Monday, September 16, 2013

Muddy Monday: You'll Never Bull Leave It

These posts have a pattern: they start out with bittersweet memories, and end with happy coincidences. This one began with my husband and I on the cusp of losing his father to a 10-month-long battle with brain cancer. We lived next door, and provided daily care and support to both parents, even to the point of our own livelihood coming last. At the same time, the estate of Maureen Love was being dispersed via eBay auctions. It was very hard to watch pieces I'd remembered seeing around her home and garden, now scattered to the winds. We were trying to recover from nearly a year of selling off our own collections to support our caregiving. Buying stuff wasn't a priority.

My husband, however, knew what it meant to me. He kept watching the auctions. When random items were staying low, he'd snap them up, when we could afford it. One such item was a black Spanish Fighting Bull that he fell in love with, at auction during the week that his father passed away. When it arrived, it startled us both by being such a large ceramic piece for such a small price. It barely fit in the cabinet, it was so long. 

Maureen love's personal collection piece
Approx. 7.5" tall x 5.5" wide x 15" long

Seeing it in person made me so happy, it was so unusual and artsy. It is regal, full of movement and strong angles that catch the light. The hole in his neck is damage, but it's a result of a thin area of the casting, so I don't want to restore it. It is a peephole into the process. This casting wasn't perfect, because the lower areas are very thick, and that upper neck is paper-thin. It looks like what happens when plaster doesn't absorb properly, maybe due to mold soap, and, later, the slip plugged up while draining, making the lower surfaces extra-thick.

Its glaze looks similar to the glaze that Maureen called the "lizard skin" glaze. Years before, during a raku workshop at Pour Horse Pottery over a BOYC show weekend, this was the glaze I had chosen for my workshop medallion. 

The smoke gray texture surrounding the horse is the "lizard skin" glaze.

I'm not sure this is exactly what Maureen's bull is glazed in, but if it is, the difference may be due to raku firing vs. low firing (bull). I'm curious if anyone knows if this is the bull's glaze identity, for certain. 

All I know is that this was custom glazed by Maureen, and is a claybody custom. The eyes and various features have extra carving, and it has an overall Cubist style. 
If you think about it: Spanish Fighting Bull... Spain.. Cubism... it's really neat.

The pale speckles are household bug debris and dust, exactly as it came from Maureen's home.
His textured glaze has a crackle, and I'm afraid to wash the debris into the crackle with a cleaning.

Wait. How do I know it has "extra" carving?

Because this mold was also produced by a factory, without hollowed-out eyes and sharpened hooves.

Dawn Sinkovich had seen this black bull in Maureen's collection, a few years before. She has a curiosity for the unusual, even the abstract, ceramics by Maureen. When she recognized the mold in a production copy of this bull, she bought it on instinct. Recently, she brought it to my studio for photos, to be briefly reunited with its brother.

Add another mold to the list of those Maureen designed for Lane & Company/ Lane Ceramics. This a very abstract, angular interpretation, quite divergent from the style of her Lane horse molds. There is no mold marking nor number on it. I need to locate an old order form to learn its mold number and name.

Dawn told me that she has seen it in red with gold overglaze accents, as well. I am looking for a White or Black Pearl of this bull, to display with the custom. Please contact me if you have one for sale.

They are so large, I couldn't quite get the camera to show them at the same angle.

Another interesting "tell" on this White Pearl bull, which makes me think it is a Lane, or at least produced by the same factory that Lane distributed, is the way in which the pearl is sprayed on. It follows the same "upper surfaces" pattern that was used to decorate the "Running Horse" A-9 in White Pearl.

Belly is plain white glaze.
The black bull's hooves are also hollow and open, but his 2 raised feet have carved hoof bottoms.

Using extreme PhotoShop contrast to show the spray pattern of the pearl overglaze. 
Note how it is broken by the belly line, with some overspray to the sheath and inner foreleg.
This is a result of the same directional shading method used on the White Pearl A-9.

Soft mold detail tells us that they ran a lot of these from the molds.
We should be able to find them, out there!

Maureen carved out hollows for eyes on some of her own home-glazed works. 
There is a stoneware Gig Thoroughbred, and some smaller pieces, with the same carved-eye style.

This means that this black pebble-skinned bull is the only known example of a Lane mold (or whatever factory Lane distributed for) that was custom glazed by Maureen. Like some of her personal collection custom glazes on Hagen-Renakers, the black bull was a greenware second (uneven thickness of casting walls). I would imagine that, since she took home a bad greenware bull and customized him for herself, that she might have done the same with her horse molds for Lane, too. That's what I'd do! This means that we all should be on the lookout for the "Mystery Horses" in Maureen Love's own textural finishes, turning up in yard sales or eBay. 

How amazing a coincidence that one of the few pieces I was able to acquire from the estate auctions ended up being so unique and relevant in my later research into the Mystery Horses, I mean, the Mystery Animals*, that she designed!

You may be thinking, "So, you have evidence of a fighting bull. Did he have a matador? Other mid-century ceramic bulls were paired with their own matadors." 

If you look at this site, you can view a Lane TV lamp of a lone matador, sans bull. Where is the bull?

I think we know where he is.

And I doubt that Love collectors will ever leave one of these bulls again, if they are lucky enough to find one.

Special Thanks to my husband, Paul Francis for the black bull, and to Dawn Sinkovich for bringing her White Pearl bull for the photo shoot.

I'm now really wondering about the Puma planter, shown in earlier posts on the Lane/Mystery subject. It has crossed my mind before.

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