Returned from the UK late last night and it is great being back in my snug office with my dog, Maddie, at my feet. The UK was, as always, amazing--especially the London snow fall, the first October snowfall in London since 1934. Seriously, I could have done without the freezing cold and rain...but that's a London winter for you. I rushed down to Sampson Horne right away on my first morning, but found nothing new and things very much in transit between NY (where Jonathan and Christopher had just wrapped up a show) and Olympia (starting Nov 8.) Talk about a brutal way to earn a living. I simply don't know how our major dealers cope with getting themselves and their fragile treasures across the globe to cater to our tastes.
The next day, Thursday, I set out for the NEC Antiques show. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the show, the NEC is an exhibition complex in Birmingham and the show is possibly the largest in England. It attracts major provincial dealers and a host of smaller dealers. It is very much a show for the English, as opposed to tourists. In fact, I encountered only one other American and she lives in London. As the NEC complex has its own rail station and is a quick 80 minutes from London by rail, it is a not-to-be-missed outing if you happen to be in London at the time. My friend, Lisa, and I actually spent TWO days at the NEC, coming and going by train quite quickly and painlessly.
For me the highlight of the show was seeing my friend Nick Burton. Nick wasn't exhibiting so it gave us some precious time to hang out together. Wish I could get Nick to stock more early figures, because he has the sharpest eye and his Victorian figures make a dazzling display when he does a show. But some of my favorite dealers and friends had stands at the show. As always, John Howard's superb exhibition of wares reflected his discriminating standards that always inspire me to reach into my pocket. Simply THE best--and its always so much fun buying from John. Andrew Dando was not exhibiting--his shop exhibition happens next week, see details at www.andrewdando.co.uk--but Andrew was in charge of ceramics vetting, so he was around and I always enjoy talking to him. Ivan Mears and David Boyer had an interesting selection, with unusual items--so nice to find dealers who still recognize the extraordinary. Philip Carrol, whom I met for the first time, also had a lovely array of early figures. Beyond that, ceramics were scattered across dealers' stands, but both John Sheperd and Martyn Edgell (both my kind of dealers) carried an interesting selection among their wonderfully eclectic stock. I loved finally meeting the guys from Juno Antiques. They have superb taste in pottery and porcelain, but not much in figures--yet. I am expecting great things here because these are the nicest dealers, totally above board with great taste. My only complaint: their dog Homer, who is part of the team, should have been at the show too!
So what will I confess to buying? My first purchase is proudly basking in the light flooding the corner of my desk and I am SO pleased with it. Thanks to Martyn Edgell , I now own a recumbent Walton lion in perfect condition. As the lion symbolises England, this is the perfect memento of my trip.
Pearlware recumbent lion, marked WALTON. H: 4.75". Made in Staffordshire, circa 1820.
Do you know how rare this little Walton lion is? Walton made lots of figure forms--I am compiling a list of known Walton figures and I am into the 80s with the list still growing. Some of the figures are a lot more common than others--but the mark makes them all rather desirable. I have seen tons of figures in the flesh, but I haven't actually seen a pair of recumbent Walton lions--only the odd pair in an old catalog. As for singles, I have seen just one, but not in the condition I would have liked--and at too steep a price. So I was thrilled to acquire my little fella from Martyn for a reasonable price. Will I ever find a pair? Probably not. And I don't care. I have a simply GORGEOUS single to enjoyt.
I love the dog-like, shaggily friendly recumbent lions that Staffordshire potters made. The Wood and Caldwell lion accompanying Britannia is in this vein (see below), as is the pair of recumbent Wood and Caldwell lions...and of course, the Walton recumbent lion. I believe the design source for these lions is the terracotta lion that John Bacon made for Heaton Hall, Manchester in the 18th century. This lion was probably the source of the ceramic lions made by the Plymouth factory circa 1770, and in turn they were replicated in earthenware.
Heaton Hall's lion, possibly the design inspiration for Walton's earthenware lion.