Chelsea Porcelain

The Chelsea Factory was established sometime between 1743 and 1745 by Nicholas Sprimont. Sprimont’s background as a silversmith is evident in many of the Chelsea designs, particularly the early pieces. He ran a hugely successful and innovative company until 1769 when he sold to William Duesbury of the Derby Porcelain factory who maintained Chelsea until 1784, producing what is commonly referred to as Chelsea-Derby ware. In 1784, the Chelsea workshops were demolished with the majority of the moulds destroyed and a few removed to Derby along with some of the workers.

Chelsea Porcelain is very clearly divided into four periods defined by the marks used. The first period; the triangle period (1745-49) saw pieces marked with an incised triangle. Wares from this period have a glassy white body due to a proportion of crushed lead glass in the soft paste that can appear to have ‘pinholes’ in it when held to the light. Designs tended to be based on silver work with particular Rococo influence.

By the raised anchor period (1749-52) marked with an applied anchor on a small oval medallion, there had been some improvement in the quality of the glaze with less translucency. Many designs had a Meissen influence and scenes from Aesop’s Fables were popular. A small red or occasionally brown anchor defined the Red anchor period (1752-56) which saw fashions favour decorative tableware with designs such as fruit, animals and vegetables becoming popular. Figures from this period are particularly notable; the best produced by Flemish modeller Josef Willems. Finally the Gold anchor period (1757-69) where the small anchor was now painted gold saw an increased use of gilding and coloured grounds, the return to Rococo designs and many more elaborate figures produced.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse
Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items you’re thinking about offering items in auction or you simply would like a valuation, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website

Breakfast Wares

My father always ate Cornflakes for breakfast. As a young boy I always looked on this as a sign of manhood and vowed to grow up a strong, Cornflake eating man. Sleeping over at a friends one night I remember appearing at the breakfast table to discover his father eating Rice Krispies. He was never the same man in my eyes after that and my friendship with his son soon waned.

In 1894 Dr John Kellogg, who ran a sanatorium, by accident created the corn flake as he attempted to improve the diet of his patients. A patent was applied for that same year and the flakes of corn became so popular that Dr John’s brother Will Keith Kellogg set up the Kellogg Company to produce Corn Flakes and sell to the general public.

In 1906 Will and John fell out over sugar which Will wanted to put in the Cornflakes. Sadly, this led to a life time rift and the success of the company was left to Will Kellogg.

The Cornflake craze didn’t happen overnight, but by the 1930s a change in breakfasting habits was definitely happening. The great British public now required new ceramics to enjoy the first meal of a new day. Cereal bowls, toast racks, teapots and for the lucky ones, all on a tray to be served in bed.

These breakfast wares are popular collectors items today. Look for investable designers like Clarice Cliff and Susie Cooper and the rarer the pattern, the more exciting the purchase.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items you’re thinking about offering items in auction or you simply would like a valuation, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website

Keith Murray and Wedgwood

As a boy my love for the auction room and the pull of the family business was never in doubt. If I had a fallback position, however, it would have been racing driver or architect.

Keith Murray was an architect. He was born in New Zealand. His father was Scottish and had travelled to New Zealand to meet his mother Lillian. The family came to England when Keith was 14 and seven years later he graduated from the London School of Architecture.

Originally work was slow, so Murray began illustrating for magazines. In the early 1930s he designed for Stevens and Williams and his designs were noticed by Wedgwood. Wedgwood were at that time recruiting designers to inspire their production and revitalise their flagging turnover.

In the 1930s Keith Murray designed for Wedgwood for two or three months a year. His designs, although slow to get started, were a triumph. This was largely due to the excellent combination of Murray’s sleek styles and the matt glazes developed by Norman Wilson, Wedgwood’s works manager at the time. The range of vases and bowls were hand thrown and featured incised horizontal fluting or banding. They were glazed in plain matt colours including, the most popular, blues and greens.

Other popular Murray items include the bronze coloured tobacco jar and the rare black basalt coffee set. Collectors just love the undecorated, simple shape Murray is famous for and they fit so well with today’s minimalist styles.

Sadly for the world of ceramics, after World War Two Keith Murray went back to his architecture.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items you’re thinking about offering items in auction or you simply would like a valuation, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website

Belleek

My wife was born in Ireland, what other reason do I need to love the wonderful porcelain that came from the Belleek factory.

The Belleek porcelain factory in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland was established in the village of Belleek in the late 1850s by three men. John Caldwell Bloomfield, to whom the land had been left, and two businessmen Robert William Armstrong, an architect from London with an interest in ceramics, and a trader from Dublin, David McBirney. As well as local workers and apprentices the partners hired fourteen experienced men from Stroke-on-Trent.

The partners always wanted to make fine porcelain, but the early pieces to come out of the factory were items such as floor tiles and tableware. However, following a few failed attempts they succeeded in making a certain amount of parian by 1863. Belleek is popular for it’s parian wares. They did not decorate the pieces with transfer printing or painting but instead used lustre glazes to enhance the cream colour of the porcelain itself. The intricate baskets produced by the factory are some of the most popular items with collectors.

By 1865 the company already had a growing market in Ireland and England and was beginning to export items further afield to the United States and elsewhere. Queen Victoria was even a customer. The company exhibited in parian porcelain at the Dublin Exposition of 1872. Items displayed included statues, busts and centrepieces.

Although the factory is still in operation today, it is still the early pieces that collectors crave.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items you’re thinking about offering items in auction or you simply would like a valuation, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website

Duesbury Derby

The other night I was examining a scar on my nose, which sadly is plenty large enough to accommodate a meaningful one, and the shape of the scar reminded me of a Derby porcelain pattern. This set my mind to thinking of that wonderful Duesbury Derby period in the factory’s history.

It all began in 1786 when William Duesbury the younger succeeded his father and steered the factory through its best and most significant period. The young William was a multi talented man. He possessed a wonderful eye and an enviable appreciation of the artistic, but almost as important were his very effective managerial skills. Production was aimed at only the wealthiest customers with every piece finished to the very highest standard.

Derby specialised in cabinet wares, particularly cups and saucers or cabaret sets (too expensive to use and produced simply to be admired). Derby’s glaze was creamy white and very soft, producing a delightful and subtle feeling, unlike other English porcelain. Consequently the demand for Derby of this period today is higher than many other porcelains.

The decoration in panels or reserves was created by some superb artists including Zachariah Boreman and Thomas Hill focused on landscapes, Richard Askew famous for figures and William Billingsley, the greatest of all English flower painters. Derby rediscovered the charm of botanical designs and flower prints were also copied onto dessert services.

Sadly William Duesbury died far to soon, at only 34, but he left a factory which had become one of the finest in Europe.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items you’re thinking about offering items in auction or you simply would like a valuation, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website

Goldscheider Figurines

Last weekend’s sunny Sunday found me lying on my deck chair, my eyes closed and listening to the soothing sounds of birds singing and bees buzzing, along with the gentle ‘clip, clip’ of my wife’s hedge cutting endeavours. My thoughts turned, as they so often do in similar settings, to Goldscheider figures.

The Goldscheider Porcelain Manufacturer and Majolica Factory was founded in Vienna in 1885 by Freidrich Goldscheider. It quickly earned itself international acclaim becoming one of the leading ceramics companies in Europe opening branches in Paris, Florence, Leipzig and Berlin. Freidrich worked with his sons Walter and Marcell who would later move to America and England respectively to continue expanding the business after Hilter’s regime forced the family to flee Austria in 1938.

The Goldscheider factories are probably the most well known of the potteries who made the beautiful Art Deco figurines that were so popular in the 1920s and 30s. The figurines depicted elegant, slim-lined and fashionable ladies typically displayed in movement, whether it was mid-dance, an acrobatic stance or simply a sweeping gesture, with dramatic curves that allowed their flowing dresses and sleeves to produce eye-catching, decorative features for the pieces.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse
Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

The large flat areas of the extended dresses, scarves or sleeves were decorated with intricate, colourful designs that contrasted with the light, porcelain-like skin tones of the women. A high quality of detail and skill in the artwork as well as a characterful and appealing face all add value to these figurines. Erotic subjects are particularly popular. Damage or poor restoration can dramatically reduce desirability and thus value.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items you’re thinking about offering items in auction or you simply would like a valuation, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website

Victorian Jugs

It is extraordinarily rare for me to make a prediction and I have to say in doing so I am often wrong, but I predict the interest in Victorian moulded jugs is about to soar. It is an absolutely wonderful field of collecting.

A few years before Victoria came to the throne moulded jugs had developed into an art form. Almost every potter of the time began producing them and on the whole all followed each other as the moulded jug developed and changed throughout the century.

The jugs of the 1830s were moulded in a crisp and deep relief. Apart from a few angular exceptions the body was generally round. In terms of decoration, this was a period when designs and inspirations seemed limitless. Hunting scenes were popular, as were religious, mythological, historical and even drinking themes. But inspiration was also found in books, poems and art. In fact almost every aspect of Victorian life.

By the latter part of the 1840s the earlier distinctive pedestal foot had become a foot rim and the lip was a little less flared. The body was still essentially round and the relief had become more shallow. The new trend in design was naturalistic plant life, with some jugs being completely covered, examples being the Cob of Corn jug and the Pine Cone jug.

By the 1860s the relief was very shallow and the naturalistic designs were replaced with stylised flowers and foliage. By the time, towards the end of the century, that the Art Nouveau style had arrived the moulded jug had largely had its day.

Made usually in earthenware, stoneware or Parian the moulded jug makes a lovely addition to any home.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items you’re thinking about offering items in auction or you simply would like a valuation, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website

Josiah Wedgwood

We all like to think of ourselves as good businessmen, but Josiah Wedgwood was one of the best. He almost single handedly transformed British pottery making into a highly mechanised industry, which was to supply a world wide market with fine ceramic wares.

Throughout his life Wedgwood experimented relentlessly with different materials and methods of manufacture. However, the enormous success of his factory was due not only to his artistic abilities but also to his realisation that the market needed to be expanded to cater for all levels of society.

From 1754 to 1759 Wedgwood worked alongside the potter Thomas Whieldon making experimental and tortoiseshell wares. Wedgwood never practised as a potter himself due to a leg injury and rather than being at a disadvantage this enabled him to work on developing pottery bodies and glazes and meticulously documenting his discoveries. By 1759 he had set up his own business at the Ivy House Works in Staffordshire where he was making Redware, Whieldon type ware with translucent lead glazes, Blackware, salt glazed stoneware and Creamware.

In 1767 he formed a partnership with Liverpool merchant Thomas Bentley and opened a bigger factory called ‘Etruria’ ( after Etruscan pottery which inspired some of the factory’s production). During the next decade, right up until Bentley’s death in 1780, the company expanded and firmly established its position at the forefront of the market.

It was in the 1760’s that Wedgwood’s famous blue Jasperware was produced. A fine ground, unglazed stoneware, typically decorated with classical figures. One could say it was his signature dish.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items you’re thinking about offering items in auction or you simply would like a valuation, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website

Shelley

The demand for wares from many porcelain factories has taken something of a downturn in recent times, but many of the products emanating from the doors of the Shelley factory have always kept their appeal.

The Shelley factory, established in 1872, was first known as Wileman & Co., then as Foley and as Shelley from 1925, becoming Shelley Potteries Ltd. in 1929 and finally Shelley China Ltd. in 1965. Shelley, under the direction of Art Director, Frederick Rhead, produced a number of hand painted earthenware grotesques, animals and Toby jugs in the 1890s which were deliberately made to look ugly. These achieved great success, but it was not until the 1920s that Shelley pieces achieved their ultimate success. Their high quality Art Deco tableware became famous with the help of a national advertising campaign.

After the Art Deco success came the figures of fairies and other characters, as well as nursery wares based on the illustrations of Mabel Lucie Attwell.

Shelley pieces are always popular in auctions and the two main collecting areas are the Art Deco tea wares and the Mabel Lucie Attwell related pieces, which tend to represent children, the clergy and golfers.

Although Shelley figures are amongst the strangest ever produced they are still very collectable. The most interest tends to be in the chubby cheeked child studies accompanied by fairy folk. Many of these are modelled riding a variety of animals and birds, or standing on toadstools, sometimes with the addition of rabbits.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website

Ming Porcelain

The Ming Dynasty lasted for nearly 300 years, from 1386 to 1644, which is a long time by anybody’s standards. During the dynasty mountains and mountains of porcelain was produced.

Why then is all Ming porcelain so valuable, or is it?

The short answer is no it is not and the short explanation I will now try. Firstly an enormous amount of Ming porcelain is poor quality, provincially produced and naively painted and this together with the fact that they have no reign mark, adversely affects their value.

Taking the “reign” mark a step further, for a piece to have high value it must be a “mark” and “period” piece. The mark is the reign mark on a piece and is composed of symbols that denote emperors. These marks can easily be researched and identified.

The problem is the period. The habit of putting earlier reign marks on Chinese porcelain is common and was practiced for hundreds of years. It is not unusual, therefore, to find an 18th century item with a 15th century mark.

An item made during the reign of the emperor whose mark is on the base is referred to as “mark and period” and the value is often increased twofold or threefold. Better quality pieces which are mark and period are very much rarer than the provincial Ming and are highly prized by collectors.

These highly prized pieces are highly priced and that is the sort of piece people refer to when they ask expectantly “is it Ming?”

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website