Thursday, December 25, 2008

Santa has delivered!

It's Christmas day and Santa has dropped a gorgeous gift down my chimney - a stunning BISTO bowl which combines a grey wood-grain printed pattern with a border of red, white and blue birds on branches and stylised trees. This pattern is so of it's time, around 1910-20ish. The border design reminds me of work coming out of the Glasgow school of art at this time; designers like Rennie Mackintosh, Margaret and Francis Macdonald, Herbert McNair etc who were perhaps a few years earlier when at the height of their powers as "The Four", but who's influence continued to inspire artists until the Art Deco period of the late 20s and 30s. The motif of Budgerigars (budgies) was very popular at this time in art and design.

I'm a "complete-ist"

Here are a couple of illustrations of what it means to be a "complete-ist" collector. The first pic is of three pots decorated with a pattern called "India". I recently added the gourd shaped vase on the right to my collection (shape 27) and just love the fact that Bishop & Stonier manufactured so many different shaped pots with the same pattern. Whether or not people bought them as sets at the time of manufacture i do not know, but I'm the kind of collector that feels he just has to have every conceivable shape and variation of a design. The second pic is the beginnings of another of these got to have it all patterns.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Eat your heart out Minton

I bought this green bodied, Conway patterned tazza some time ago, but was only recently marvelling at the stunning quality of the base when i served up mince pies to my family on Sunday evening. A pre-Christmas get-together was the ideal opportunity to show off some of my collection with a buffet of nibbles served up on various tazzas/comport dishes. What I love most about tazza designs is mainly down to the stand. The variety of designs is astounding: cherubs, eagle claws, classical columns, aesthetic movement flowers, arches and oriental bamboo, etc. The above example is surely a match for any contemporary piece by Mintons? Whereas P.B&S were not reknowned for 'exceptional' quality like Mintons or Derby, some of their wares were pretty fine indeed and they won awards.... more of this later!

1883 - An auspicious date

"Gutted" does not begin to describe how I felt this week when i missed out on the above bowl - for the second time! It was listed on Ebay a few weeks ago and crazily, I completely forgot about the auction end date, left it on my Watch List and missed the finally bidding. It went for a paltry £35ish. To my surprise and and delight it was re-listed last week when the original high bidder didn't pay-up. I was determined to make mine a winning bid, so when i found that the auction would be ending midday on Monday, and in the early morning when i had to leave for work it was still below £30, i put on a bid of just over £60 and hoped to goodness it would be enough. I know from bitter experience that I hardly ever win things when i'm not there in to place a bid in the final moments. You tend to find that if you leave an early bid, the price creeps up and creeps up as other bidders add a few more pounds until they've just topped you. Whereas, if you go in for the kill in the final seconds, it leaves little time for other bidders to outstrip you. Well, this was just one of those horrible occasions where i had to make a decision about how much i could afford (and this close to Xmas, unfortunately, not a lot) and place an early bid. I really wished i'd put nearer £100 to secure it, but even that may not have been enough, because the dish is truly stunning. Visitors to my blog who've read early blog postings, will know that i already have an armorial tazza; hand-painted with dolphins, griffins, the date 1883 and with the initials A R F. When I showed it to Fergus Gambon at the Antiques Roadshow, he was bemused and wondered if it was either a trial piece for a private commission (it hasn't had a final glaze, and has tester colours underneath - which don't even relate to those on top!), or perhaps was a blank tazza, painted by a talented amateur at home. Well, the dish that I missed out on, DOH!, has the same armorial ideas, date and initials, so surely comes from the same commission. Indeed, it even has the same letter "J" painted underneath as the painters mark. Both pieces are on Oriental Ivory wares. When i bought my tazza, there was another piece for sale on ebay by the same seller, which i couldn't afford at the time. For the life of me, i can't remember if it was this dish and whether it's now just doing the rounds of being re-sold, or whether this is a "new" one to come to light. I shan't give up hope of attaining it however and hope that the new top bidder doesn't cough up the dough, so i can have another stab at it!

Friday, December 05, 2008


The tureen in the picture above is an example of plain, basic ironstone ware made by Powell & Bishop. The moulded relief looks to be something like a sunflower design.
This next tureen is transfer printed with the Honfleur pattern.
Lastly, this transfer printed design includes sunflowers and peacock feathers. For all of these tureens, the basic shape is very similar and shows how the factory used basic mould designs and then decorated them in various ways. This method helped to keep costs down as the "design" of a piece was not so interested in the shape of things, which pretty much remained the same for decades, but concentrated on the surface print design. All this was to change in the Art Deco period when designers such as Clarice Cliff invented bold new shapes like conical teapots to interest homeowners. Then, the shape of things became integral to the integrity of the entire design.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Top Shelf

Here's praying that the cat doesn't like mountaineering up bookcases!

Devil Cat Causes Chaos

Well, our pussy has come home - for a holiday at least. My partner and I were once proud parents to two cats, Curzon and Dax (named after a symbiant alien creature on Star Trek: Deep Space 9 ... yes, we're sad Sci Fi geeks). During a period of several house moves, they went to stay with my parents, where unfortunately, Curzon disappeared. We never found out what had happened to him and were very upset by the incident. After several more house moves and finally ending up in a small, first floor flat with no access to a garden, we thought it would be cruel to confine our remaining moggy indoors and put her up for adoption with a dear friend. She has been there ever since, very content, very spoiled and getting quite fat. Dax has visited us again on occasion when our friend has gone away on hols, but i haven't had quite as much pottery lying around for her to break before now. You can see from the pictures below how one little pussy cat can create so much havoc - she is the Shiva of felines. We have had to cat proof the house and put pottery and porcelain up in areas that we now she can't reach (mainly out of age and unfitness!)
Some of my collection, safely kept behind glass.

Cupid on a cushion

currently for sale on Ebay, starting price $349.99 (£236.22) with six days to go and no bids. I shall be watching this one closely.


Christies, the famous auction house, sold this lemonade set back in 2002, for over $600. One wonders what it might go for now, six years later with all the turbulence of the financial markets and the up and downs of the £ vs $. But I was encouraged by an expert on last Sunday's Antiques Roadshow (North Wales...the clock man) who said that in times of "recession" - yes, he actually said the "R" word on TV before the watershed - objects of good quality tend to hold their value, and those of lesser quality, don't. Well, i would say from looking at this set, that it should be a safe bet. What a beauty! It's a stunning example of luscious Aesthetic Movement gorgeousness; it's enough to make my throat go dry from having drooled so much.

Monday, November 17, 2008

More Birbeck - this time George Jones

Here are some more examples of the exquisite artistry of William Birbeck for the George Jones company.

Birbeck Bowl

The above dish is by the George Jones company under their Crescent mark. Handpainted by the artist William Birbeck.
And here is another example of the fabulous work of the ceramic painter, William Birbeck, son of the Coalport artist Joseph Birbeck. Although marked with the Oriental Ivory man that simply became a mark for BISHOP, it's also actually a piece from George Jones, after they had taken over the Bishop & Stonier company. Birbeck had worked for George Jones for some time and his painting skills were well known and much admired. From what little I know of this period, he took over as head of design at the BISHOP factory under George Jones ownership. If anyone out there has more info, please do get intouch!

Just Desserts

When Mr Postman walked in to my work this morning, I was delighted to receive a large box. Inside was this glorious dessert service that I have purchased from Vintage Kitsch. The owners of this fantastic online shop contacted me after finding my blog and asked if I would be interested in buying. "Yes!" I said - this pattern was known to me as i have a part coffee set, but that version is not coloured, but is a kind of goldish transfer on ivory body. This service has black and iron red transfer, with gild edges. Curiously, they look very aesthetic movement in style with oriental scenes, but the impressed numbers (which are usually found as date markers) suggest a date of 1905-1912.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Paragon by P.B&S

Currently selling on Ebay, this toilet set of wash jugs and toothbrush holder+tray, modelling in a very unusual shape with the transfer pattern, 'PARAGON', and I want it. But as is the way of Murphy's law, it's abroad (so postage will be hefty), and it's coming up to Christmas so funds are tight. It may just have to be a look and lust moment.

In Hot Water

This is second spoon warmer to be added to my collection - like the other one, it is based on a shell and other marine life. Although it is not marked with the China man mark of Oriental Ivory, I feel certain that it would've been sold as such. I simply love the orange coral shaped handle and the hand painted limpets. One wonders what this might have looked like on a dining table at the turn of the 20th century with a whole dinner service based on sea life - quite amusing, but also quite stunning. How tastes change.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Added to my shelves today

In the post today were two much awaited parcels. The first contained a gorgeous punch bowl, made for Harrods department store in the Falstaff pattern.
The second addition to my collection, was a small, double gourd shaped vase (mould number 37) with a chinese dragon on orange background. It's smaller than I thought it would be, but still delightful and adds to my 1920s chinoiserie art deco set.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Fish and Feather

Much of Powell/Bishop/Stonier's output was utilitarian as it was this that brought home the bacon. Unlike the Victorian factories of Mintons, Worcester, or even Doulton, as a company they were not known for any art pottery, extremely fine porcelain or smart designs (although there were a few). They did, however, produce some wonderfully rich transfer printed designs in a multitude of colourways - many of which were exported abroad. The fish and foul designs found particular success in the USA.
Thanks must go to the Replacments website from which i "borrowed" these images to show you - do take a look at their website and drool - i know i keep going back and looking longingly at their stock. If you can't afford to buy, it is at least, an excellent resource for building your knowledge about patterns.


This beautiful little jug (sadly not one of mine) has a lovely mark underneath that shows the design has been Patented by the manufacturer. Why would anyone apply for a patent for a jug - they've been around for millenia, you say. The Patent would not be for the shape of the vessel, or even the pattern design (that's what the design registration diamonds and numbers were for). Patents were taken out on new innovations such as a new type of glaze, or design function (such as a self-closing lid). In this instance, the Patent was taken out by Powell Bishop & Stonier for their new Ivory Porcelain. This is intriguing as it may be that this was the beginnings of the the Oriental Ivory range of earthenware. Further investigation may be needed i suspect to find out whether this new Ivory Porcelain continued in production under that name, or whether it did indeed morph into the Oriental Ivory that is now familiar.

ribbed - for your viewing pleasure

This jug would originally have been part of a toilet set - comprising at least of a jug, wash bowl, soap dish, toothbrush holder. It's pattern name is Cyprus and is part of the Oriental Ivory range. I think the colours sit beautifully in a contemporary interior design scheme. Wash jugs like this are wonderful for displaying large, rustic flower bouquets because they have such wide neck openings.

About Me

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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.