Saturday, May 23, 2009

ironstone v. earthenware ... the debate continues

Now, the cranberry red coffee pot you've seen before. But I have been delighted to add the turquoise version on the right to my collection this week. I hadn't done the measuring up when i bought it on Ebay, but had assumed it to be the same model as the red one. However, of course you can see from the pictures it is slightly smaller, leading me to the conclusion that one is perhaps a coffee pot and the other a teapot? Even though the turquoise version is smaller, it feels quite large for a tea pot; the height is quite deceptive when thinking about the volume of water it could hold as it is not very wide.
All supositions aside, they are both very lovely examples of Aesthetic Movement period design - heavily influenced by Japanese designs of birds on branches combined with more Western classical border motifs. What caught me off guard even more than the height discrepancy was the difference in materials. The seller hadn't mentioned what the turquoise pot was made from - i assumed it to be earthenware like its counterpart. But no, it is in fact made from Ironstone. This is not the first time I've come across the Powell Bishop & Stonier factory using the same moulds with different raw materials (see a previous blog posting about a jug and bowl set in a Celtic Revival style).
What is most apparent about the two types of ceramic body is that Ironstone, whist heavier and harder, is more suited to intricate moulding as it gives a much crisper result. Take a look at these close ups to see what I mean - the fineness of the moulded design is better achieved in Ironstone than in Earthenware, which tends to give a much softer result. The factory produced a lot of Ironstone wares for the export market - mainly plain wares, or in a simple gilt tea leaf pattern - but they seemed to discontinue with it from the 1880s onwards in favour of earthenware and then finer bone china. The tough ironstone wares were perhaps particularly suited to export as they would've survived the long sea journey more safely than earthenware ceramics.

Classical Elegance by Livesley Powell & co

Here is an example of the classical elegance of Mid 19th century design in the shape of a jug by the Livesley Powell & Co partnership. The combination of turquoise, gilt and a gorgeous cranberry red work wonderfully well together.

A fine lay

On doing a bit of internet surfing, i came across this wonderful set of egg cups and a stand. Marked as "BEST P&B", dating this piece to the late 1860s into the 1870s, it is decorated with a purplish transfer print design in typical Victorian fashion. The fact that this piece has survived with only minor blemishes is a marvel as their utilitarian purpose would mean that they were possibly used quite frequently.

Latest Acquisition

Here is my latest acquistion, filling a rather beautiful spot in my Bisto vase collection. It was mainly the colour that drew me to this pot I am rather happy with it. It's a great example of how Bishop & Stonier combined different techniques on one piece, in this instance: gilded areas, handpainted enamels and a stippled effect background. I'm unsure how this blue background was achieve, but it is a feature of several pieces in my collection. From what i know of 1920s/30s decorative ceramics, a couple of popular techniques were sponging the colour on and spray painting! Perhaps this is one or t'other. On close inspection, i don't think anyone, however passionate about Bisto wares, could argue that it was a fine work of art, but it's decorative appeal outways the few errors made by a paintress's unsteady hand.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

When is a biscuit not a biscuit? When it's a Jaffa cake.

firstly, my apologies for such a small image - it was 'borrowed' - but i hope you get the idea. This is a biscuit barrel by Bishop & Stonier and would date from the early C20th. I have never seen such a thing by this company but it reminds me a lot of others from companies like Wiltshire & Robinson's Carlton Ware who readily used new materials like Chrome, silver plating and nickel plating for utilitarian wares such as canisters and biscuit barrels. This technique brought a bit of glamour to cheaper wares and imitated the look of real silver - no respectable middle class family would've been without one! On the subject of biscuits, did you know that in the UK, there is a higher tax on Biscuits than there is on cakes - something to do with perishability. bizarre.

Tiles R Us

I recently saw this wonderful tile, handpainted with a classical scene - perhaps Diana and cupid? On the back is the mark of BISTO (Bishop & Stonier) and it rather took me by surprise as i had no idea that they had produced tiles... or had they? Well, i'm going to reserve judgement about whether the factory did produce decorative tiles on any scale until i've come across more examples. My hunch is that like a dish i've just blogged about, the tile was possibly bought as a blank and decorated by someone unconnected with the factory to show off their artistic prowess. That's not to say that the factory didn't have competant artists who could've painted this tile, I just wonder if there was a market for it? Printed tiles, yes, but handpainted? That would take a lot of man hours and be costly to produce. Anyone got any more info on this, or perhaps a Bisto tile of your own in a cabinet? Do get in touch.
added 16.08.09 found these two transfer printed tiles on ebay and thought i'd share them. So it appears that the company did produce tiles in quantity.

top of the pots

A beautiful pair of vases with handcoloured, aesthetic transfer print designs sold on ebay this week for a fantastic $145 (£96). At almost £50 a pot i'd say that was a quite a good price for two small pieces - but as the experts always tell you on the Antiques Roadshow, pairs always sell better than single pots. Condition on these two was also very good and i'm sure who ever secured the winning bid on these will be delighted - they have very good taste!

PreRaphealite Stunner

This stunning dish recently came up for sale and sold for its maiden bid of £69.99 which to my mind has to be the bargain of the year. It's handpainted onto a basic charger type dish which has three looped feet to either stand it on a flat surface or, if you're feeling brave/reckless, hang it from a wall, perhaps with ribbon. Datewise it would be around the 1885-1900 point and was probably bought as a blank piece from Bisto to be decorated either at home by a talented amateur or perhaps by an art student at one of the great art schools of the day, maybe even in Burslem. This piece is so of its time and very accomplished. Notice in the background flower and foliate design, the motif of pomegranites and sunflowers, which is picked up on the woman's brooch. The William Morris and Arts & Crafts movement influence is clear as is the pre Raphaelite romantic vision. The colours are quite subdued but their restraint is very appealing.

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.