Pot Lids

During breakfast recently my wife handed me her new jar of jam and asked me to open it. Nothing unusual in that it has been part of our married life for over forty years. What was so distressing was that for the first time in our long and glorious partnership I could not open the jar, eventually having to puncture the top with a fork to facilitate the manoeuvre.

I shall be writing to the manufacturer of my wife’s jam in the near future to protest at the new boundaries of tightness they have introduced, but in the meantime it has concentrated my mind on lids in general.

Before plastic and other packaging materials, toothpaste, creams, pastes etc. were sold in earthenware pots. Today the lids of these have become collector’s items. There are basically two kinds of pot lid, the black and white kind and the coloured kind. The black and white ones were first to be made because initially it was only possible to print a design in a single colour.

One of the most well-known pot makers was F & R Pratt. By the 1840s Pratt and a couple more potteries had managed to develop a technique for printing a design of more than one colour and were producing multi-coloured pot lids before the end of the decade.

Whilst initially pot lids carried information such as name of company, address and product, the coloured Pratt lids gradually became works of art in their own right.

Increasing production costs and competition from newly developed packaging materials meant coloured lids were forced out of production by the start of the 20th century. Because of the relative cheapness of the black and white lids they commanded a much larger market and therefore were around for quite a few years longer than their coloured counterparts.

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

1930’s Carlton Ware

Carlton ware has for many years been one of the most popular English factories among collectors and furnishers and the 1930s to the 1960s is one of its most successful eras.

The Carlton Works was established in 1890 by James Frederick Wiltshaw and James Alcock Robinson. Based in Stoke-on-Trent, they became a highly successful and well-known manufacturer of earthenware and china. The company owed a lot of its success to their richly decorated lustre wares with Art Deco and Oriental influences but in the 1930s they branched out into something different with an emphasis on bold block colours and flower and leaf motifs.

The new designs used the floral and foliage themes either to help form the shape of the piece for example vases, bowls and trefoil dishes or as striking, embossed decoration on items such as teapots, jugs and toast racks. These new tableware ranges were hand-painted and continued in production until the 1960s. They are sometimes referred to as Salad Ware or either Floral or Fruit embossed Carlton Ware, but are easily recognizable by their eye-catching colours and bold decoration; particularly impressive when brought together as a group.

The colours used during this period were very bright and again held with the floral, natural themes including yellow, green and pink. Many different patterns were produced, particularly popular include Buttercup, Foxglove and Apple Blossom as well as Water lilies, Anemone and the Fruit Basket.

There were over fifty different patterns produced during the thirty years of production. Many patterns were made in more than one colour, like Buttercup, which is common in yellow but rare and desirable in pink. Some patterns, like Apple Blossom, had a huge range of items produced while others, like Daisy, were limited to just a handful of pieces.

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

Snow Domes

Last weekend my wife went into a garden centre. As I was with her I did too, although I was unsure of the reason or objective. We were immediately transported to December 24th, the displays for Christmas were everywhere and I have never seen so many snow domes.

Snow domes, or snow globes as we might know them, may conjure up images of cheap holiday souvenirs but they are in fact a popular collectable nowadays and date back further than you would think.

The first documented evidence of snow domes was by Charles Cole, American Deputy Secretary of the Commission of Glassworks, writing about the 1878 Paris Exhibition. Although it is believed that their origins lie with the development of solid glass paperweights in France in the mid-1800s, Cole makes no mention of this. The first ‘souvenir’ snow domes were made for the 1889 Paris Exposition, to commemorate the construction of the Eiffel Tower, with mini Eiffel Towers in them. After all, the real tower was originally supposed to be dismantled after the show. Unfortunately none survive today.

The 1940s saw a boom in popularity for this novelty when mass-produced plastic domes took over from the previously hand-made glass domes. Joseph Garaja patented the assembly of snow domes under water in 1927, aiding this boom.

The glass domes used various substances to achieve the ‘snow’, such as ground-up bone, ceramic dust, sand or ground rice. When the plastic dome came into production, the snow followed suit and was more often than not plastic too. The liquid in the both glass and plastic domes was water but often with an addictive such as glycol to encourage the ‘snow’ to fall more slowly and swirl around before settling.

Snow domes are not always circular with the oval becoming popular in the 1940s as it was found to be less likely to crack. Unusual shapes or examples with forms that surround the globe are popular as are those domes with internal moving or musical parts.

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

Halcyon Days

I have always found recalling happy events a much easier process than recalling sad ones and I am sure I’m not alone in that. For instance I can vividly remember receiving a Dinky AA van on my sister’s birthday to keep me quiet. I can remember purchasing my very first motor car, a grey Mini van. As my wife has a habit of occasionally glancing at my ramblings, l can say that I remember with joy every detail of my wedding day.

These days are often referred to as Halcyon days. Why? Well it’s all to do with a bird and Greek mythology. The story says that Aeolus, the ruler of the winds, had a daughter called Alcyone and she was married to Ceyx, the king of Thessaly. Ceyx was drowned at sea and overcome with grief Alcyone threw herself into the waves. But, she did not drown, instead she was transformed into a bird and carried to her husband by the wind.

As space and time are limited, that bird is the Halcyon bird who calms the waves and the wind giving peaceful days. Peaceful days are joyful days and joyful days are Halcyon days.

Founded in 1950 by Susan Benjamin, Halcyon Days was a small antiques shop in London specialising in enamel boxes. In 1970 Susan collaborated with Bilston and Battersea Enamels and in 1978 Halcyon Days was granted the Royal Warrant of Queen Elizabeth ll. In 1987 the Warrants of the Duke of Edinburgh and the Prince of Wales followed.

The company has gone from strength to strength since those exciting early days, but it still produces the lovely enamel boxes favoured by the Royals. They are a subject all of there own and a joy to collect. We have a lovely little collection of Halcyon Days boxes in our next Collectors Auction.

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

Holmegaard Glass

The Holmegaard Glassworks, over the years, has produced some very collectable pieces of beautiful and inventive glass. It was established in 1825 in Denmark by Countess Henriette Danneskiold-Samsøe. Her husband Count Christian had initially sought permission from the King in 1823 to set up the Glassworks but unfortunately died before the decision to allow such a venture was granted. What a courageous woman the Countess was to carry on regardless.

Originally the Glassworks only produced green bottles but production quickly thrived and advanced and by the 1830s they were making clear and pressed glass bottles as well as tableware. Much of the Holmegaard’s early work is of little note, but the factory became a shining star in the 20th century. This transformation has much to do with the designers employed by the Glassworks including Jacob E Bang in the 1920s and later his son, Michael (how could he fail with such a name) in the 1980s as well as the great Per Lütken who was considered a pioneer designer and huge asset to Holmegaard Glass.

Per Lütken was a perfectionist and well known for making high demands on his glass blowers, never settling for second best. He began working for the company in 1941 and the quality of his designs became a benchmark for Holmegaard, securing their position as a leading Glassworks.

His early work in the 1940s and 50s focused on organic forms sometimes referred to as the plasticity of glass. The vases took inspiration from shapes like teardrops and flower buds and the majority of pieces were made in subtle colours like grey and pale blue known as smoke and aqua.

Later in the 1960s and 70s, he favoured the more robust, geometric designs, famously introducing the thicker, outward rims in his glasses in ranges such as No. 5 from 1970 and Ship’s Glass from 1971. Per Lütken worked for Holmegaard until his death in 1998. Many of these designs can be purchased in the saleroom today for under one hundred pounds.

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

Meigh Pottery

Collectors are some of the most interesting people to talk to, partly because they love their subject and partly because they love talking. Some of the most interesting collectors are those with a very narrow field and a very deep knowledge. Recently I ran into a fascinating fellow who collected nothing but Meigh pottery jugs.

Meigh Pottery was run successfully by Charles Meigh from 1834 when he took over from his father, Job. Job Meigh worked out of Old Hall Pottery, Hanley, Staffordshire from 1805 producing high quality stoneware and earthenware. Charles continued this business.

The most popular and well known of Charles’ work were the white stoneware jugs with relief decoration. The decoration was primarily Gothic Revival motifs. The designs were actually formed as part of the mould before the pieces were cast. The ‘Minister’ jug was one of the key designs of the time sometimes referred to as ‘Minister Jug’ or ‘York Minister’ although the religious design has no known association with York Minister. Religious scenes in general were common in Meigh’s work as were scenes of sporting events and drinking activities. Larger examples are always more sought after by collectors realising higher prices.

Charles Meigh was greatly admired for the high quality of his designs and intricate moulded work with his factories acknowledged for casting crisp three-dimensional designs that few could rival at the time. Meigh exhibited at the Great Exhibition of 1851 and went on to win a medal in 1886.

Charles Meigh traded under many names from starting out in 1834 to the closure of the factory in 1902 and the marks used change accordingly. Up until 1849 there were various marks used but all incorporated his name or initials, when he entered into partnership in 1850 changing the company name to ‘Charles Meigh, Son & Pankhurst’ these initials, CMS & P, were included on the marks, later losing the ‘P’ in 1851 when he traded under simply ‘Charles Meigh & Son’. In 1861 the name changed again to ‘Old Hall Eartheware Co Ltd.’ and finally ‘Old Hall Porcelain Works Ltd.’ in 1886 until closure in 1902.

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

Teco

Encouraged by the reception of last weeks look at some American collectables, this week we have stayed over the ocean to look at another popular collectable, namely Teco Pottery.

The American Terra Cotta Tile and Ceramics Company, which came to be known as Teco Pottery was established c.1880 in Illinois by William Day Gates. Originally it was founded to simply make wall and floor tiles but Gates was actually much more ambitious than this and saw an opportunity to produce beautiful ceramics for ordinary people at affordable prices all through the cheap medium of terracotta. The production of Teco Art Pottery began in earnest in 1902.

The classic design of Teco pieces was architectural by nature, simple clean lines in strong shapes often with buttressed handles or feet. In line with the values of the Arts and Crafts movement, surface decoration was rejected in favour of strong form, although a small number of pieces can be found with some very simple impressed or embossed panel designs. The majority of pieces made were vases, although other items like bowls and pitchers were also produced as well as some wall mounted items like planters or ‘pockets’. All Teco pottery was moulded; even the most exotic and seemingly unique shapes that look hand-formed all came from moulds. The shape of a piece does affect price, with the taller vases in particular being the most desirable with collectors today.

Green was by far the most popular colour produced by Teco. This micro crystalline glaze had very distinctive green tones with an almost silvery quality which had taken the company many years to perfect. It is the silvery grey finish that clearly distinguished it from the Grueby green ware also popular at this time. Other colours including brown, yellow, rose, grey, purple and blue were introduced from 1910 onwards.

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

Edwin and Mary Scheier

This week for a change we find ourselves in America and with a charming and exciting married couple who created a name for themselves in the ceramic world from the 1940s onwards.

Edwin and Mary Scheier were ceramicists and they met and married in Virginia in 1937, forming a very successful partnership both personally and professionally. Both were artists in their own right; Mary having studied at the New York School of Fine and Applied Arts as well as the Grand Central School of Art in Paris and Edwin having been a student of the New York School of Industrial Arts. However it was their ceramics that would eventually win them national acclaim and invitations to teach at the University of New Hampshire and this was essentially self-taught.

They were both talented and experimental and challenged boundaries and ideas within the art world, embracing the Modern Art movement of the mid-20th century, even digging up their own red clay for some of their pieces. Their partnership in ceramics saw Mary’s talent for wheel-thrown pots and Edwin’s flair for glazes and unusual design combine perfectly to produce outstanding results working both independently and collaboratively.

Mary became known for her elegant and thin-walled vessels, usually smaller pottery and often functional ware, while Edwin was known for the larger, sculptural and more experimental pieces. He was constantly trialling different glazes most noticeably in soft shades such as pinks, blues, greens and purples and the images were often simple incised, line drawings.

The themes of their work were largely based around primitive and biblical imagery. They were exploring human behaviour from Adam and Eve, birth, temptation to protection, motherhood and coupling with some of the designs showing people within people, womb-like or within animals.

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

Half Dolls

Three of our children are girls and four of our grandchildren are girls so over the years I have had many relationships with many dolls, but they have always been full dolls, never half dolls.

Half dolls were essentially that, half a doll. They typically stood waist high with head and arms and were used as a decorative item. The upper bodies were usually attached to cloth skirts that were either stuffed to be used as a pincushion or used to cover household items such as teapots or powder boxes. Some later versions had separate legs which were attached to a base under the fabric skirt.

There is reference made to these pincushion dolls in the mid-18th century, however, it wasn’t until later in the 19th century and early 20th century that the half dolls were in popular demand and it was short lived as by the 1940s production had dwindled and eventually ceased altogether.

The majority of half dolls were made from porcelain or bisque but examples made from wood and wax can also be found. Key factories include Dressel & Kister, Goebel and Heubach. Some designs were very simple, while others were highly stylized, particularly the later 1920s and 30s examples when the half dolls were extremely popular and followed the clothing and hair fashions of the period. Some half dolls were even left completely naked and bald and clothes and wigs were fitted later.

The value of the half doll is principally in the form of the doll. If it is made all in one mould, with arms tucked close into the main body then these tend to hold the least value. More desirable examples will have gaps between the arms and bodies showing several moulds were used with the best having outstretched arms or even added accessories like handheld flowers. Large examples and those still retaining original skirts are also desirable to collectors.

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

Hats

What is a Zucchetto, or for that matter what is a Ushanka? The first is a skull cap worn by clerics, the second is a fur hat with fold down ear flaps. The world of the hat is a bigger and far more exciting one than you may think.

In a tomb in Thebes in Egypt was found the earliest painting of a hat, showing a man wearing a conical straw hat, around 3200 BC. Hats have been around forever. For the ladies there are the Picture, Halo, Cartwheel, Mushroom, Cloche and Pill Box hats to name just a few. For the gentlemen there are the Baseball, Bicorne, Deerstalker, Fez, Bowler and Panama just to scratch the surface. Perhaps we should start having specialist hat auctions.

Talking of hats, one character I would love to have met is Michael Moore. Michael sounds to me to have been a lovely man, generous to a fault and loved by all who knew him. Michael was a Sheffielder who made hats for shows, mostly musical shows and his first venture into show hat making was in 1968 when he made the ‘Siamese’ hats for a production of the King and I, by what is now the Southey Musical Theatre Company.

From 1968 until the day he died Michael made hats for hundreds of shows and thousands of people. He also formed the Dance Workshop with his partner Tony Gibson and again was responsible for all the hats and costumes.

This weekend, thanks to instructions from Michael’s executors, among our lots on offer are the remains of his hats and hat making materials. A very interesting section.

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