Do you ever think about life in the Staffordshire Potteries between 1780 and 1840, in the decades when these figures were made? Does it evoke images of, if not quite Downton Abbey, at least a green, idyllic pleasantness? If so, do you have it wrong! Think instead of Dante's inferno. Think of houses that were dank, dark hovels, no piped water for anyone, bone-chillingly cold winters, children who toiled from an early age in a working environment that was hazardous to all.....the list can go on and on, but to top it ALL, know that life then happened beneath a dense black pall of smoke that belched day and night from the potters' coal-burning kilns. The smoke routinely transformed day into night. It turned everything and everyone black and made it impossible to see across the road. The reality is that the worst modern industrial complex in a third-world country is today more pleasant and livable than the Potteries must have been then. To me, it is amazing that from this hell-hole came the brightly colored, charming, engaging figures we collect. Do they not pay tribute to the triumph of the human spirit???
On this freezingly cold day in North Carolina, I look with awe at this picture of a pair of deer that changed hands recently. Yes, I know real deer are never yellow, but a long-dead painter brightened his gloomy world--and ours--by taking artistic liberty of sorts with this pair of deer.
I am not sure how I started writing about deer and ended up with a sheep--but to tie it all together, let me show you what I think is the tallest enamel-painted deer I have recorded. This splendid animal stands 13.5" tall, and, best of all, he has his original antlers and bocage.
PS: If you are coming to the NY Ceramics Fair (Jan 21-26), I would like us to meet. If it works for you, please email me.