soft paste porcelain is a type of porcelain that is characterized by its soft, chalky texture. It is made from a mix of clay, water, and other minerals, and it is typically white in color. Unlike hard-paste porcelain, soft-paste porcelain is not fired at a high temperature, which makes it more fragile and prone to breaking. However, soft-paste porcelain can be decorated with delicate details that are not possible with other types of porcelain. As a result, soft-paste porcelain has been used to create some of the most beautiful and intricate works of art. In Geoffrey A. Godden’s The Illustrated Guide to Lowestoft Porcelain he divides the production of pieces to pre-1770 blue and white porcelains and post-1770 porcelains. Although not reference another source suggests Early Lowestoft c. 1756-c. 1761, Middle-Period c. 1761-c. 1768 and Late-Period c. 1768 to factory closure in 1802. The main market for Lowestoft Porcelain is in East Anglia, where it was predominantly created and sold into the local market. Earlier pieces especially the blue and white are the most valuable and later pieces from 1770 are off lesser quality and often had more simplified scenes. Figures were made from 1780 including the very popular Lowestoft Cats and Lowestoft Pugs. Lowestoft Record Price at Auction The record price for a Lowestoft piece is by Bonhams who sold a flask from the Geoffrey Godden Collection of Blue and White Porcelain which sold for £24,000 in June 2010. The thinly potted and of flattened circular form with a cylindrical neck and slightly thickened rim, painted in blue with a ship-building scene, the boat flying two flags, a workman on deck and another on the beach beside it, the reverse with four ships sailing in choppy waters, the largest three-masted, its rigging carefully depicted, within borders of scrolls and husks, 14cm high (crazing and slight staining, rim chip). Related Lowestoft Porcelain Cats and Pugs Price Guide Bonhams record price for a Lowestoft Porcelain piece Lowestoft Collection at the Victoria & Albert Museum
Marc Davis – Disney Legend by Tawnya Gilreath Marc Davis is probably the world’s most beloved unknown man. Marc’s fabulous career spans over 60 years, including 43 years at Disney. In 1988, Marc was officially designated a “Living Legend” by The Walt Disney Company which is the highest honor that can be bestowed upon a Disney artist. Many of Marc’s creations such as Cinderella, Tinker Bell, Sleeping Beauty, Cruella de Vil and the beloved skunk Flower are fond memories for people throughout the world. Disney utilized Marc’s humor and storytelling abilities in many of their most popular theme park rides. His contributions to It’s A Small World, The Haunted Mansion, and The Pirates of the Caribbean have enchanted millions of visitors. His talent is timeless and future generations will surely cherish his genius as we do today. In addition to being the world’s foremost animator and theme park designer, Marc is also an adventurer and an explorer. He has created hundreds of sketches and paintings of the people and cultures he encountered during his travels. Marc was so intrigued by the art and culture of Papua New Guinea that he created over 400 works of art which capture forever the beauty and mystery of this disappearing world. Since Marc is also an avid collector, he has a special affinity for collectors and understands the difficulties in building an outstanding collection. That is why he has agreed to open his vaults to The Official Marc Davis Collectors Society. From time to time Marc will hand pick previously unavailable works of art that will be made available to members only. All works will be numbered and signed for limited distribution. The Marc Davis Collectors Society is both the key and the vehicle through which Marc Davis treasures will be made available to the public. The organization has a charter that allows only 5,000 founding members worldwide making the membership itself a collector’s item. Founding members receive a hand-signed print of the “Jolly Roger”, a pirate character which Marc and Walt Disney considered for their walk-in attraction, The Pirates of the Caribbean, before it became the ride. This rare item will never be available through normal Disney channels in any form. A one-time membership fee of $275 secures your lifetime membership into this exclusive organization. Benefits include quarterly newsletters, a membership card and certificate, and an invitation to the annual convention. Whether you are a Disney buff or a fine art collector this is the opportunity of a lifetime. To join the Marc Davis Collectors Society or to learn more about Marc’s life and works, visit The Official Marc Davis Collectors Society web site. Membership may also be procured by calling (818) 347-4837 or fax to (818) 347-4793.
Unlike us, bears have discovered the enviable secret of eternal youth. An eighty-eight-year-old Rupert? Ridiculous! A seventy-eight-year-old Mary Plain? Unthinkable! An eighty-eight-year-old Pooh? Preposterous. And as for a fifty-year-old Paddington – you must be joking! How can a bear who creates mischief and mayhem wherever he goes – admittedly a bear whose sole aim in life is to be helpful and polite, but who is unfortunately accident prone, impulsive and always in deep trouble – be well on the way to collecting his bus pass? Bears always find an age with which they are comfortable and stick to it. So, believe it or not, Paddington really does celebrate his fiftieth birthday this year. Pictured left: Paddington Bear by Gabrielle No doubt he will be hosting a party with an iced cake cooked by Mrs Bird, buns and cocoa donated by Mr Gruber, and a ‘here’s one I made earlier’ wobbly jelly from the Blue Peter team. (For many years, Paddington was a regular in the Blue Peter studio.) Of course, there will be a huge pile of sandwiches too, but the vital question is, will they be filled with marmalade – or Marmite? Up until recently, the choice of filling would have been a forgone conclusion, but suddenly our loveable bear has developed a taste for the sticky brown stuff. Of course, he still loves marmalade very much. In fact, when Paddington was first approached by the advertising company he exclaimed, “But I always have marmalade in my sandwiches!” The agency explained, “That’s exactly why we think you would be perfect for the campaign. We want people who normally have something different in their sandwiches to try Marmite.” Pictured right: Paddington Bear with Marmalade Hidden Treasures from Arora Design – each figurine has a secret compartment containing a hidden treasure. So, rather tentatively, Paddington took a sniff, and then a nibble, and finally a big bite. He discovered that he enjoyed Marmite very much indeed, and though it could never really replace his beloved marmalade, it certainly made a jolly acceptable change. The pigeons and the ducks are not too sure, though, as can be seen in the adverts. Michael Bond is not too sure, either, and in a letter to The Times wrote, “Paddington likes his food and tries anything, but he would certainly never be weaned off marmalade”, saying that Paddington’s characteristics are “set in stone and you shouldn’t change them.” In the past he has always tried to avoid any hint of commercialising Paddington Bear, so he added darkly, “Now there’s no going back.” What actually is Marmite? Well, it’s a spread made from yeast extract, vegetable extract, salt and various spices and, as the adverts proclaim, ‘You either love it or hate it’. You certainly can’t be indifferent to that tangy, tongue numbing taste. Although Paddington has been weaned off the marmalade for a while to promote the new, squeezy Marmite, I’m sure it won’t be long before he reverts to his favourite marmalade chunks. A marmalade-free Paddington is about as unthinkable as a Paddington who has lost his duffel coat and floppy hat. When Michael Bond found a small toy teddy bear on a shelf in a London Store on Christmas Eve 1956, he decided to buy it as a present for his wife. He called the bear Paddington. Just for fun, he wrote some stories revolving around the bear, and after a few days realised he had a book on his hands. However, he admits that while he was writing he didn’t consciously set out to write a children’s book – which is good, because, as all Paddington enthusiasts know, the books are far too special to be the sole prerogative of youngsters. Eventually, the book was placed with William Collins and Sons (now HarperCollins), and illustrator Peggy Fortnum was commissioned to produce the delightful sketches which complemented the stories so well. ‘A Bear Called Paddington’ was published in 1958, and as we all know, the rest is history. Amazingly, the Paddington series of books have sold over thirty million copies world wide and have been translated into thirty languages. Pictured left: Paddington Bear by Steiff As the birthday bear’s big day approaches, as well as planning his party shopping list and putting both Marmite and marmalade at the top of it, how else will Paddington be celebrating? For starters, he will be starring in a new book, the first Michael Bond Paddington Bear book to be published for thirty years. Rumour has it that a mysterious stranger will cause Paddington to reflect where home really is – surely he won’t forsake 32 Windsor Gardens and return to darkest Peru? ‘Paddington Here and Now’ will be published in June, while in October, to commemorate the publication of that very first book, HarperCollins will issue a special anniversary edition of ‘A Bear Called Paddington’. And there’s more – in March, as part of World Book Day, a £1 read, ‘Paddington Rules the Waves’, will be amongst the titles on offer. There will be plenty of new Paddington Bear collectables and merchandise this year, too, including a new Steiff creation. As we all know, Paddington was first discovered by Mr and Mrs Brown on Paddington Station, hence his name. The optimistic little refugee was sitting hopefully on a suitcase containing his worldly goods, and Steiff have depicted him, carrying his case, in a limited edition of 1,500 pieces. This 11 inch tall Paddington wears a pale blue coat and is complete with a gold-plated button-in-ear. He is based on the FilmFair Paddington Bear from the television series, a super bonus for fans of the animated episodes. Other items include puzzles courtesy of Hausemann en Hotte/Falcon, while Robert Harrop has produced a gorgeous commemorative figurine of Paddington munching a marmalade sandwich (not a blob of Marmite in sight!). More planned Paddington releases include a commemorative coin, a pewter figurine, clothing, greetings cards, a cookery book and gift wrap, as well as a range of soft […]
A collection of ornamental scarf pins provides a very interesting subject for collectors in which examples are not too difficult to obtain. The scarf-pin was fashionable from the days of cravats to the early part of our own century, but perhaps the most interesting period from the collector’s point of view is that of the nineteenth century. Pictured right: William Essex Scarf pin c 1850 – Mounted portraits of the young Queen Victoria made popular jewels. In 1841 Victoria herself gave a bracelet with her portrait to Princess Marie d’Orléans on her marriage to the Queen’s cousin Prince Alexander of Württemberg. Image Copyright V&A Collections. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London Although the word scarf-pin usually conjures up a vision of a vertical long pin with an ornamental head, yet for the purposes of collecting, the seventeenth century cravat brooches can also be included. Some of these are long, oval-shaped brooches of gold and contain a topaz or other stone. And because they were so widely used, they are not difficult to obtain. This type of brooch persisted, especially in more remote places, until the end of the eighteenth century. Yet even at that time and earlier, sporting gentlemen used a vertical long pin to fasten their neckwear. These silver pins were of various types, though the most popular displayed a small head of a fox, dog or horse. Pictured left: Josiah Wedgwood and Sons Scarf pin c 1795 – Scarf pin mounted with an oval blue jasper plaque with a white relief of two young princes of Russia, Alexander and Constantine. Mounted in a gold hoop. Image Copyright V&A Collections. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London The scarf-pin had its place in more fashionable attire too. Josiah Wedgwood, the famous potter of the eighteenth century, made many cameos. And some of the smaller of these were gold mounted as scarf-pins. The Wedgwood cameos were beautifully cut and the designs were taken from classic art. It has been said that : ” The love of detailed miniature work led Wedgwood to devote much time to the production of fine cameos, so many of which represent classic subjects, and in the excellence of their workmanship rivalled almost the ancient cutters of gems and cameos from which they were taken.” Wedgwood’s cameo scarf-pins are difficult to obtain now and the collector has to be careful not to confuse them with the Victorian cameos which were of a later. date and inferior quality. In Victorian times, scarf-pins had heads made in almost every conceivable way including glass, cameos, solid metal heads in the shape of an animal or figure. But the best were undoubtedly the animal miniatures which achieved so much well-deserved popularity. Even before 1860, Edwards was decorating jewellery with portraits of dogs painted from life. Pictured right: William Essex (British, 1784-1869) – A white Bulldog signed and dated ‘W.ESSEX/1862’ (on reverse) enamel diameter 5/8in. (1.5cm.) mounted as a scarf pin, with Head of a brown and white Bulldog; A white Terrier, after ‘Impudence’ by Landseer, by the same hand, both signed and dated on the reverse, both mounted as scarf pins. Sold at Bonhams, New York Feb 2014 for US$ 1,625 (£947). Image Copyright Bonhams. But the artists most famous for scarf-pin miniatures were William Essex and his former pupil, William Bishop Ford. In 1839, Essex, already an exhibitor at the Royal Academy, became miniature painter to Queen Victoria. A scarf-pin with an oval head bearing a miniature of the Queen is in the Victoria and Albert Museum (pictured above right). For the Great Exhibition of 1851, Essex prepared a series of animal paintings and these were so acclaimed that he decided to specialise in this type of work. Jewellers became anxious for him to make miniatures of the animals, especially dogs, for them. And because he worked from real dogs his portraits and miniatures were always so life-like. The art of enamelling on metal -dates from early times. The process of covering metal with .enamel has been known for many years, but the basis of all enamels is the application of fusible colour less silicote or gloss in pattern, mixed with metallic oxides. The prepared surface has to be fired until the enamel adheres firmly to the metal. The processes vary, but the firing or fusing is the same. Pictured left: William Essex (British, 1784-1869) – A Fox’s mask signed and dated ‘W Essex 1861’ (on the reverse) enamel mounted as a scarf pin with Head of Terrier, after ‘Impudence’ by Landseer, by the same hand, signed and dated; Head of a white Bulldog by another hand, both mounted as scarf pins. Sold at Bonhams, New York Feb 2014 for US$ 1,500 (£874). Image Copyright Bonhams. Essex was responsible for improving the art of enamelling. He wrote a guide on the subject which is still used for reference purposes. The enamels of scarfpins are only of a quarter of an inch to an inch in thickness and are best when painted on a white background covering a thin layer of gold. William Essex carried out most of his work in this way. After the death of his son, he passed on his methods to his former pupil, William Bishop Ford. And for a time the two were both engaged on miniatures of animals. But each signed his own work, and as the back of the scarf-pins are not enclosed, the name and date on any pin head can usually be seen. The beautifully enamelled dog miniatures were generally fixed in a plain circular 18-carat gold mount, though some scarf-pins have a narrow beaded edge. Essex died in 1869, but his portraits of dogs and his methods survived. And William B. Ford continued to carry out the making of miniature scarf-pins. William Bishop Ford was born in 1832 in Whitfield Road, of Tottenham Court Road, London. He attended the Somerset House of Design and won several prizes. Then just over a hundred years ago, in 1855, he was commissioned to do some paintings on porcelain at Minton works for the Paris Industrial Exhibition. Not very long afterwards […]
I don’t really class myself as a Designer Diva, however, I do always seem to pick the most expensive item in the shop or fall in love with the out of reach prices for items in magazines. So the easiest way for me to work around this little problem is to buy items that have a good designer name behind them yet are more affordable for my pocket and in turn have the potential to become highly collectable. I suppose it all started some years ago in a department store. I often craved high end clothes and accessories and often returned home disappointed but one day I discovered Christian Dior limited edition make up compacts. More than affordable with a price tag of £30-£45 they ticked all the right collecting boxes as only a limited number are produced and each is an unusual design. Now, I frantically try and buy each one as it hits the stores, sometimes this is difficult as they sell out quickly but after some ringing around I can generally find one in a different store. Top Tip: Make friends with the representative on the Christian Dior make up counter as they know when the compacts are being released and can advise you what day you need to be in the store. Once I had discovered that leading designer names also produced more affordable items there was no stopping me. I now ensure I find out what is being released and when, so that I stand a chance of buying them. Obviously sometimes I loose out and have to pay over the odds for items on internet auctions. A prime example of this is the red ladies Mulberry handbags produced for the high street store Gap. Usually a Mulberry bag would set you back hundreds of pounds, yet this high end designer created a couple of limited edition ones in red jersey fabric for the store. Retailing at £95 women desperately clambered to own one and now they sell in the region of £200 on internet auctions with the newest released in 2008 being the ‘Bayswater.’ Unfortunately I missed the boat on these when they were released and haven’t been lucky enough to get my hands on one yet but I plan to the minute I have the funds.Another example of affordable designer bags was in 2007 when Anya Hindmarch released her ‘I’m Not a Plastic Bag’ for just £5. Seen on the arms of many a celebrity originally they were re-selling for as much as £400 although now a realistic price is £90-£100. I did queue from 5am outside a supermarket to get one and am really pleased I made the effort as this canvas bag is a already highly sought after and is set to increase in value. Top Tip: Join all the fashion websites newsletters as these let you know ahead of time what they are releasing – giving you the edge on what is coming out to buy. If trawling the internet and reading all the glossy fashion magazines isn’t your idea of sourcing items then don’t despair as you might be lucky enough to have a TK Maxx store in your local hi gh street. The shelves and rails hold a treasure trove of designer items at a fraction of the original retail price. I have had many bargains over the years from ceramics to glass and clothing to handbags. My most prized buy being a genuine Emilio Pucci handbag. I couldn’t believe my eyes when my friend and fellow writer, Vicky Hooper and I were cutting through the store a couple of summers ago. There on the shelf were loads of different Pucci print handbags. I grabbed the one I loved and happily handed over the £99 asking price as this bag would have cost me £300 plus if bought from a Pucci boutique or one of the concessions in the top London department stores. Top Tip: Always rummage through the China and glass in TK Maxx. I have purchased Murano and Ettore Sottsass glass vases, Marimekko china and little collectable ornaments by Jim Shore for a fraction of the price they should sell for. Another item which I own bought from TK Maxx is a glass Versace bottle stopper. Although Versace are better known for their clothing lines they have also produced ceramic tableware as well as glasses, ashtrays and other decorative items. Most carry the Versace logo of the Medusa head and this wonderful bottle stopper emphasises the head fantastically well. A snip at £15, if I had bought this in Italy or from one of the Versace outlets it would have cost me around £75. Many of you know I also have a bit of a shoe fetish but sadly my funds don’t always stretch to a new pair so when I stumbled across the Manolo Blahnik shoe horn I couldn’t resist it. Released a couple of years ago as a limited edition in Habitat stores across the country this stainless steel shoe horn had to be purchased. It resembles an elegant stiletto heeled shoe and cost just £35. It satisfied my appetite for buying a pair of designer Blahnik shoes yet also has become highly desirable with both collectors and those passionate about fashion.Collecting affordable designer is one of my most favourite passions. It gives me a great deal of satisfaction to know that I have managed to obtain something that has huge collectable potential but also didn’t cost the earth. In fact some of these items are likely to increase much faster than conventional collectables as the demand outstrips the supply.So just make sure that next time you are out in your local high street you pay attention to the designer names and take a closer look at what is on offer. I guarantee that if you track down an affordable designer offering it will more than satisfy your collecting tastebuds. Other Things to Consider 1. Designer and Celebrity Perfumes, the more innovative the […]
A decade of tragedy; in the space of a few short years, almost ten million young men died on the battlefields of Europe, with 200,000 losing their lives on the fields of Flanders. Yet it was also a decade of triumph and creativity. Pictured right: Ernst Heubach 1910 bisque When King Edward VIII died in 1910, he was succeeded by his son George V and his wife. George’s elder brother had died of pneumonia in 1891, and so George not only took over as heir to the throne, he also appropriated his brother’s fiancée, Princess Victoria Mary of Teck. It seems to have been a happy marriage and by the time they were crowned in Westminster Abbey in 1911, they had six children, amongst them the future George VI, father of our present Queen Elizabeth. George V and Queen Mary (as she was now known) reigned for twenty-six years. Not long after Edward died, the skies were illuminated by a bright light when Halley’s comet made a spectacular reappearance. At one point the earth actually passed through its tail, causing the press to weave sensational tales of cyanide poisoning as the tail contained a poisonous gas. Naturally, it was a false alarm, though some people maintained it was a bad omen, nodding with satisfaction a few years later after two major disasters of the decade – the ‘Great War’ and the sinking of HMS Titanic – seemed to have proved them right. HMS Titanic was launched with great ceremony on 1911, but just a year later struck an iceberg on her maiden voyage and sunk with a loss of 1502 lives. Pictured left: Vectis Effanbee Miss Coquette 1912 During the earliest years of the decade, beautiful German dolls filled the toy shops. Manufacturers such as Simon & Halbig, Schoenau & Hoffmeister, Heubach and Armand Marseille produced vast numbers of bisque china dolls, often finely painted and exquisitely dressed. The Germans had cornered the market at this time, their faster production methods and flair for business gradually squeezing out the French dolls, but when the war started, there were importation restrictions on their goods, including dolls and toys, which meant British and ‘friendly’ countries needed to fill the breach. Pictured right: Vectis WW1 AM Sailor with medals Half-dolls were beginning to be popular during this decade, often referred to as ‘tea-cosy dolls’ or ‘pin cushion dolls’. Some of them were very delicate, made by famous porcelain manufacturers, and they topped items such as cakes, brushes, pin cushions, powder puffs and tea-cosies. In 1913 Mary Phelps Jacob, an American socialite, constructed the first brassiere from two silk hankies and some ribbon, to wear under a sheer evening gown. At last women could discard their restricting whale-boned corsets (though not without a fight by many shocked ladies). That same year, the zip fastener appeared, honed to perfection from a much earlier invention, as well as the crossword puzzle, which at last gave people something to do during their coffee break. And in 1915 a character was dreamed up by Johnny Gruelle, who would bring pleasure to generations of children – Raggedy Ann. Pictured left: Japanese Bisque Doll 1910 The assassination of the Austrian Archduke Ferdinand and his pregnant wife in Sarajevo 1914 was the trigger for hostilities to start. Young men rushed to sign up to fight, all believing it would be a bit of ‘harmless sport’ and be over by Christmas. It wasn’t, of course, and as those fresh-faced youths faced the horrors of the war trenches, their women folk back home had to take over the mens’ jobs in factories, banks, farms and businesses. They were also marshalled to act as auxiliary workers in the armed forces, so freeing the men-folk to fight at the front. The majority of the women had never worked before, and this was an unknown freedom. Not long after the end of the war, women over thirty were given the vote for which the suffragette movement had long been campaigning. The gap in the market due to the hostilities with Germany was swiftly filled by Japan who sent bisque and celluloid dolls to Britain. The majority of these dolls were crudely made of a coarse white bisque. Many little girls enjoyed assembling collections of the smaller dolls which were sold cheaply in toyshops and newsagents. Sometimes the dolls were made completely of bisque, but often their bodies were cloth. These unsophisticated Japanese dolls have a charm of their own, though some of their dolls were very fine and beautifully painted. Pictured right: Deans Rag Dolls Various patriotic dolls, often made from cloth, appeared during the war years, dressed in uniforms such as a ‘Tommy Atkins’ figure to represent a soldier. Sometimes a mother would dress a bisque doll for her child in a replica of her father’s uniform, as a reminder while Dad was fighting at the front. Britain tried to emulate the unavailable bisque German beauties but with little success, with manufacturers such as Goss making various china-headed dolls. Goss dolls were quite pricey, and once the war ended and German dolls were imported again, Goss ceased production. In 1917, the Russian Revolution had led to the abdication of the Tsar, Nicholas II. Refused refuge in Britain, he was murdered by the Bolsheviks six months later, along with his wife and children, as symbols of the old Russia. Over the years, several women have claimed to be Anastasia, the youngest child, who was rumoured to have survived the shooting. Other notable events included the invention of traffic lights in 1911 and parachutes in 1912. In 1919 speedy breakfasts were achieved by the creation of the pop-up toaster. Three years before, the first Women’s Institute in Britain was established in North Wales, while young girls were able to emulate their Boy Scout brothers in 1910 when the Girl Guides’ Association was founded by Sir Robert Baden-Powell. Six years later, he completed the hat-trick by founding the Cubs for younger boys. All in all, this was […]
There seems to be a little confusion as to the origin of enamelled coins, and the subsequent artists who created and designed them. The craft sprang from the Victorian love of unusual jewellery. Enamel buttons were popular, and the skills of enamelling could be transferred to coins. Being decorative and not functional, these could feature elaborate designs. The main year of production was 1887, Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee “The magic year of enamelling”. The year saw a huge growth in the demand and production for Royal memorabilia. The majority of enamelled coins are based on the existing design of the original coin. The first task in the production process was to take out all the background of the coin, leaving the letters and pattern in. In some cases the letters and design were even removed. The enamel was then applied in layers, fired and then ground down to enable the colours to come through in varying shades. This process was often done in more than one stage to enable the intricate colours and painted effect to be perfected. It was most usual to enamel on just one side of the coin, but some coins are enamelled on both sides. These are considerably rarer, and leaves the question: How did they get the enamel to flow on the second side without the first side dropping of? As it was assumed that all enamel would fuse at about the same temperature. The art has now disappeared, so we cannot answer this question. Popular designs included leaves and flower, coats of arms, Britannia and of course Queen Victoria. In some the bust of the monarch are completely removed and replaced in enamels. The coin pictured top right by an unknown designer features many of the popular designs in one coin. The rarest enamel coins are those of gold. Few examples can be seen today, and those that do exist are mainly are made from dated sovereigns. Pictured: An enamelled coin featuring Queen Victoria by Edwin Steel. Two of the finest coin enamellers were William Henry Probert and the Steel family. The earliest enamelled coins were thought to have been produced by William Henry Probert in his Birmingham workshop. His initial designs were very plain with no more than three colours used. However, the coins were expertly engraved. As the coins became more popular his designs became more colourful an elaborate. Pictured above left is an early coin by William Henry Probert. Edward Steele, was a well known engraver and enameller, who started a venture in his own name designing enamelled coins. His son Edwin and later Edwin’s son Henry carried on the business of manufacturing coin jewellery. Edwin’s enamel coins are thought to be the finest, with engraving under the enamel to enable light to filter through the enamel. This created superb variations to the reflections.