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 […]
Collecting Chinese Snuff Bottles Collecting Chinese Snuff Bottles – Snuff bottles were used by the Chinese during the Qing Dynasty to contain powdered tobacco. Smoking tobacco was illegal during the Dynasty, but the use of snuff was allowed because the Chinese considered snuff to be a remedy for common illnesses such as colds, headaches and stomach disorders. Therefore, snuff was carried in a small bottle like other medicines. The snuff bottle is comparable to the snuff box used by Europeans. Pictured right: A FAMILLE ROSE ENAMELLED GLASS SNUFF BOTTLE QIANLONG PERIOD (1736-1795) Of spade shape, the bottle is painted in bright enamels with a butterfly above mallow and reeds to one side, a small iron-red Guyuexuan seal to the side, and a grasshopper amongst begonia and arrowhead to the other, all below a stylised ruyi head band at the very slightly flaring neck. The base is enamelled with a Guyuexuan mark in iron-red. It has an amethyst stopper. 2 5/8 in. (6.6 cm.) overall height. Sold for HK$52,500 ($6,796) at Christies, Hong Kong, May 2012. Image Copyright Christies. Tobacco was introduced to the court at Beijing some time during the mid- to late-16th century. It was originally smoked in pipes before the establishment of the Qing Dynasty. The use of snuff and snuff bottles spread through the upper class, and by the end of the 17th century it had become a part of social ritual to use snuff. This lasted through most of the 18th century. Eventually, the trend spread into the rest of the country and into every social class. It was common to offer a pinch of snuff as a way to greet friends and relatives. Snuff bottles soon became an object of beauty and a way to represent status. The highest status went to whoever had the rarest and finest snuff bottle. The peak of snuff bottle manufacture was during the 18th century. Pictured left: A WHITE JADE ‘BASKET WEAVE’ SNUFF BOTTLE QIANLONG PERIOD (1736-1795) Of flattened spherical form, the bottle is carved overall with an intricate basket weave pattern with the cylindrical neck left plain. The jade is of an even white tone with russet streaks. It has a rounded coral stopper. 2 5/8 in. (6.6 cm.) overall height. Sold for HK$37,500 ($4,854) at Christies, Hong Kong, May 2012. Image Copyright Christies. The use of snuff increased and decreased with the rise and fall of the Qing Dynasty and died away soon after the establishment of the Republic of China. However, replica snuff bottles are still being made, and can be purchased in souvenir shops, flea markets and museum gift shops. Original snuff bottles from the Qing period are a desirable target for serious collectors and museums. A good bottle has an extra quality over and above its exquisite beauty and value: that is touch. Snuff bottles were made to be held and so, as a rule, they have a pleasant tactile quality. Collecting Chinese Snuff Bottles – Materials and size The size of a snuff bottle is small enough to fit inside the palm. Snuff bottles were made out of many different materials including porcelain, jade, ivory, wood, tortoiseshell, metal and ceramic, though probably the most commonly used material was glass. The stopper usually had a very small spoon attached for extracting the snuff. Though rare, such bottles were also used by women in Europe in Victorian times, with the bottles typically made of cut glass. Pictured right: A VERY RARE AND UNUSUAL JADE PEBBLE SNUFF BOTTLE SUZHOU, 1680-1780 Of compressed form with a slightly convex lip and flat oval foot, the well-hollowed bottle carved with a continuous rocky landscape with plantains and a wutong tree, the other side with a seated scholar holding a qin on his lap, the figure seated before a rocky outcrop acting as a table upon which rests a brazier with a tea-kettle and a smoking censer, amber stopper, jadeite finial and vinyl collar 2 in. (6.31 cm.) high. Sold for $110,500 at Christies, New York, Sep 2008. Image Copyright Christies. Chinese snuff bottles were typically decorated with paintings or carvings, which distinguished bottles of different quality and value. Decorative bottles were, and remain, time-consuming in their production and are thus desirable for today’s collectors. Collecting Chinese Snuff Bottles – Symbolism in snuff bottle decoration Many bottles are completely devoid of decoration, others are incredibly ornate. As in all Chinese arts and crafts, motifs and symbols play an important part in decorative detail. Symbols are derived from a multitude of sources such as legends, history, religion, philosophy and superstition. The ideas used are almost always directed toward bringing wealth, health, good luck, longevity, even immortality to the owner of an artefact, frequently as a wish expressed in a kind of coded form by the giver of a gift. Probably the most popular decoration is the Shou character, a symbol of happiness and longevity, illustrated at right. Shou or Sau was one of Three Star Gods. Pictured left: A fine and extremely rare carved honey agate snuff bottle 1800-1880 Exceptionally well hollowed, with slightly concave lip and recessed flat oval foot surrounded by a footrim, the semi-transparent grayish-lilac stone with deep orange red inclusions, deftly carved in low relief through a layer of mustard-orange on the principal side with a pair of chicks, both with their heads bent pecking at an incised butterfly, with a bat and lingzhi carved in low relief on one of the narrow sides, stopper. Sold for $91,500 at Bonhams, March 2011. Image Copyright Bonhams. Another popular device is a representation of the 18 Lohan, who were the personal disciples of Buddha, just one group of the many revered immortals in China. Apart from the 18 Lohan there is a constellation of other divines who are portrayed, even their innards. The eight precious organs of the Buddha are venerated – his heart, gall bladder, spleen, lungs, liver, stomach, kidneys and intestines. These are rarely depicted on snuff bottles. Animals, on the other hand appear with regularity, the most common being the dragon. […]
Most of you will have a copy of Monopoly of some form tucked away somewhere. Whether it’s at the back of a cupboard, on a shelf or in the attic. Before you dig it out for a post lockdown car boot sale check out the value of it. You could be surprised. Borne from a board game devised by Elizabeth ‘Lizzie’ Magie called ‘The Landlord’s Game’ to promote the Georgist idea of a single tax system for land owners, Monopoly has gone on to achieve worldwide success, acclaim and has most probably caused more arguments than any other family activity. Does anybody actually know and play by the correct and full rules? Has anybody actually played a game to its completion? The answer to both questions is ‘very probably’ as there have been, until now, 14 Monopoly World Championships which are held every 4 to 6 years. The most recent being held in Macau in 2015 and won by Italian Nicolò Falcone. The original Monopoly game by Parker Brothers was a worldwide success, putting their stamp on board game producing. They credited a salesman as the sole inventor of the game. No mention of Ms Magie. The salesman became the first board game designer millionaire, but more about him later. More recently Parker Brothers was absorbed into Hasbro who have been the current producers since 1991. So what is the appeal? Why is this game in particular deemed collectible by fans old and young? Well there are many intellectual properties used in Monopoly from cities across the globe, movie franchises like Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones, pop culture such as Only Fools and Horses, Nintendo and Fortnite. There are even copies which can be personalised to you and your family. For collector Neil Scallan from Crawley in the UK, he started collecting copies of the geographical line due to his love of travel. He said in an interview that it was a postcard from places he had visited and worldwide destinations he would never be fortunate enough to visit. He achieved a Guinness World Record in September 2018 of the largest collection of Monopoly games and memorabilia with 2,249 items and his collection continues to grow. Waddingtons, a printing firm based in the northern city of Leeds in the UK, began printing playing cards in 1921 due to the demand for games played at home after the First World War. They acquired the UK rights to produce Monopoly in 1935 and strangely, despite being based in Leeds, they based the game on the streets of London. Fun fact – Angel Islington is not a road. It actually refers to an old inn called ‘The Angel Inn’ in the Islington area of London. So what is a copy of the game worth? Do you remember Lizzie Magie who designed ‘The Landlords Game’ ? Despite having it patented twice, she sold the rights to her game to a heating salesman, Charles Darrow for the sum of $500. Much less than she had spent trying to produce it. Darrow was the one to take it to Parker Brothers. By 1933, and before selling his own tweaked version of Magie’s game to Parker Brothers, he had rewritten the rules and simply renamed it ‘Monopoly’. Darrow hand made 5,000 copies of the game, some of which are still in existence today. In December 2010 one of these original copies turned up at in auction at Sotheby’s, New York as part of the Malcolm Forbes toy collection and sold for a staggering $120,000 (around £90,000). For the French version of the 80th anniversary edition in 2015, Hasbro hid real money in variations of the game totalling a run of 30,000 copies in various forms. Different amounts were included and in one box all of the money was real – over €20,000! However do not discount any copies of Monopoly you may own and would like valued. Sealed copies of the game will obviously be worth more, but are harder to find. Collector’s Special Editions can be valuable even having been opened and played. Look for: Early editions of the game from 1935 with ‘Patent Pending’ on the box as they can bring in anything from £200 The last games produced by Parker Bros in 1991 were valued from around £1,500 The 1985 produced 50th anniversary edition is only expected to be worth around £50 The 80th anniversary edition had tokens from over the years represented and can fetch around £30 to £50 Look for early Waddingtons UK produced editions and 1994 editions before the ownership went to Hasbro Older does not necessarily mean more valuable. The 2012 South Park special edition is pretty hard to find. Still sealed these can sell for hundreds of pounds due to the high demand So don’t get caught out like Lizzie Magie. Do your research and contact us for a valuation. Monopoly feature by Rob Edmonds.
Confessions of a Disney Fast F ood Toy Collector I thought I’d fill you in on why I collect Disney Happy Toy meals, and such. How I Started Collecting Disney Fast Food Toys ? I started my collection of Disney toys from McDonalds and Burger King gradually. Several years ago I purchased a Happy Meal and decided that the ‘free’ Thumper rabbit toy was well made and absolutely ‘darling’. I began to buy snacks until I had all of that set except Bambi. That really bugged me. I hung the Bambi toys on my Christmas tree. Years later I ran across the Aladdin toys at Burger King, and with a meal, I got, the wind up Genie. I was thrilled with the thing, and kept it on my desk at work. Next thing you know, I would just…happen…to buy one meal a week and got all of the set except Jafar. Then they had the Snow White Happy Meals at McDs. That did it. I then began to ‘collect’ with a passion. I have purchased every Disney toy, even those only loosely connected to Disney, such as Muppet sets, since then. Then I discovered that you can routinely find the toys at flea markets. I found my precious missing “Bambi” and “Jafar Toys”. I started prowling the markets picking up toys usually for .25 to 1.00 (at more knowlegable sellers). I ran into one ‘pirate’ lady who managed to sell to me several toys at $ 3 to $ 5 each! Those were for toys that predated myself purchased collection. Now here’s the kicker. As I broke down and admitted to people where I work – a State job – other collectors of Happy Meal Toys “Came out of the Closet”. Most are casual collectors, dabblers. Some are as hard core about it as I am. Why do I collect Disney Fast Food Toys ? Because they make me feel good. My childhood predates Happy Meals, I am 44. But they are cute, they are Disney, and how many people can indulge a harmless hobby for which they can even go ‘antique’ hunting when nearly broke?! I have gotten terrific days of toy hunting for which I spent less than one dollar! Lets see an ordinary, mundane antique hunter, do that. In conclusion, I once was disappointed to arrive at a Burger King to be told that they’d sold out of the wind-up Meeko toys (Pocahontas) days earlier. Another adult on line behind me, had an absolute hissy fit. Later on, outside of the restaurant, the man, looked to be in his 30’s, told me that he collected two toys from each fast food store, for EVERY promotion! I thought I was a ‘fanatic’ because I collect 2 toys from every Disney Promotion, just at BK and McD’s. I therefore believe that there are more adults out there, – closet collectors – than anyone suspects. Ask BK about their BK Lion King promotion here in Sacramento Believe me, wasn’t just kids buying THAT many toys! from Richard Eyman
London was already the great centre for the furniture world when in 1790 Thomas Sheraton, whose styles and designs were to be dominant for many decades, moved there from the North of England. Even at that time many of London’s shops were putting up plate glass windows, and a number of them displayed furniture made by the highly skilled English craftsmen. The famous Thomas Chippendale had died about nine years before Sheraton’s arrival. George Hepplewhite. too, had been dead two years. Furniture styles were changing, as they always do with the passing of time. As each phase emerged it was developed and brought into line with existing taste. Chippendale improved upon early Georgian styles and, as we know, evolved a lastingly beautiful style of his own. Hepplewhite brought in new forms based on some of Chippendale’s work, and established his own individuality. Robert Adam, primarily an architect, furnished the houses he built in the grand manner with classic dignity. Then from the 1790’s it appears to have been Thomas Sheraton’s turn. There were, of course, other furniture designers at work. Thomas Shearer is one of these and of some importance and much of his furniture resembles Sheraton’s. Sheraton must have been a man full of energy and bursting with ideas. He settled in Soho and to keep the wolf from the door while he put the finishing touches to his first book of designs he gave drawing lessons. The following year, 1791, he published The Cabinet Maker and Upholsterer’s Drawing Book, which he compiled to help the working cabinetmaker by providing designs and instructions on drawing and explanations of geometry problems and perspective. Although his designs were on the whole original, naturally his work came under the various influences of his predecessors. Straight legs to chairs, tables and so on were by no means unknown. Robert Adam in copying the forms of Ancient Greece and Rome, like the French at the end of Louis the Fifteenth’s reign, adopted severe styles with straight lines and angles instead of curves. Nor was Sheraton the first to introduce furniture that was lighter in weight. Hepplewhite’s pieces were lighter and less cumbersome than Chippendale’s with its lavish carving and cabriole legs. Hepplewhite’s carvings were less exuberant, his whole style more restrained, his lines graceful and he mounted his sideboards on tall straight legs, as did Sheraton. Going further, Sheraton swept away the curves in chairs and tables and practically all his designs, except the splayedout square cut legs to various tables. An outstanding feature of Sheraton’s furniture was, however, his great economy in the use of timber. He thinned down legs, chair arms and uprights, thus adding immensely to their grace, yet he made them strong and steady. His furniture is extremely elegant and delicate. He used mainly mahogany and a considerable amount of satinwood. Another outstanding characteristic is the very little decoration he employed. His delicately executed borders of crossbanded inlays are easily recognisable. They give just enough contrast to the mahogany by the use of satinwood, rosewood, ebony, tulip wood and am boyna. His brass handles are extremely simple. Sideboards and chests of drawers generally have round or oval brass handles with a modest moulded pattern, frequently a formal flower or an arrangement of convex dots. Handles are occasionally octagonal with curved corners. On tallboys he put the plainest rounded brass handles squared at corners or rounded with small brass backplates to fix them on. Sometimes a simple brass ring in the handle or a brass lion’s head with the ring in its mouth. Sheraton pieces are seldom enhanced with carving, and panels on drawers were almost invariably outlined with the delicate crossbanding inlays. If the piece was of lighter coloured wood, there was usually a thin border or stringing of ebony where the cross banding would have been. In discussing Sheraton’s designs it is important to realise that when we say Sheraton, we are in fact alluding to the period in which his designs were copied by craftsmen rather than to Sheraton personally. His entire work was the production of books with advice and drawings. They were, unfortunately for him, not really appreciated until after his death. And he made no money from them. The Cabinet Maker and Upholsterer’s Drawing Book came out in many editions between 1791 and 1793. His next book was The Cabinet Maker’s Dictionary containing an explanation of all the terms used in the cabinet, chair and upholsterers’ branches and containing a display of useful articles of furniture. A long title was quite usual in those days! That Sheraton’s books were again published nearly a century later proves how his styles appealed. He and Hepplewhite have a great deal in common in their styles and it is sometimes difficult to distinguish between them. As well as using straight legs, Hepplewhite favoured flat round brass handles to his sideboards which were similar to Sheraton’s. Sheraton gave particular attention to the development of sideboards. They have practically no decoration as a rule except his borders of crossbanding. He sometimes painted chairs all over, an idea no other eighteenth century designer had suggested before. He also decorated with painted panels on the lines of those done by Angelica Kauffman. His chairs have lower backs and the top rail is a separate piece tenoned between the uprights. The legs are square cut and tapered or turned and tapered. Sheraton armchairs have arms that sweep back, they are fixed in the uprights and, as in all his chairs, the back rail is fixed on separately, giving a square appearance. Another feature to look for is the swanneck pediment surmounting the cornice on cabinets. He used mahogany, which was the last of the best from the shores of San Domingo; those forests of the largest and straightest trees which had taken years to grow to their height and magnificence, and which provided the eighteenth century cabinet makers with immense smooth planks of timber. Sheraton’s designs were always in good proportions, stylish, graceful and elegant. He stood for refinement. This is typically indicated by his lovely cylinder writing […]
Two birds flying high, A Chinese vessel, sailing by. A bridge with three men, sometimes four, A willow tree, hanging o’er. A Chinese temple, there it stands, Built upon the river sands. An apple tree, with apples on, A crooked fence to end my song. As one of the most renowned and fascinating of romantic fables, with its Shakespearean overtones of doomed love and tragedy, the Willow Pattern story is universally familiar. This timeless tale of star-crossed lovers appeals to the imagination whilst the intricate and decorative Willow Pattern itself has been hugely popular for centuries. This instantly recognisable pattern is a classic Chinese landscape design, the fundamentals of which include a weeping willow, pagodas, a crooked fence, a tree bearing fruit, three or four figures on a bridge, a boat and a pair of lovebirds forever kissing. Combining these elements, the long-established and poignant saga is revealed. In a bygone age a wealthy and powerful Mandarin of the Chinese Empire lived with his lovely daughter Knoon-se in a grand palace surrounded by ornate, exotic flowers and trees. Chang, a low born but intelligent and personable young man, was employed as secretary to the Mandarin and fell hopelessly in love with the exquisite and captivating Knoon-se. Reciprocating his affections, Knoon-se met with Chang each evening beneath a weeping willow tree by the river. The Mandarin learned of their trysts and, infuriated that his adored daughter had fallen in love with a commoner, dismissed Chang, banning him from the estate, while Knoon-se was imprisoned in a pavilion overlooking the river. He surrounded the palace grounds with a crooked fence and, against her wishes, arranged for Knoon-se to marry the warrior Duke Ta-jin. With no company apart from servants, Knoon-se befriended and fed many birds and, knowing that her wedding would take place once the fruit tree outside her window was in bloom, she stared desolately into the river, contemplating her isolation and despairing of her future without Chang. The devoted Chang, unaware of Knoon-se’s approaching nuptials, also cared for and spoke with birds while dreaming of ways to contact his lost love. [Here, versions of the legend differ; as some say that] Chang sent a message to his beloved by fixing a sail to a shell and floating it down the river bearing a love poem, “As this boat sails to thee, so my thoughts tend”, which Knoon-se scooped from the river with her parasol. Her spirits lifted as she read his words and knew that Chang would come for her. During the hours of darkness she replied unseen, adding a burning incense stick to the shell and warning Chang to “Gather thy blossom, ‘ere it be stolen”. Knoon-se watched the tiny light until it disappeared downstream and prayed for rescue. [Other versions claim that the lovesick couple communicated using their feathered friends as go-betweens.] The tree was heavy with bud and near to blossom as the Duke Ta-jin arrived amid great fanfare, accompanied by a huge retinue of servants. He presented his betrothed Knoon-se with a casket of r are and priceless jewels, but she could think of none other than Chang and gazed at her unwanted future husband with a heart of stone, her eyes dull with despair. Nights of celebration and sumptuous banquets followed. Chang entered the palace grounds disguised as a servant and glimpsed the Mandarin and Duke through a window, both sated and asleep. Seizing the moment, he crept to the riverside apartment where Knoon-se languished alone. The lovers embraced with tears of joy and, pausing only to grab the casket of jewels, fled across the bridge to a boat that Chang had moored nearby in readiness. Alas, a slight noise alerted the Mandarin and he gave chase. [At the height of this daring adventure, the Willow Pattern depicts Knoon-se on the bridge holding the Staff of Virginity, followed by Chang bearing the box of jewels with the Mandarin in hot pursuit, brandishing a whip. When the fourth figure is shown in the Willow Pattern this represents the Duke, desperate to recapture his fleeing bride-to-be and her lover.] Knoon-se and Chang sailed to a faraway land where they sold the jewels to purchase a small pagoda and lived in bliss, sharing the life they had yearned for through many seasons. [The Willow Pattern shows their distant pagoda surrounded by lush foliage.] In a fit of vengeful spite, the Mandarin captured and caged all the birds in his gardens, as birdsong was anathema to his ears. Relentlessly he and the Duke sent spies and warriors on long and unsuccessful quests to find the couple. Ultimately the brooding Mandarin, obsessed by his lost daughter and thwarted at every turn, chanced upon a possible solution. He released all the birds and ordered his men to follow them as they flew away. The devoted birds, who had never forgotten Knoon-se or Chang, unwittingly led the evil army straight to their far off dwelling. At the dead of night, murderous men surrounded the pagoda, setting it alight as Knoon-se and Chang slept. Tragically, the lovers perished in the flames. Revenge and bitterness had seemingly prevailed as the fire raged and engulfed all. Cosmic winds howled as the ever-watchful gods took pity on the doomed lovers and blessed their undying devotion by granting them immortality. From the charred ruins of their home, the souls of Knoon-se and Chang soared into the sky as turtledoves and kissed again; beyond fear, beyond danger, forever free and symbolising eternal love. The Legend of the Willow Pattern – as we know it – may have little substance as an ancient Chinese fable. An expert in Chinese History at Murdoch University in Western Australia suggests that the essence and outcome of our familiar version is at odds with imperial Chinese ethics and social order of the past. Differences of perception between East and West are illustrated here; as a similar Chinese allegory would be a cautionary tale of stupidity and deception – because Knoon-se disobeyed her […]
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.
The distinctive designs of Elsa Schiaparelli can only be described as outrageous and ironic, and yet these innovative creations infused the romance of art together with the spirit of surrealism. With the ability to make fun, yet sophisticated, garments, worn by the likes of Mrs Wallis Simpson, The Duchess of Windsor, Schiaparelli’s innovative designs have inevitably secured her the title of being one of the most respected iconic fashion designers of the 20th Century. Born in Rome on 10th September 1890, to a well-to-do family, Schiaparelli originally studied philosophy. She married young, moved to New York and gave birth to her baby girl, Marisa, but unfortunately the marriage broke down when her husband left her, so together with her daughter, Schiaparelli returned to Europe and settled in Paris. With no profession and penniless, Schiaparelli wanted to become a scriptwriter but found herself working within the fashion industry. This was to mark the beginning of a long and successful career, and it became her lifelong passion. In 1928 Schiaparelli designed her first garment. A black jersey with white trompe l’oeil bow, it was noticed by a department store buyer who immediately placed a large order. It was at that point that Schiaparelli realised her life would be devoted to fashion and she opened a studio in Paris. By 1933 her designs were being compared with the work of her counterpart Coco Chanel. A great rivalry grew between the two iconic 1930s’ fashion designers and Chanel’s envy seeped through when being asked about the work of the Italian Designer. Undeterred by this, Schiaparelli opened a shop in London and then took over Madam Cheruit’s fashion house at Place Vendome in Paris, renaming it after herself. Concentrating on clothing that was ironic yet provocative, she wanted women to stand out and attract attention, which is why she began to take an interest in surrealist artists such as Salvador Dali, Man Ray and Jean Cocteau. Although she became firmly part of the Surrealism set, a special relationship was formed with Salvador Dali, as she found great inspiration from his work, and it was Dali in 1937, who came up with the idea for the outrageous “Shoe” hat. This inspired Schiaparelli to create many more flamboyant hats including the “Lamb Chop” which was worn by Daisy Fellowes, the Singer sewing machine heiress. Another collaboration between Schiaparelli and Dali was for the famous “Lobster” dress worn by the Duchess of Windsor, Mrs Simpson. As with all of Schiaparelli’s designs this dress was made for fun and had the element of amusement by featuring a large red lobster. Although her career in the fashion industry began predominantly with designing clothing ranges, as with any designer of this time, Schiaparelli started to look to other areas within the fashion industry, one such being, costume jewellery. She believed that jewellery was an art form within itself and as with her clothing created quirky and unusual pieces. Very different to the designs of her contemporary counterparts, the launch of the “Shocking Pink” collection in 1936 again showed Schiaparelli instilling her own injection of surrealism. This vibrant colour was something completely different as women still tended to wear the “little black dress” and her collection of jewellery along with cosmetic ranges was worlds apart from the otherwise contemporary designs of this time. Launched in a blast of advertising campaigns the “Shocking Pink” collection was quite obviously surrealism lead, with an advertisement depicting a typical surrealism image indicating that Schiaparelli always wore her heart on her sleeve. The “Shocking Pink” jewellery ranges included a “Lava Rock Necklace” with shocking pink lava stones which today would cost between £400-£500. Aside from the jewellery, another of Schiaparelli’s most collected areas has to be her innovative perfume bottles. She created many scents with the first being “Shocking” which was launched in 1936. The bottle was designed in the form of a female torso, which had been inspired by the hourglass shape of Mae West, a 1930s film star, for whom Schiaparelli designed clothes. These bottles are now highly sought after and range in price from £250 upwards. Another scent, “Zut”, released in the 1940s has a bottle shaped as a woman’s legs with a skirt around the ankle. Looking at these early innovative 1930s’ designs, it is quite obvious where today’s designer, Jean Paul Gaultier, gains inspiration for his highly collected scent bottles shaped like male and female torsos. In 1940 Schiaparelli fled from the Nazi Occupation in France and took refuge from World War II in New York. She refused to design any clothes until France was liberated and only returned to Paris in 1945, once the war was over, to re-open her fashion boutique. However, since the end of the war her avant-garde creations were no longer popular and so she returned to New York to set up her first Readyto- Wear boutique. By 1954 she decided it was time to close down her boutique in Paris and so held her final fashion show and then ceased production. She returned to live in New York in order to concentrate on her costume jewellery designs. During the 1950s Schiaparelli designed some gorgeous abstract pieces of jewellery using colourful glass and stones. These today are much easier to find than her earlier 1930s’ pieces and are all marked with her signature – although as with any top designer there are fakes on the market, so only buy from reputable dealers. Prices range from £400 for a paste bracelet to £1,000 for a set consisting of earrings, bracelet and pin made from lava rock stones, faux pearls and cabochons. Combining art with fashion Schiaparelli was once quoted as saying “Dress designing is, to me not a profession but an art.” This passion for mixing the two loves of her life is visible in everything that she designed from the clothing and hats to the innovative perfume bottles and costume jewellery. She succeeded where no other fashion designer has – by allowing women to expand their […]
Flirty Thirties – Sophistication And Elegance – Dolls in The 1930s by Sue Brewer Lights! Camera! Action! This was the decade of the movie idol. People from all walks of life filled cinemas to watch glamorous actors and actresses on the big screen, escaping everyday worries as they drifted on a sea of music and romance. Stars became household names – though, unlike today’s celebrities, managing to retain their mystique in a waft of fur, satin, diamonds and aloofness. 1930 opened with a literal high for women when Amy Johnson became the first female aviator to fly solo from England to Australia. Sadly, the year ended with a tragic aviation low when the airship R101, on its inaugural flight from England to India, crashed in France, exploding in flames with a loss of 48 lives. The early years of the decade were a combination of emotions as light-hearted young people danced the night away to jazzy music, contrasting with despair and poverty faced by millions as the Depression, following the earlier U.S. Wall Street Crash, hit home. Characterised by instability, with changes of governments, unrest amongst lower-paid workers and, amazingly, three kings in one year (1936), the Thirties were turbulent times. Germany was proving a constant threat, and a sense of unease permeated the atmosphere – this was sensed even in the fashion industry, where clothing became more simple and casual, as though preparing women for the lean times ahead. Even so, it certainly wasn`t all doom and gloom. A magnificent 1000 ft. liner, the ‘Queen Mary’, was launched in 1934; cruising was the height of fashion amongst the upper classes, and this magnificent ship with its Art Deco design, was deservedly popular. Sophisticated, elegant and stylish, just like her passengers, she summed up the very best of the decade. On her maiden cruise she arrived in New York to find the harbour filled with a welcoming armada and cheering crowds lining the shore. Millionaires, dukes, heiresses and, of course, film stars, adored the ship – this was the height of luxury and style. The rising movie culture was enthusiastically embraced, and elaborate cinemas with velvet seats and plush fittings were built at a frenzied pace. Soon it seemed that every town had its own ‘Picture Palace’ where audiences could lose themselves in a fantasy world. This was the era of Busby Berkely, a choreographer who directed amazing dance routines featuring dozens of feather-clad performers, and many films featured song and dance numbers. Glamorous stars such as Marlene Dietrich, Errol Flynn, Fred Astaire, Greta Garbo and Mae West made the cinema the place to be, while ‘The Wizard of Oz’ starring a young Judy Garland, was released in 1939, just one of the many classic movies which appeared during the decade. Two years earlier, Disney had produced his first-ever full-length cartoon, ‘Snow White’, allowing companies such as Chad Valley to make stunning commemorative dolls. Additionally, a golden-haired tot called Shirley Temple became such a cinema cult that she was created in doll-form to thrill both British and American girls alike, while sassy cartoon star, Betty Boop, was such a hit that she is still adored today. By the mid-thirties, composition had largely overtaken bisque as the best medium for doll manufacture, and while many dolls made by this method were almost as beautiful as their elegant bisque forbears, others were much more crude with slapdash face painting and basic moulding. Some of the bisque manufacturers switched to composition, while new companies evolved, keen to take advantage of the fashion for a medium which didn`t require firing in hot kilns. America had a particularly extensive doll industry at this time and amongst the classic dolls developed were Dy-Dee, Patsy and Shirley Temple. The first Shirley Temple dolls appeared in the shops in 1934, sporting a red and white spotted dress resembling the outfit the little girl wore in ‘Stand Up and Cheer’. The dolls were made by Ideal, using a kind of wood-pulp composition, and their success ensured that Shirley Temple dolls would continue to be produced for several years, wearing costumes from her various films. Additionally, extra outfits and accessories could be purchased, including a beautiful dolls pram. Composition Shirley Temple dolls were finally discontinued in 1939 as interest had waned. Nevertheless, in the late 1950s, a combination of nostalgia plus new interest in Shirley, led Ideal to release an updated range, this time using modern vinyl. Today, Shirley Temple dolls are still produced for collectors by companies such as Danbury Mint. In Britain, Cascelloid experimented making baby dolls from a material they called ‘Plastex’, which was a glue-reinforced unbreakable composition, while companies such as D. G. Todd, British National Dolls and Pedigree produced various composition dolls to a fairly basic design. These were the dolls which would later prove such comfort to children huddled in air-raid shelters, or, alternatively, be the one reminder of home to a child taken to the safety of the countryside, parted from her mother. Britain – in fact the world – was rocked in 1936 when Edward VIII, renounced his throne in order to marry American heiress Wallis Simpson. She was divorced, and so was unable to become queen. In a broadcast at the time, Edward declared that he could not carry on ‘without the help and support of the woman I love`. Instead, Edward`s brother reigned as George VI, and his delightful wife Elizabeth became universally loved, later becoming affectionately known as ‘The Queen Mum’. Before the 1939 hostilities began, the decade was an elegant age, with evening wear influenced by the slinky, sparkly gowns worn by stars such as Ginger Rogers, who whirled around the dance floors in the arms of Fred Astaire. Women embraced a feminine, curvy look, simple by daytime and stunning by night. Schiaparelli, the classic Italian designer, promoted the zip fastener which at the time had been scarcely used in fashionable clothing. At last, it was unnecessary to employ a maid to do up all those hooks […]
My Little Pony Collecting Animals hold a strong appeal to many young people as they grow up. This is especially true of animals that many children will never have for their very own. Horses are a favourite, as are the mystical unicorn and pegasus, who hold their own appeal from the realm of fantasy. To bring these dreams of ownership to life, Hasbro introduced a line of soft plastic horses with brushable manes and tails – My Little Pony. From their start in the early 1980’s, My Little Pony horses were immensely popular. Not only could young people finally have the horse of their dreams, but the dream for the “perfect” stable could finally be realized. Along with their wonderful hair, each pony had its own unique symbol on its rear, usually something to match its equally unique name. Every Pony had its own brush and ribbon, so even if it was the first in the herd, the new owner could enjoy brushing and braiding the hair. The beginnings of the Pony family were modest, but soon became more flamboyant. Starting out in one pose, the first set of six were later labelled the “classic” Ponies for their simplicity in coloring, design and names. Subsequent Ponies were created in many different poses, including sitting, walking, trotting and rearing. For every possible horse attitude or gait, a Pony was made. The world of horses and myth were becoming more and more real. The Pony family kept expanding to include every variation a child could want for their growing stable. After the initial ponies, unicorns, and pegasi, then came babies, big brothers, friends, sisters and sea ponies. With each new set, various colors and themes were introduced. Rainbow-haired Ponies were the beginning, but soon came twinkle-eyed, fuzzy, full-body symbols, scented and even glow-in-the-dark! Now there really was a Pony for almost everyone, and collecting was running full force. As with any toy set, accessories were added to make playtime even more fun. Ponies had buildings to dance, play, live and sleep in. Outfits made beauty pagents or careers possible, for both adult Ponies and babies. Hair accessories for the Ponies were not in short supply, either, when the hair packets were produced. For the ultimate transition to fantasy play, two human dolls were created as companions to the Ponies–Megan and her younger sister Molly. Each came with her own pony, but could ride on almost any other. Collectors could pretend to be Megan, and ride and have their own Pony adventures. As with other toys in the ’80’s, My Little Pony also had special mail-in offers for unique Ponies or prizes. For an extra treat, one could join the My Little Pony Fan Club, with a membership kit including a badge, stories and games for the collector. The Club and the exclusive Ponies could only be obtained by collecting and mailing the horseshoe points on the backs of Pony packages. Suddenly, mail was eagerly anticipated! Even though it had been very successful, My Little Pony did finally experience the end of it’s popularity. After ten years, and the release of the anniversary set of Ponies, they were retired. Many young people that had grown up with them were now adults, and the younger collectors had many other toys to choose from. The beloved toys so many had cherished were now garage sale fodder and toys for the very young to play with. However, all was not lost for the Ponies. In 1997, Hasbro tried to revive the flame that never quite died. They modernized the Ponies by making them smaller, using a harder plastic and giving them unique accessories for each Pony. Once again they tried the Pony market. Unfortunately, for those that were in love with the original Ponies, these smaller and more petite second generation Ponies just didn’t fill the same space. After only two years of production in the U.S, My Little Pony was once again discontinued. Their bright colors, symbols and brushable hair just weren’t enough to overcome the dramatic body style change. Now that the Internet is firmly established and communication between collectors is no longer as costly, a silver lining has emerged for the world of My Little Pony. With worldwide access, many collectors were surprised to discover that some ponies were made only for foreign markets! Now not only were there domestic Ponies to finish collecting, there also was a whole new batch of foreign Ponies to find. In addition, with the discovery of foreign first generation Ponies came the discovery that second generation Ponies were still being made in other countries. The few U.S. collectors that did adore the littler Ponies could expand their collections from different markets. With the added boost to foreign production, the second generation Ponies may just have found a way to ensure success for several more years. Through all the changes and the childhood years of many people, My Little Pony has managed to carve out a special place in the hearts of many. It’s not easy to forget their sweet little faces, pretty names and symbols, or the hours of fun playing with them. Their demand is still great, and hopefully, through work and determination, they can be saved from extinction for the next generation. All collectors, both old and new, find obtaining only a few of these ponies very difficult. With hundreds now to choose from, it’s too easy to find several that are just too adorable to pass up. ©Copyright 1999, all text and photos (by C. Kolleth). Thanks to Kim Shriner for her use of Dream Valley for reference, and to the other “Pony People” that helped with this page through their ideas and critiques.