NewslettersRuby Lane's newsletters are designed to celebrate the antiques and art, vintage collectibles and jewelry communities around the world. Our Past Times newsletter focuses on antiques and collectibles. Our Creative Hands newsletter celebrates fine art and handcrafted jewelry on Ruby Lane. Our shop owners are frequent article contributors, sharing their expertise and their passions for the items they collect and create. Enjoy!
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Ruby Lane's Past Times Newsletter for July 2005
The monthly newsletter from Ruby Lane Antiques, Collectibles,
Fine Art, and Artisans
Welcome to Past Times! o Antique Hand Painted Porcelain: Amateur vs. Professional
Decoration By Ann Grossman of Porcelain Parlor
o An Introduction to Made in Japan Figural Planters by Carrie
and Mandy Williford of Barrington Bonanza
o Share Past Times with A Friend
ANTIQUE HAND PAINTED PORCELAIN: AMATEUR VS.
PROFESSIONAL DECORATION BY ANN GROSSMAN OF
PORCELAIN PARLOR Collectors know that quality of decoration is vital when
deciding whether or not to invest in a piece of antique hand
painted porcelain. The heyday of the china painting craze saw
many thousands of individuals hard at work in the late
nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Some collectors count
among family members a grandmother, father, or great-aunt who
was an amateur china painter.
For others, on both sides of the Atlantic, this was a paid
occupation rather than a hobby. The artist may or may not have
signed the piece. Most professionals were trained to sign their
plates, vases, or other pieces in an unobtrusive manner. These
signatures may be incredibly hard to locate. Several years ago
when shopping online I bought an unsigned Brauer Studio piece.
Only when it arrived and I was examining it did I detect a funny
"squiggle" that looked like part of the design; under
magnification, this squiggle proved to be the initials "JB" for
Julius Brauer, a former Pickard artist who founded his own
studio. The experienced dealer from whom I bought the plate had
sold it to me without ever realizing it bore Brauer's signature!
The presence of two marks or "stamps" on the back of a plate
presents a powerful argument that the piece has been
professionally decorated. (There may well be a third,
representing either an importer's or department store mark!) A
collector may even recall seeing a specific signature in a
collector's guide. Few books, however, provide close-ups or
facsimiles of signatures. Pickard collectors benefit greatly
from the fact that Alan B. Reed, author of The Collector's
Encyclopedia of Pickard China, included these. In other books,
using a strong magnifying glass to study photos of entire pieces
may yield a decent image of the signature. This works a
surprising number of times.
Does the presence of a single mark on a piece mean the
decoration is amateur? No! Some studio artists were told to
paint over the manufacturer's mark so only the decorating studio
mark would appear. Many professional artists "moonlighted" and
painted pieces which they sold themselves. Obviously these
don't bear a studio mark.
One of the most intriguing pieces I ever located bore only a
Limoges mark; it was a highly complex geometric design with bold
colors. Each design element had been outlined with a sharp gilt
line. After several minutes, I was elated but not very
surprised to make out the signature of M. Rost LeRoy, one of
Pickard's highly lauded artists. Had he not signed the piece,
it would have been just as lovely but of course his signature
adds to the value. The design was so intricate and the
execution so skillful that no one would have found it credible
as an amateur piece.
But wait a moment. There are many poorly painted professional
pieces and many highly appealing amateur ones. The more hand
painted porcelain you see, the more you ask yourself certain
-Is the painting detailed, and has the artist used shading or
raised enamel accents to provide depth (texture)?
-Are the colors appealing and are any background colors well
-In terms of composition, has the artist arranged the design
elements to maximum effect?
-If the blank is intricate, was an attempt made to set this off
with the paint or gilt?
-If there is a signature on the painted portion, does it blend
in so well with the design as to be almost invisible?
Let's assume answers to the above questions are "Yes." So
absent a studio decorating mark, is this piece amateur or
professional china painting? It's time to ask a final,
all-important question that only you can answer. How much does
this matter to me, the collector? We invite you to visit
Ann's shop, Porcelain Parlor
BY CARRIE AND MANDY WILLIFORD OF BARRINGTON
BONANZA One of our favorite items to find and sell is "made in Japan"
figural planters from the 50's and 60's. When we say "figural
planters," we mean planters in the shape of different people,
objects and animals. These planters are different from "Head
Vases," which are usually girls or women and are only the head
of the subject.
The great thing about vintage figural planters is they're
perfect for a lot of different purposes. You can actually use
them as planters, of course, but that will get them dirty (we've
run across plenty of those). Clean planters make great
containers for candy, pencils and pens, cotton balls, potpourri,
jewelry, and trinkets. You can also use them as a simple
decorative item. Some are so detailed that there is no need to
add anything to them at all.
Most 50's and 60's planters you'll see come from Napco, Relpo,
Inarco, Lefton, Rubens, Holt Howard, Ucagco, and B/R. Florists
brought them directly from importers, and they were often sold
to the public with plastic floral arrangements. We are always
surprised by the variety of styles made during that time.
You can find a planter in the shape of just about anything --
including toilets! Some of the most popular styles include:
Holiday: There is a planter for almost any occasion, which means
you can rotate the display of your planters throughout the year.
As you might expect, Christmas planters were the most popular,
and so the most numerous. They're still the most popular today,
of course, and many designs are in high demand. There are also
many Valentine's Day planters available, and these are extremely
popular as well. Thanksgiving, St. Patrick's Day, and Halloween
planters are available, but there weren't as many made, so they
are harder to find. Easter planters range from bunnies and
chicks to eggs and children and are available at very affordable
Lady Planters: You can find holiday-related lady planters, as
well as many other styles and sets. "Southern Belles" and ladies
in Victorian dress are among the most detailed and elegant
planters available. Lefton brand lady planters are a
particularly popular bunch.
Nursery Rhymes: Napco made the most extensive -- and the most
popular -- line of nursery rhyme planters. You can find a
variety of characters in the Napco line -- everything from
Little Bo Peep to Peter Piper. Another importing company, Relco,
actually made matching salt and pepper shakers for many of these
planters. There are many nursery rhyme planters around from
other importers as well. The character Humpty Dumpty is a
Animals: You can find almost any animal as a figural planter, in
both "cartoon-like" and more realistic designs. Animal planters
have a lot of collectible crossover. Whether you collect
elephants, dogs, or seasonal items, you can find a planter to
fit with your collection. Animals are also one of the most
affordable types of planters out there.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. Raggedy Ann and Andy?
Check. Happy or sad clowns? Check. Antique cars? Yup. Babies?
Tons of them. A pair of hands holding up a shoe? It's out there
-- you just have to find it. Happy collecting!
We invite you to visit Carrie and Mandy's shop: Barrington
others who would enjoy receiving it? We invite you forward this
issue on to others. Happy reading!
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