Wednesday, August 09, 2006

bisto barmey

Well, I guess you may have ended up here by mistake. Disappointed? Funny how a search for internet pornography can go so wrong. But also strangely pleasing to me that your desire to "get off" brought you here as that is exactly my point about pottery. Perhaps you're pleasantly surprised however, as you too share a fetish for all things ceramic and love to caress pots like a ripe bottom or ogle makers marks like a cute birth mark on the back of a loved-one's knee.

As you will have realised by now, there are no naked ladies or lithe lads to be found on these pages, just lots of gorgeous glazes, lovely lustres, erogenous enamels and curvaceous bodies. Under 18s, you can stay, but if you are of a weak disposition when it comes to vases and teapots...better leave now.

If you got here by mistake because you were looking for gravy related pages... you sicko!!! get outta here you freak!!!!!

I can't really say when my love of ceramics began, but I guess I've always been a fan of nick-nacks and ornaments etc. Although my family has never been the sort to line every shelf, mantle, and window sill with hideous figurines or gaudy Whitefriars vases. Growing up, there were always a few trinkets that crept into our domestic scenery: a black labrador puppy that stared with orange glazed eyes, a ghastly post-war japanese lithopane teaset that my dad inheritted, a set of crystal glasses that were accumulated from Texaco garages in reward for buying their petrol...all tat, but all firmly etched in my memory of my childhood and helping to form my love of "things".

I was so glad when the 90's ended, not least because it drew to a close my teenage years and a time of torment when I was coming out and "finding myself". But also because the 90's was all about minimalism and the decluttering of our lives and the rejection of "things". It seemed that everyone was after space and blandness. How boring! But the years since have thankfully seen a return of clutter; crappy things to buy and fill up your life with (if you've got a life). Perhaps we're going too far now and heading for a repeat of the 1980's excess story, but it can't be as bad as the fascistic minimalism of the 90s. I'm more of an 1890s man.

What's the point of this blog you're asking. Well, it's going to be pretty simple really. My intention is to post a few thoughts and findings about my own ceramic collection, illustrated with a few pics, and to invite your comments, suggestions and information to help build my knowledge (which is woefully lacking in some areas and mainly gleaned from TV progs like Flog-it and Antiques Roadshow). If you have a similar interest, I'd love to hear from you.

I originally started a collection of English Polychrome enamel chinoiserie porcelain; with makers such as Hilditch, New Hall, Rathbone, Machin. I had found a teacup and saucer in my local Oxfam shop, marked at £1.50 - a bargain I thought! And indeed it was for after some research, I discovered it was a pattern known as "lady with lyre" by Hilditch and probably worth something closer to £25. The boyfriend (, delighted that I had finally found a geeky interest in something and now with a desire to "collect" (he's autistically OCD about collecting books) bought me a copy of 'Chinoiserie: Polychrome Decoration on Staffordshire Porcelain 1790-1850' by Howard Davis. A fascinating book with lots of detail about how the trend for Chinoiserie design in ceramics developed, changed and declined; also with lots of great illustrative photos - a MUST book for any collector of this type of pottery+porcelain.

Not long after my first introduction to antique china, in the same Oxfam shop, I came across a large ivory coloured jug, for £10, with an amazing celtic cross design (made up of entwined serpents/dragons/sea creatures - not sure what they are!). I wondered if it might be classed as 'majolica' but settled on it just being 'moulded'. Is there a difference??? I had also recently bought a Miller's guide to Ceramics and was leafing through one evening when I saw a picture of my jug! Although the colouration was slightly different, it was definitely the same kind of jug and was priced at a healthy £70-80. The book had it listed as by a Staffordshire potter, but gave no further details. After lots of close inspection on the very faint makers mark on the bottom of the piece, I found it to be a Wand of Caduceus mark, employed by Powell & Bishop and later Powell, Bishop & Stonier in the late 1870s onwards. The ivory body colour of the jug was a precursor of P.B&S's "Oriental Ivory" range that cashed in on the Victorian's love of all things Oriental and the aesthetic movement's fascination with Japonism. The company used another mark for this particular range, a chinaman sitting under a parasol; very distinctive and rather cute. I love makers marks.

Once I had found out a little about the history of the Powell, Bishop & Stonier (what little info there is on the internet), I looked around for other pieces. Surprisingly, there isn't a lot to be had, unlike the wealthy dirge of pieces by Wedgwood, Carltonware, Meakin, Johnson Bros etc. Admittedly, my budget is mainly restricted to Charity shops and Ebay, so I may be misrepresenting how common/rare P.B&S pieces are, but it seems to me that not a lot of their more interesting stuff has survived, or at least, comes on the market. There is more of the prozaic, mundane tableware around, just as there is for most victorian earthenware manufacturers, but larger, more decorative pieces are harder to come by. Perhaps this is a reflection of changing tastes as their orientalist work is very out of fashion nowadays and may have found it's way on to scrap-heaps.

Powell, Bishop & Stonier, became Bishop & Stonier when Edwin Powell retired. And B&S used these new initials as their mark along with the more recognisable 'BISTO' - a joining of their two names. In the 1930s, there was a brief period when the company became 'BISHOPS' before it was taken over by the George Jones factory. The BISTO company continued to produce the Oriental Ivory range for a time, but changing tastes at the start of the 20th century meant that they changed direction to produce more Art Nouveau and then Art Deco designs. The shapes and patterns they used were very commercial for the time and were retailed by company's like Harrods.

OK, I'm going on a bit now and forgive me if any of the info given so far is incorrect; as mentioned, all of it has been found on the internet and may be wrong. The best site I have found for this kind of thing is so maybe you should check it out yourself.

Time to go for now I think because even if you're not bored yet, i'm getting there. Not by PB&S of course, but by trying to be entertaining and witty about it all. Surprisingly, intelligent and witty comments don't come that easily when I think about ceramics. I think it's must be more of an aesthetic thing and I'll leave the humour to someone else. Anyone got any pot jokes?


Ben said...

Some of those teapots are very fetching indeed. That's about as excited as I can get about ceramics, I'm afraid. However, it was good of you to comment on my miserable excuse for a blog. Also, I'm with Callum about picking up the paintbrush again.

tony said...

i have recently purchased a pair of candlesticks marked by pb&s with a autumn mark on them and some numbers
i cant find any info on them....anything you can tell me about them i would be grateful... tony

bisto boy said...

PB&S is of course, powell Bishop & Stonier and would date from 1878 - 1891. I think the Autumn pattern is near the beginning of that period and is a fairly common pattern for tableware. But less common for other wares like dressing table sets and candlesticks. You haven't mentioned if yours are just a transfer print outline, or whether they have painted colours over the transfer design? i have seen variations of this design in both types. For a pair of candlesticks of this type, i'd estimate around £40-60 (as at Dec 2012), perhaps a bit more on ebay if someone got carried away. hope this helps.

irene said...

Hi I have a dragon tea pot blue oriental ivory bishop with a Chinese man with a umbrella no date can you help

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Sometimes, life doesn't turn out the way you expected. And sometimes, it is exactly as it was 'meant' to be. But whilst i'm not a believer in fate or fatalism, I do believe that life is a both a learning experience and an obstacle course to be climbed and clambered over in the most creative way possible! In doing so, you'll get to where you should be even if it's not where you'd imagined.