Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Muddy Monday: Another Mini Mini Mystery

Collectively, these have a few more legs to stand on than the previous mystery mini mini horses I've shared in this blog. After reading my first post on the subject, collector Dawn Sinkovich was inspired to share her unusually glazed examples of some of the "normal" mini mini family.

Stallion in rare bay, owned by Dawn Sinkovich, photos by author.

As you can see, this isn't the familiar bay mini mini family of the late '70's to early 90's. This color is not the "matte brown" of Fall 1958 (it is undeniably glossy). We have to leave wiggle room for confusion of the terms "brown" and "bay", but there is no confusing glossy and matte. This is the same bay decoration technique as the old Monrovia Miniatures line's #A-360 Turning Mustang, #A-234 Rearing Horse (not the dipped white socks color), and the #A-361-3 Yearlings. (It is also the same bay as the Monrovia DW Brookside Stella.) The bay body has black underglaze shading, and the white stockings have the telltale incomplete airbrushing. Note also the presence of a tiny white star on their faces. No other mini mini horses have been seen with face markings.

Stallion with face star.

Colt with face star, owned by Dawn Sinkovich, photos by author.

Colt in rare bay, owned by Dawn Sinkovich, photos by author.
For an idea of scale, he is leaning against a one-inch thick piece of styrofoam.

I couldn't help but notice that we are also looking at two foal molds, here. Above is the old mold Monrovia Colt, with an elegant arched neck, robust body, more curvy legs, and a bobtail. It has not been knocked off in greenware cleaning. One sees this foal bobtail on all the old matte white and buckskin ones. For immediate comparison, here are all the normal mini mini family colors, and both Colt mold styles, from all HR factory eras.

Photo courtesy Ed Alcorn.
Note that the bays on the left have no shading, no white markings.

Was the early bobtail foal meant to go with the original mystery mini mini bobtail trio? It does look like it!

Note the Colt has a bobtail, even in the order form line art! Fall 1966

Your eyes do not deceive you: for several years, order form space for the usual Stallion and Mare molds are represented by the "bobtail" mystery horses' line art. Fall 1968

The early mini mini family were officially issued in matte brown (see: Roller), matte buckskin, and matte white (gray). Here is a nice example of the early white, with decent detail for its size. This ceramic horse is only one and a quarter inches tall.

Mare in early matte white, owned by Dawn Sinkovich, photo by author.

Colt in early matte white, owned by Dawn Sinkovich, photo by author.

Why and when this odd gloss bay family was made is up for speculation. No doubt, it is from before 1970, due to the old mold Colt. Dawn tells me that these two bays were bought together with these white gray examples from the same Monrovia-era miniatures collection. White gray is recorded, by Gayle Roller's book, as appearing in Fall of 1964.

This glossy shaded bay color appeared on DW Brookside Stella between Fall 1956 - Spring 1958. Spring of 1958 happens to be the season before the Mini Mini family was released. It is the same season that the Turning Mustang and the Yearlings were first offered (albeit, the order form uses the term "brown"). The bay Rearing Horse is harder to pinpoint, as he had more than one bay decoration style. 

The matching bay gloss mini mini Mare has not yet surfaced, to my knowledge. If you know of one, or have a photo proving she exists in this color, I'd be interested to see it. It would be great to hear from collectors who also have this color mini mini, as at this time, these are the only examples known.

"Thank you" to Dawn, for sharing her pieces with us all!


Benuish, Allison, ed. Hagen-Renaker Research Materials: 1949-Present. Salisbury, MD: 1995. Unnumbered pages, Fall 1966 and Fall 1968.

Roller, Gayle. Hagen-Renaker: A Charlton Standard Guide. Third Edition. Pp. 75, 301, 308, 313. The Charlton Press: Palm Harbor, FL, 2003.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Muddy Monday: A Thoroughbred's Prerogative To Do Her Own Thing

Maybe I spent too many hours with off-track Thoroughbred school horses, but this piece immediately reminded me of this trait. It is the TB prerogative to select "D. none of the above", when presented with options. 

Nope. Not going to do any of that. It is beneath one. Try asking again later, and with more treats.

Seal brown? What am I looking at?
What are you looking at?

The Hagen-Renaker Miniatures line has a great selection of famous racehorse molds, but none of them were mares. For all of those gents, there is but one unnamed lady Thoroughbred, mold #A-024, in the line. Until the advent of HR's recent gray reissue, she was only issued from Spring 1962 to Spring 1972, in two official underglaze colors: bay and buckskin. Interestingly, the Jockey Club Thoroughbred registry recognizes both as...

"Bay: The entire coat of the horse may vary from a yellow-tan to a bright auburn. The mane, tail and lower portion of the legs are always black, unless white markings are present."

From looking at the HR order forms of those years, there was no color choice on the form. The dealer received whichever color HR packed. I am curious about which color may have been produced during which years, or if mixed color lots shipped together. 

This 1966 HR order form gives no color choice on the Thoroughbred mare and her foal.
It does gives color choices for the mini mini family ("represented" by the mystery mini-mini line drawings).

These descriptive terms cover a range of variation in the two colors, from slip color to overspray color. More variants exist by virtue of the heavy or light application of sprayed underglaze (the overspray color). This site also shows a nice array of this mold's colors.

A bay mare with a buckskin foal, showing contrast of the colourways.
Photos courtesy Nancy Falzone.

Buckskin mare, formerly owned by Cheryl Greene.
Current owner unidentified.

Here is a Thoroughbred mare that did not select either: the black bayckskin. 

That's not official terminology, just a term of endearment. When I opened the packing, I snapped this pic because I found this comical. She looks like a very convincing solid black, at this point. Breyer issued this mold in black-painted plastic from 1975-1988. But, this lady is not plastic!

She has bay (red-brown) shading on the neck and upper shoulder of one side of her body. The browns in her loin/hindquarter are the shadow contours of the mold in colored slip, not sprayed shading. I shot this photo from a low angle, so that you can see there is some tan slip showing on her mandible.

There is more red shading on the other side, as it wanders down the shoulder onto the girth, and some on the hindquarter. 

She has such excessive black overspray. It extends over her whole head and halfway down her neck, and over most of her rear end.

This may have been the decorator's attempt at a "save", because I noticed black runs where the decorator had attempted to paint just the ears and forelock. A decorator aims to complete their quantity goal, so each one should be made to "count" as a good, salable product. Black underglaze, when applied heavily enough, will cover every sin. It's close, but this one was just not heavy enough to conceal the cause for the extreme shading.

This casting has nice mold detail. In my experience, sharply-detailed miniatures are the most prone to catching underglaze airbrush runs. Every little line of forelock, eyebrow ridge, nostril edge stands up like a razor blade, and the sprayed liquid just can't resist pooling and running down those extreme anfractuosities. Her own crispy awesomeness may have contributed to her decoration undoing! 

While this odd coloration may make her less than ideal as a china halter show horse, it certainly adds to her appeal to me. She is so weird

Another interesting point is the fact that her stockings are lower than either the usual bay or buckskin examples of this model. One hind leg is almost bare on the anterior surface. It is almost like they eyeballed this horse from the head down, and said, "Oooooh, that's enough black for this one!"

Moderation in all things, except in treats for your Thoroughbreds.

Thank you to Tiffany Tran for parting with this delightful piece, I treasure it!


Identify Your Breyer. Web site. http://identifyyourbreyer.com/identify/Stablemate/TBMare.htm

Roller, Gayle. Hagen-Renaker: A Charlton Standard Guide. Third Edition. Page 307. The Charlton Press: Palm Harbor, FL, 2003.

The Jockey Club Registry. Web site. https://www.registry.jockeyclub.com/registry.cfm?page=dotRegistryIdentifyThoroughbred

Monday, June 10, 2013

Muddy Monday: Ceramic Horse Competitions

Looking for something fun to do in collecting ceramics, beyond competing with other bidders on eBay? Some of us arrange get-togethers for the sake of just learning and sharing, such as a home show, fun day, or a tour of regional collections. Most new collectors do not have the connections to begin with tours. How does one meet fellow enthusiasts? Collectors of both vintage factory pieces and artist-glazed horses may compete in actual shows, which are rewarding both socially and materially. Here, ceramic horses are judged on color or breed representation, and rarity or precision in detail. The "or" is conditional on whether the horse was mass-produced or a unique studio piece. Each horse is fitted with an ID tag, and the owner's name is hidden until judging is complete. It is just the ceramic collectible, judged on its own merits.

The United States has a week-long model horse extravaganza in Lexington, KY, during July, in even-numbered years. These events are the North American Nationals, BreyerFest, Breakables at BreyerFest, Equilocity, and the Stone Age show at Equilocity. In years like 2013, some of these events are still held, but the action does not begin until the Thursday of the week.

A show string of 6-10 horses brought home these ribbons from the 2012 Lexington conventions.
You don't have to have a huge collection to compete favorably.

Before any horse models may be entered at the hobby's highest field of competition, the annual "NAN" (North American Nationals), they must earn qualification at an earlier show. This means that each model must have won a first or second place in a qualifying class, at an official North American Model Horse Shows Association member show, within the previous four years. This means that models are filtered for quality and condition, before reaching the Nationals level of competition.

The NAN covers so many types of model horses, and styles of showing them, that the event spans three days. The ceramics classes are all on even-years' Thursday, the final day of Nationals-level competition.

NAN 2012 Custom Glaze classes being loaded and judged.
The tables to the far left are factory finish china. The far right side are exhibitor tables.
This show gets about 200 exhibitors.

2012 National Champion Custom Glaze Workmanship Pinto (All Patterns)

Thursday afternoon, shortly after the NAN ceramics classes are judged and awarded, an all-ceramics specialty show starts on the other side of town. This is Breakables, a show that qualifies 1st-2nd placers for the next two years' NANs. Those exhibiting chinas at both NAN and Breakables have a couple of hours to pack up from one show, drive across town to the other show, unpack, and prepare for the next round of judging. It is, by a long shot, the nation's strongest test of physical endurance for ceramics exhibitors. The good news is, Breakables is held annually. In odd-number years, it is the only ceramics event held that day. Much to our relief!

One of the largest ceramics to compete at any model horse show, anywhere!
Breakables is the show to see such feats of clay.
This show gets about 25-40 exhibitors, fluctuating with the NAN years.

Ceramics shows attract the best show-quality pieces.
The factory classes allow one to make side-by-side comparisons. 

This HR Daisy took an Overall in her division.
The giant box contains a Breyer porcelain, the grand prizes at this show.

Ceramic showers like to exhibit pieces of history, just for the sake of sharing them.
This piece is the first known self-produced ceramic horse by Maureen Love.

At Breakables, the classlist allows room for ceramics to compete by country of origin, finish, and rarity.
This was a fun "reunion" photo of three brothers from earlier blog posts.

And then, five minutes later, the middle one would not be left out.
This one was a test run, competing separately from his brothers.

The final show of the week, which welcomes factory and custom glazed ceramics alike, is the Saturday show during Stone Horses' Equilocity convention. This is a general show (all materials of model can enter), but it gives separate championships to factory and custom china models. This is held the same week as Breyerfest, across the street from the Breakables show hall. Unlike most china specialty shows, general shows do not prevent the public from mixing among the tables and getting close to models.

Stone Age Live show 2012: factory and custom glaze callbacks being double-judged.
This year (2013), it will be single-judged.
Usually, between 40-60 exhibitors each year.

At this show, trophies are collectible plastic models, new for each year.
Sometimes, the winner is smaller than the trophy!

Or, smaller than the rosettes!

Once every few years, I host a two-day ceramics show, near my studio. Clinky Classic is traditionally held in December, as our winters are rather mild. It takes me 2-4 years to develop each show, as the theme and awards are completely new, each time. If you'd like to know as soon as the next one is starting, this is where announcements are made. I really love to make it an awards-heavy event.

Grand champion full classic size ceramic trophies, unique to the 2012 Clinky show.
Averages 25 exhibitors each show.

But, this isn't December, it is now June. This is a good time to consider entering the Breakables 2013 show. If the idea of leaping into one's first all-china show is intimidating, I would recommend starting out by showing in an odd-number year, like this one (2013). The pacing of the entire week leading up to Breakables this year is much more relaxed. The general vibe around the host hotel is "calm positivity", in non-NAN years. The stress level and pacing of that Thursday is very mild. Ceramics, or "china", showers like calm, because it reduces the risk of accidents.

On July 18th, 2013, the Breakables Live show will be held in Lexington again. It is always an afternoon-evening competition, so the hall opens at 2pm and judging begins at 3pm. One can arrive, unpack, and start the show well-rested and well-fed, that afternoon.

Speaking of well-fed, it is worth noting that the Breakables show provides a mammoth food spread for its entrants and judges, for the entire show duration. A variety of fresh fruit, snacks, and hot pizza is kept fresh. There is even a microwave for heating up personal servings, later in the show. This continuous supply is maintained by Marge Para as a show volunteer, because the show schedule does not stop for an official dinner break. 

Check out the voluminous classlist and the awards that are exclusive to this year's show!

The Breyerfest theme for 2013 is "Denim and Diamonds".
I sculpted the award tile: a jeans pocket, with the first year's Breakables horse brought back for an encore!

Black and dark blue denim glaze.
Marge Para did all the production on the tile awards.

Stonewash black and bright blue denim glaze.

As a Breyer-sponsored show, Breakables is held in the convention's host hotel, the Clarion (Holiday Inn North Lexington). The show also features Breyer porcelains (maybe this year they will have the plastic trophy models, as in other Breyer shows?) for the Overall champions of each division, satin rosette awards, and volunteer compensation for the judges. As a result, this show attracts qualified and educated judges from great distances. Although Marge and I are not big companies like Breyer, we provide the additional sub-division tile awards because we just like to encourage china showing.

Another fun reason to be a Breakables exhibitor: you can get up close and photograph all the amazing models inside the show hall. Non-entrants are restricted to the first row, the entryway and silent auction area, and so can't get close to the ceramics. This is, of course, for the comfort level of the exhibitors. If you don't have many to show, consider the cost of your entry a pass to ask questions, gather research (most exhibitors include information cards with their entries), and make collecting decisions based on seeing items in person, from all angles. This last part alone can be priceless to a budding collector, as ceramic horses are never as good in photographs as they are in person.

Many times, I have seen a collector hesitantly enter their one or two models in a china show, and the models NAN qualify. Very often, a collector keeps a single favorite ceramic because it is sentimental and has a beauty that appeals to them. This quality, in glaze and sculpture design, usually translates to ribbons in the show ring. I know an exhibitor who owns a single china horse, and she campaigns it at every china show. It sweeps up championships and challenge awards. I see more and more plastic or resin horse exhibitors adding single chinas to their strings, in much the same way. You do not have to bring a large string to be competitive. One good horse, that you love, can make it worthwhile. If it's not your day for ribbons, it is the honor of having people photograph and ask about your model, because they think it is cool. 

If you are already coming to BreyerFest this year, seriously consider adding Breakables to your schedule. This year, entrants must be three-day ticket holders for the BreyerFest convention. If you're already a ticket holder, make your Thursday night really sparkle by attending Breakables.

If you can't make it this year, consider having a friend transport your models to Breakables for you. If you can't get a friend to show for you, there are volunteers experienced in ceramics showing, ready to proxy show your model for you. I personally proxied horses for three entrants last year. Sometimes when I proxy, I have to ship an extra box, just for the awards a horse has won. If you are very shy, proxy entry is a good way to start. On the other hand, if you only proxy, you miss out on the immersive experience and meeting some good people. Proxy entrants are not allowed inside the hall.

Any questions you may have about the process of showing and entering can be answered by the show hostess, Maggie Barkovitz. You can reach her, and contact other ceramics collectors, via the official yahoogroup. All the entry forms and documents for the show are only found on the official Breyer site.

Ceramics are best appreciated in person, and this event is a great showcase. It's time to dip your toe in the mud!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Muddy Monday: Sands of Time

June 3 Muddy Monday

Last week, I completed a new sculpture that has swept me along, like a petal on a sandstorm.

A local friend suggested we create a historical chariot display for fun. She would supply the accurate chariot scale model, and I volunteered to sculpt the horses. Why? Sometimes, you just have to do something that is not the norm. Also, I was a little punch-drunk from prepping for my all-ceramic show, Clinky Classic 4. Yeah, that was it.

"Antiquity", the resulting traditional 1:9 scale model, is an ancient Hyksos-bred chariot horse. Egypt's first horses were from the invading Hyksos, and were eagerly embraced as engines for their war machines. They were most often depicted in Egyptian tomb art, pulling chariots for war and the hunt, and less frequently shown ridden. They did not look like today's Egyptian Arabian. The Hyksos did some reverent burials of their horses, and this was very helpful for my project. I saw this photo, and told my friend, 

"This must be a mare, she died young, she was not a chariot horse, but she must have been important to be buried in this way."

Photo © Österreichisches Archäologisches Institut (ÖAI) Kairo
The original press release web site is down, so this is the best I can do for you.

A couple weeks later, I found an article which said exactly that. 

"The second important discovery was the burial of a horse, which is situated and stratigraphically well connected within the palace. It was a mare between 5 and 10 years. It was obviously not a chariot horse but more likely used for breeding. It was the Hyksos who introduced the horse to Egypt and it is the oldest undisputed horse burial found in this country. Its position in the palace suggests that this mare was a pet of the Hyksos, most likely king Khayan."

How could I guess all that from just a small skeleton photo? It is from years of reconstructing dinosaurs and studying live and fossil horses. Thanks, paleoart!

More useful for my sculpture prep, I noticed the skull had a straight profile, not dished, as we often associate with any horse in Egypt. Now I had a type set: straight skull, slightly wedge-shaped, small desert body. I then had to add secondary sexual characteristics and mass for it to be the preferred chariot horse gender, a stallion. I did the initial chariot-sizing drawings on cardstock, with all this physical data blended into one shape. The cardstock horses could then be double-checked for pose and scale with the chariot (which is top-secret, for now).

I used the "glamour-side" drawing to make a tracing on regular paper, so I could lay the armature against it, as I was constructing the model.

Right about here is a good time to explain the pose. The tomb paintings and sculptures show the horses in this pose, with legs perfectly parallel. My friend let me pour over her big books of tomb art, and we sat down together and analyzed the tack and resulting biomechanics. The rather sad side of this ancient form of transportation is that the tack did not innovate from its initial use on early domesticated asses. Onagers and horses are not built the same way. The chariot horses were used in neck collars, high up above the withers. The collar set so high, a big section of mane was kept trimmed off. Most modern cultures, around the world, use a shoulder collar as the main connection to the horse's pulling power. The shoulder collar allows the horse to line up his spine and hindquarters (the horse's own engine) and move efficiently. In other words, the ancient chariot horse had all the weight pulling on its neck, not its body frame, and had to work extra-hard.  

As if that was not tough enough, the chariot harness used a bearing rein to create an artificial, proud headset. You can clearly see the bearing reins, and trace them along on several tomb art examples. The bearing rein, in its infamous extreme form, is virtually extinct in modern horsemanship, and for good reason. The bearing rein, used in this capacity, forces the horse to hold his head unnaturally arched and high. It was done because it looks powerful (and intimidating in battle) and adds an element of stylish swagger. In combination with the neck collar harness, this forces the horse to hyperextend or "hollow" his back. The result is inefficient movement and poor muscular development of both dorsal and ventral muscles. It actually made me sad to realize that, to be accurate, I had to capture this pose and body condition. I hope this reminds people to be on the alert for horsemanship fads that do not serve the best interests of the animal. At the time, the horses were trained this way, carefully groomed and maintained, and never knew anything different. One can guess that teams were frequently replaced, and had few years of individual usefulness. An aged chariot horse would be inaccurate.

I suppose when one considers the human rights and public health in context of the time and place, it gives one a more complete picture. Life was hard for everyone.

Knowing this, I went ahead with the pose. When his professional critique came in, I changed all the requests but two: thicken the loins and modernize/correct the spine pose. Parasites, bearing rein, and neck collar all clamored for my attention, and I chose to stay true to the old paintings and carvings of history. Inner conflicts of tomb imagery, ancient and modern horsemanship, art styles, biology... even the artist who did the critique acknowledged that one could go either way, keep or change the pose. It was a tough call.

I wasn't sure how the model horse collectors would feel about this leap into the depths of time. I offered to sell the first ten castings for a very short period, at a discount, just to raise the funds to cover the cost of the silicone mold and the resin raw materials. All I wanted was a mold so I could play: paint a team for my friend's chariot, and customize a couple castings for myself.

From the minute I posted the sales information, it was all a stormy blur for the next eight hours. I had set a long-range goal of capping the edition size at 30 resin castings. They all were claimed in those hours, and there is a waiting list, should anyone drop out. The most frequent note that I received was how glad people were that I stayed true to the culture and showed history, even with its imperfections. Consider me blown away.

I have learned a valuable lesson with the creation and release of "Antiquity". Some art subjects may challenge my personal ethics about horses, but the art itself can serve as a lesson in three dimensions about why and how things were done, in that time and place. We absolutely should know horsemanship history, so we don't repeat it. The next time you see tomb art on a documentary, or in the background of a film, consider how much time and improvement, for humans and animals, has passed between then and now.

These were the only tools used to make this sculpture. 
Not shown is the super-fine armature wire wrap and the spray primer.

As the dust settles, I am finishing up the custom-sculpted base for the resin edition. I am looking at it, thinking about how to alter it so that it would safely support and embellish a ceramic version of this sculpture. So many people have asked if he is going to be released in ceramic, but balancing that body is going to be tricky. It will require a well-engineered, hollow ceramic base. The only thing holding me back is literally the dust beneath his hooves. Maybe it will someday become... muddy hoof prints?

If you would like to see the entire sculpture develop from armature to finished model, there is an Antiquity photo album on my Facebook page, Animal Art of Kristina Lucas Francis.



Bolen, Todd. "Hyksos Palace Excavated at Tell el-Dab'a". Blog post. May 31, 2009. bhttp://blog.bibleplaces.com/2009/05/hyksos-palace-excavated-at-tell-el-dab.html

Further reading I glanced at, that you may enjoy: