I do have one other bird whistle, bought at the 2009 NYCF from John Howard.
A long time ago, I picked up this little bird whistle in London for a song. It was in the stock of a fine porcelain dealer, who didn't think too much of pottery, obviously. My husband didn't know why I was buying this diminutive object (it is just over 2" tall), but that didn't stop me. It has remained a much loved item in our collection--or at least I love it lots.
Can you imagine how easily a small item like this whistle gets lost, broken, discarded over the centuries? It is no surprise that the years marched by without my seeing another. But at the New York Ceramics Fair this January, I was amazed to find its identical twin in the stock of James Labaugh Antiques. Yes, it cost a lot more than mine had, but it was worth it. A real little gem.
I do have one other bird whistle, bought at the 2009 NYCF from John Howard.
Charming isn't it? And the glaze and enamel colors are as brilliant today as they were two centuries ago. Amazing to think how much trouble once went into making a whistle, how much concern there was for its beauty. Today, a whistle is merely a utilitarian object, usually churned out on a production line in some distant country. Have we really progressed over time??
I will be traveling till Fri Feb 26. I have prepared Blog posting so I stay on schedule from afar....but answering questions with photos attached may be difficult. If it can wait, please email your questions after Feb 26. If it is urgent, go ahead and I will do my best to get back in touch. And yes, I expect to see Fabulous Figures on my travels.
I repeatedly comment on the pleasure of tiny figures. And I have often said that you can buy a perfect figure for a modest price. Have a look at the little reading boy that Andrew Dando has just put on his site. It fits the bill. Why haven't I bought it? Well, I would have...but I already have one just like it.
Also, great news is that Stephen Smith is developing a fabulous site devoted to Sunderland lustre plaques. If these interest you--and they should, even if you are not a lustre collector you will find them fascinating--click here to visit.
The world is awash with reproductions, and I don't normally have anything positive to say about them, but these you will find interesting. In November, I got an email from Karen Thompson, a ceramics student at the Royal College of Art in London. Karen is studying for her MA and had a project requiring her to recreate a piece from the Victoria and Albert Museum's holdings. She chose that fabulous Staffordshire figure, 'The Death of Munrow'. Karen was struggling with the modelling because she had no images of the rear. I supplied some pictures...and recently the results popped into my email box. What a surprise! Karen had modeled 'The Death of Munrow' AND a response called 'The Death of Sainsburys', which is intended as a comment on Sainsbury's food chain and the predominance of supermarkets.
I think Karen has done an extraordinary job of creating three dimensional objects from pictures. Most importantly, along the way she fell in love with Staffordshire figures.
The Victoria and Albert Museum has a great 'Death of Munrow' in its holdings--pictured above. It was a gift from a well-intentioned donor. Most museum holdings are in reserve, which means the public never gets to see them. Please DON"T leave your Staffordshire figures to a museum. The odds are they will live in a dark room. They will never bask in the sunlight or be caressed by loving hands. I guess if the Victoria and Albert had its 'Death of Munrow' accessible, Karen would not have had to ask me to help with pictures. I am so pleased that I could help, because almost two centuries after its creation, my 'Death of Munrow' has inspired the love of Staffordshire figures in yet another potential collector.
Karen's work can be seen on her website by clicking here.
This figure emblematic of the season of Summer is one of my favorites. The subject is quite mundane. Quite a few potters portrayed Summer thus. But what makes this figure special to me is the quality. Its excellence extends beyond its structural perfection. The enamels and glazes are simply beautiful. Bright and clear, but in no way harsh. The figure oozes charm. It is everything a Staffordshire figure should be.
This figure is in the "Sherratt" style. We can attribute it to the "Sherratt" potbank by a variety of features. The dress pattern and two red lines on the base of the figure are typically of other "Sherratt" wares. But the clincher is the little floral garland that you can see on the center front of the base. In fact there are three such garlands on the base. These are akin to "Sherratt" signatures. I have yet to find them on a figure that does not present other "Sherratt" attributes.
I am sure that Autumn, Winter, and Spring were made to go along with Summer, but as yet I have not found them. I live in hope!
It is not often that I see a figure form that I have never seen before. That's why I was excited to see this rare gem, now on Hiscock and Shepherd's site.
Horses of this form are typically Pratt Ware and most are usually without a rider. Also, the horse is NOT usually formed in two parts, as is the case here. And I have never seen a topper astride a horse. The little fellow looks pleasantly inebriated. All in all, a charming, whimsical piece of work.
As a reminder, here is the common-or-garden version of this horse.
Hard to be certain from a picture, but I think that the base color on John Shepherd's horse is also Pratt, or underglaze. But the rest of the colors are enamel. If you want to know more, ask him yourself. Hiscock and Shepherd Antiques.
Instead of a blog entry, I have added another pair of Fabulous Figures to the FIGURES tab on this site...so click on FIGURES to read all about a contest captured in clay. It happened two hundred years ago this year!
The geese know when to head north--and so do I. My annual trek to the New York Ceramics Fair in the month of January starts the year on a high note. If only January were warmer...but the weather was tolerable this year and the pottery never fails to enthrall.
The important new face at the fair this year was Philip Carrol, who traveled from Yorkshire (I think) with case loads of varied early wares. Philip has great taste, he sets a high standard, and I hope he will be a regular at the show.
I haven't added Philip to the dealer list because I don't have full contact details. I shall remedy that. Meanwhile, if you need to communicate with him, ask me because I can help.
Prize for most dazzling display had to go to John Howard. His wares cover a broad period, and he sets a very high standard. You could have left me on his stand forever...
As always, Elinor Penna's stand was a firm favorite. Elinor gets the prize for the most figures, and she did justice to both pre-Victorian and Victorian with an amazing array to suite all pockets. Here you could buy a figure for less than the price of a nice hotel room...or you could spend a healthy multiple of that amount. Truly something for everyone.
Simon Westman had a fabulous Pratt watch stand, with the figure of Fire to one side and one of the classical ladies on the other. Superb item. I keep hoping Simon will add more and more figures to his stock...and I am sure in time he will. Problem with figures is that they really are in short supply. There were fewer around this year than in the past. Seems that people are slower to send them to market, fearing that they will not get good prices in this market. To the contrary. Prices for anything good are really strong. And the dealers are all hungry for good stock. I hear this again and again.
James Labaugh Antiques, as always, had super wares but fewer figures than in prior years. Their stand looked wonderful, though.
Although the fair, to all intents and purposes, looked and functioned as always, I spent the days with a very heavy heart. Sampson & Horne were not in their usual spot. Hours before the fair opened on Tuesday, they announced the closure of their business due to Jonathan Horne's ill health. The absence of Jonathan from the ceramics trade is, to me, unimaginable. Jonathan made Staffordshire figure collecting what it is. His meticulous scholarship, his vast knowledge and love of English history, his willingness to mentor and share all that he knew contributed enormously to the ceramics market at all levels. Yes, things will go on unchanged, but for me the ceramics world will never be as bright.
The word Holocaust has gut-wrenching connotations of genocide, the massive destruction of humans by other humans. I am offended when I hear lesser uses of the word: "the holocaust on Wall Street." Please! Even when loss of human life is involved-- be it Asia's heartbreaking tsunami or the AIDS epidemic--the word “holocaust” is inappropriate. Using it trivializes (if that is possible) the enormous tragedy of WW2.
Did you read Sophie’s Choice? It is one of the few books I wish I had not read because it has haunted me ever since. A mother’s is forced to choose life for one child, although it means death for the other. So when I heard California’s Governor Schwarzenegger refer to his choice of budget cuts as “a Sophie’s Choice,” my gut heaved.
Which brings me to a choice I made a year or so ago. Totally trivial, in the scheme of life, but within my petty existence, it seemed a big decision. I owned a wonderful bocage gardening group. I loved everything about it. Very crisp bocage, great enamels.
As you can see, the couple are gardening beside a stream, and we were offered the group years ago while my husband and I were toiling installing a stream to feed our fish pond. Of course, we succumbed, and I thought highly enough of this figure group to use it on the dedication page of my book. I believed I had found the very best example of this figure group that I could possibly find. My collecting philosophy is to buy the best; do it right the first time—no upgrading required. This group had a little restoration to the lady’s arm and the watering can rosette…a pity, but so little restoration!
Fast forward many years, and along came another similar gardening group. Although I had never bought a duplicate, the second figure group tempted me because it was PERFECT. I am a sucker for perfection, so I bought it too—at a distance, from an image. It couldn’t possibly be as nice as the first group, I told myself, but I just had to see.
When the new purchase arrived, I stood the two groups side by side, and tried to convince myself that figure group 1 remained the best I would ever see. But figure group two had more WOW factor. It stood taller, with a fuller bocage, some nice decorative details on the base, the same top-quality enamels and crisp modeling, and not a chip anywhere...not even a chip to the leaves overhanging the potted plant between the couple. A true miracle. On the other hand, on figure group 1, the skin colors were so pretty and I was emotionally attached to it…but the more I looked at that restored arm, the more it bothered me. So which figure group to keep, which one to sell?
What are friends for if not to help with these decisions? I stood the two figures besides each other, and sent their picture to two friends. Both said it was a no-brainer: figure group 2 was the keeper. NOT what I wanted to hear, but I knew it was right. With great pain, I gave figure group 1 to a dealer to sell for me. It flew out of his stock within moments, and I felt SO much better. My beautiful ceramic child had a loving home and a collector out there was really happy.
Last night, I looked at figure group 2 again and knew I had made the right choice. No regrets. Perfection is never over-rated.
HAVE YOU BOUGHT MY