Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Titanic Exhibition at The American Museum

If you are in the vicinity of Bath over the next few weeks, and you have any interest in Bishop & Stonier, the Titanic or anything/everything America, do try to get along to the American Museum off the A4 . I visited this week for the first time and was delighted to see that they have a temporary exhibition about the RMS Titanic, its sinking and the effect it had on British and American society. Included in the exhibition are table settings of the china supplied to the White Star Line as would have been laid out on the Titanic. Stonier & Co of Liverpool were the suppliers of many luxury goods for the White Star Line cruise liners and they even supplied things produced by Bishop & Stonier. It was a truly fascinating exhibition which quite surprised me as i generally have no interest in that sort of thing. You can buy genuine and replica White Star line pieces from (just don't tell them i "borrowed" the pic - it was all in the spirit of good natured promotion i promise). Also at the museum is an amazing array of American art and crafts, particularly an extremely important collection of Quilts and latch rugs. GO!

Gilding the Lily

This is a picture of the HONG KONG patterned dish that I blogged about below. I just wanted to show you the back with all the wonderful marks - there is even an impressed diamond registration mark that you can't make out, but which informs us that the shape of the plate was registered (the printed diamond is for the printed pattern). There is also the pattern name, Oriental Ivory, painters numbers and the printed mark for the retailer. As i have shown with other items in my collection, the factory wasn't shy about promoting their goods - and they were rightly proud! Of course, it makes the job of collecting their wares much easier than for other factories that weren't so conspicuous with their labelling.

Recently Purchased

Below are pictures of recent purchases: i. a plate bought in Petworth, West Sussex. Made by P.B&S (Powell Bishop & Stonier) in the late 1870s and part of their Oriental Ivory range - the pattern name is "Ravenna"and has a heraldic feel with cartouches of lions. I absolutely love the colours of this plate and strangely, it resembles the work of Pinder Bourne & Co who sometimes are confused with Powell & Bishop because of the similarity of initials marking. ii. a jug bought in Petersfield, Hampshire. Made around 1930 with the mark of BISHOP England - the pattern is called "Indian Tree" and was extremely popular with several different factories producing their own version such as Meakin and Johnson Bros. The pattern is still being produced today and has a large number of collectors. iii. a small oval dish (one of a pair shown) bought from an Ebay seller. Made by P.B&S and part of the Oriental Ivory range - the pattern name is "HONG KONG". I already had a jug in this chinoiserie type pattern but this is the first example of PB&S that I have ever seen with areas of lustre. To my knowledge, lutreware is unusual for this incarnation of the company who tended to use "flat" coloured enamels - but previous to them, L.P & co (Livesley Powell) used copper lustre quite a lot. This style of chinoiserie with lustreware reminds of the work of Regout of Maastricht.
iv. a chinoiserie design cup and saucer bought in Storrington, West Sussex. Made by BISTO (Bishop & Stonier) in a Flow Blue transfer print with handcoloured enamels - the pattern does not have a printed name, but it is commonly known as the Tea House pattern. You can see from one of my first Blog entries a couple of years ago that I have a few pieces with variations of this design.

Friday, August 22, 2008

It's all Gravy

I've often joked that those surfers who happen upon this blog out of a desire to fuel their fetish for all things gravy, will be sorely disappointed. But not on this occasion! Drink and be sated you sick gravy fiends!

Obsolete - it's progress Jim, but not as we know it

Here are two examples of how progress rendered some things obsolete. The first picture shows a candle holder and snuffer. Made of earthenware and in the Oriental Ivory range, this object was both practical and a necessity in its day when people still used candles to light their way at night. The candle snuffer, once known as an extinguisher or doubter became obsolete with the introduction of electric lighting in the early 20thC. This fantastic object, again Oriental Ivory, is in the shape of a large Conch shell. I use it now as a posy vase and looks fantastic when filled with vivid pansies or anenomies. But its original purpose was as a spoon warmer on a dining table. You would fill it with hot water and heat your spoons before eating. Spoon warmers were made in both ceramic and silver; this example has wonderful feet modelled like little whelks.

Aesthetic Movement

This cup and saucer is a perfect (although cracked) example of 1870s / 80s Aesthetic Movement design - it shows how the design style used oriental motifs, contrasts of graphic shapes, organic forms and unsymmetrical layouts. Bizarrely, the seller on Ebay described it as being of the Art Deco period - I guess the square handle threw him.

green-eyed monster

A terrible case of Pot Envy came over me today while surfing the net - the oriental ivory jug on the left has a fantastic aesthetic movement passionflower design in black transfer, and the jardiniere with wonderful B&W flower and wave design with Greek key gilding is simply stunning. Just thought i'd share them with you - in the impossible hope of finding a sugar daddy in cyberspace who'll purchase them for me....

Prunus and chintz

I've mentioned this site before on my blog, but i thought i'd show a little more of the wonderous, gorgeous, lovely, lustmaking stuff that you can find on the site of The pics here, ("borrowed" all in the good natured spirit of helping to promote the site, of course), are illustrations of things in their virtual museum - they may be for sale, i'm not quite sure how it all works. I thought i would use them to show you, dear reader/s(?) the pattern known as "Prunus" or cherry blossom. The prunus tree has been used in oriental design for hundreds of years and epitomises the oriental aesthetic. In this western blue&white interpretation, it has become far more crowded in it's design than would be found on original Oriental pieces and perhaps looks more chintzy for it. Indeed, they are pretty contemporary with the Chintz ware pieces produced by companies like Winton. the vase above is such a wonderful shape with the flared bottom - if it weren't for the prunus pattern, i might think it far more like the work of art potteries such as Ault or even the work of designer Dr Christopher Dresser.

Like Carltonware...but better

I recently saw this ginger jar on ebay with the nonchalant phrase, "like Carltonware"
with which I can completely concur. The style of this ginger jar is indeed like the wares of contemporary factory, Carlton Ware. The deco styling, brightly coloured enamels and gilding would have fooled me too if it weren't marked as Bisto. But I would have to say, I think this is better than Carlton, but I would, wouldn't I?

Monday, August 11, 2008

It's dinner at mine

Anyone who knows me will testify to the fact that usually I hate having visitors to my home - i'm just not one for entertaining (or dusting for that matter). And if you were to drop by uninvited and unannounced you would be met with a look of horror and daggers. Well, no longer. I can now say that we have actually entertained people for dinner at our house - ok, so they were family who know all about my general aversion to hoovering, but they were guests none-the-less. And, as guests, they were allowed to use the "good china" which is a set of plates and tazzas/comports that I purchased from a Scottish seller on Ebay. I took a gamble after viewing the very blurry photos and scant description and was well and truly delighted with my purchase. I could not believe my luck in buying so many pieces for such a low price - i won't divulge it here or i might blush. Needless to say, the cost of postage was actually more than the final hammer price and even with that I got an absolute steal. My family were very impressed, I think, when they sat there eating their take away curries off it; some seated on the floor round the coffee table because we don't actually have a dining room! Don't ever let it be said that we're not classy in this household ;-) A couple of close ups of some of the plates. There are several flowers illustrated in the set: carnations, daisies, forget-me-nots, roses, daffodils, cornflowers etc. The grey colour you can see on the plates is not staining or a trick of the light, it's actually a patented glaze design that P.B&S registed which on closer inspection you can see is tiny cherry blossom flowers.

One to watch out for

This glorious bowl carries the image of a procession and illustrates the Shakespearian characters of Falstaff. The motto on the side, "Better Be Merry With The Fruitful Grape Than Sadder After None Or Bitter Fruit" perhaps indicates that it is intended as a punch bowl. The pattern is quite rare and I had only previously seen it on a jug. This example is sadly so badly damaged that I am unsure whether it is worth adding to my collection - I shall have to think on it, and perhaps down a couple of glasses of rum punch myself to help me decide... ....also, how bizarre to see not one, not two, but three caduceus marks on the bottom of this piece! If you were ever in doubt that this was by Bishop & Stonier, there's your proof.

One size fits all

You've probably heard the saying "one size fits all" - it's often applied to clothing that is perhaps so stretchy and elasticated that both the skinniest and largest person could wear it. Well, in the images below you can see how Bishop & Stonier have used the same mould of a cherub to hold up a tazza plate. The top piece is in my own collection and sadly is missing its plate which would have been white with small pastel flower sprigs and perhaps some gilding. The bottom tazza was recently sold on Ebay for a very modest sum ( i missed it! ) and shows the opposite end of the embelishment scale with a lovely cobalt blue pillow bottom and lavish gilding. It is a very Italianate style, perhaps a bit Capodimonte.

Flower Pots a.k.a Jardinieres

This beautiful flower pot, or Jardiniere has been in my collection for some time, but i've never known what to write about it except that it is beautiful and was the first piece of Bisto I bought at auction (excluding Ebay). The turquoise colour is also perfect for my living room. The pot was in a box lot of other pottery, mainly junk and mainly blue and white pieces including Spode and Wedgwood, but this was the only piece I was interested in. I almost lost my nerve when the bid got closer and closer to £40, but I kept going when my partner gave me the nod to say that it was ok. I'm glad I did because I adore this pot. The rest of the lot I gave to a friend who was at the same auction but refrained from bidding because he knew I wanted to win it so bad.


The two plates above are very similar in design but with several major differences: 1) one is by Powell Bishop & Stonier, the other by Meissen; 2) one is hand-painted, the other handcoloured transfer printing; 3) one would cost around £10-£20, the other around £100. Which is which? YOU decide...

Coming Up Roses

It could be argued that the Rose is synonymous with England in terms of design iconography and it is certainly ubiquitous at several points in our country's design history. Bishop & Stonier used the Rose flower for so many of their designs that it's easy to lose count: from the very formal and traditional representations to the more graphic and stylised shapes of the Art Deco period. Here is a selection of patterns found on Bisto wares that use the image of the Rose - note how there are floral groups, single flowers, swags etc and how the flower is used both as a central design feature and in border patterns. The Edwardians were very fond of the Rose and it appears on many designs from that period.

Goo Goo Gaa Gaa...

My partner and I took a trip to Salisbury, Wiltshire today for a stroll around this very well-to-do and very attractive city. If you've never been and you get the chance to go, do, it's lovely. Well, I have a favourite antiques shop there that climbs over three levels and houses many wonderful things from: furniture, antiquities, old books, photographs and postcards, silverware and pottery galore. Salisbury and this shop, is not really a cheap city to visit; so make sure you go just after your paycheck has arrived or with lots of birthday money in your pockets. I first saw a trefoil shaped dish in a cabinet on the ground floor: 1930s, BISTO's attempt at Art Deco mixing geometric trees and black bands with a more traditional body shape - not very successful and to be honest rather ugly. But it was BISTO and I was tempted, rather than come home with nothing. I thought I'd come back to it if I found nothing else. On to the top floor and peeking out from beneath a pile of other things I saw this baby's bowl with an image of Little Red Riding Hood and went Goo Goo Gaa Gaa over it. I have seen the design before and recognised it as BISTO instantly but I couldn't see a price label as it was obscured by the rest of the pile. I duly asked the man behind the desk to open the cabinet for me and saw it was £45 - hmmph, more than i would've like to pay at this stage in the month, but certainly a VERY good price as even chipped ones can go for over a hundred. This bowl is in fantastic conditon, no chips or restoration and only minor knife marks - what a find. I left it for half an hour then had to go back. The man knocked a fiver off for me and I am now delighted to add it to my collection and show it to you. This may be the start of a nursery ware section of my collection. I have previously blogged about another dish I saw on Ebay but never got round to bidding on it. May be i'll be more proactive about bidding now.

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.