Monday, December 22, 2014
Monday, December 15, 2014
We had a nice brunch visit with them, also collectors of various ilk. I even had time to sketch and email some projects to a client, while I nibbled kheer and gulab jamun. That sentence right there is my heaven on earth, my favorite combination of things to do!
It was such a sunny day, we decided to extend our morning in town. We headed for the art supply store, which happens to be located next door to a vintage-and-antiques mall. While my husband gathered some supplies, I took a stroll through the mall, curious but expecting nothing. This mall is well known to all local chinaheads and Tikiphiles, and it is thoroughly (and weekly) combed by the same. These days, I never expect to find anything that fits my collecting focus; it's just not a statistic likelihood. I was mostly looking for Christmas gifts for friends. Where are all the Poodles?!
Almost halfway through the mall, a figure at eye level shouted out to me. Collectors, you know what I mean! It was very shocking, almost dream-like, because there is only one known example. The one known example lives in my collection, at home. This was a completely different glaze finish, and it was slip-stuck to a functional item!
"I know you! What are you doing here?"
As it sat there on the shelf, it appeared to be a lid mismatched to the casserole dish beneath it. It was set at a jaunty, somewhat risky angle, so I took a photo, put down my camera/phone, and then lifted it off with both hands. Here is the tag description:
My mind began to sort out the similarities to other non-HR Love ware, by the production value and colors. There are several Maureen Love molds that were not produced by Hagen-Renaker, but are known from her sketchbooks and single examples in her personal estate. She even mentioned having freelanced for Twin Wintons and others*, and a recorded interview identifies the owner of another pottery: Bill Lenaburg. Some people call these the Mystery molds, but this blog has deduced that the factories that produced some of them were Marcia of California and Lane and Company Ceramics.
This is the previously only known-to-the-hobby example, a gift from Margo Potheau, just about a year ago.
He was not produced by Hagen-Renaker, and it was assumed by most of us that it was a piece Maureen designed and cast in stoneware for her own collection.
After this random antiques mall find, I am happy to report that you, too, can own an OF version of this charming Love rooster! All you have to do is search Etsy and eBay. It is my best guess that these are Marcia of California, as the glazes are found on other MC functional ware. These plate molds show two of several ways that MC marked their molds. The round plate was also used with a non-Love rooster accent, and was the top of a lazy susan egg dish.
Pretty sure this will make my chicken-collecting pals very happy! Who knows, maybe your grandmother's egg dish had a bit of Love in it, all along?
four-points leaf egg plate, marked with mold number 515 and Calif. USA (typical for MC)
round egg plate, no marks (also well known for MC ware)
I have found these colors:
solid dark green leaf plate with white rooster
solid white plate & rooster
squash orange with white rooster
Some have a little streaking in the glaze where the rooster's white glaze ran down into the color glaze of the plate. Values online are under $30 for these plates. The Love rooster is the same mold for each. Like the Marcia/Lane Love Horses and Bull, the rooster's greenware cleaning and mold crispness varies.
Although the plate molds are also found with more upright-posed roosters, sculpted by someone else, the base where Maureen's rooster is attached appears custom-fit for both plate molds. Maybe the company gave Maureen a footprint outline, in which to sculpt the figure? Which came first, the chicken or the egg plate?
It's very interesting is that this Rooster and the Fighting Bull both are done in Maureen's Cubist style, and both were represented in her estate by single examples, custom glazed by Maureen. It fits that they both turned up in OF Marcia/Lane production.
This find feels like another gift from Margo, and the timing gives me goosebumps. I am keeping my promise to identify and share Maureen's work with as many people as I can, with the help of the internet.
Collector friends, you are thus challenged:
What other "only one known" Love pieces may have been produced by other manufacturers? Let's find them!
*Kelly, Nancy. Horse, Bird, and Wildlife Figures of Maureen Love: Hagen-Renaker and Beyond. Page 8. Schiffer Publishing, Ltd.: Atglen, PA, 2003.
Online sources linked throughout post.
Monday, December 8, 2014
The awkward grazing pose of a young, leggy animal is captured in the Hagen-Renaker "Scamper" mold. Designed by Maureen Love in 1953, as best as we can guess, while the stickers read "1953" on the Colts. The Handbook says, "Spring 1954 through Fall 1958". As I do not have access to the 1953 order forms, I can't check if this was the actual release year. The mold was released in brown gloss with character eyes, brown matte, palomino gloss with character eyes, palomino matte, and white matte. I did find a date error.
The Handbook indicates that the white color was only made 1958, while it is only present on the order forms for 1954.
In 1958, the offered colors are brown (sometimes collectors call this rose gray) and palomino.
Not only does the Scamper mold change genders, but there are corresponding changes in the mane and tail. These consistent-with-gender mold differences support the theory that entire mold reworks occurred, and that the Fillies aren't just "flattened" boys, or individually altered while wet clay. They were cast this way.
Tails go from curly and lumpy with a defined tailbone on Colts, to smoothed outline and longer sweeps carved in the tail detail on the later Fillies. How do we know Fillies were later? Because there are no known Filly mold version with character eyes, and the 2 varieties of stickers found on Fillies date them late 1950's to early 60's.
The Fillies' mane detail in outline is broken up, rather than the smooth, continuous wall of the Colts'. One can spy a Filly immediately by the knob in the mane, even present on less-detailed examples.
Here is the data I gathered on some Scampers and a copy:
The term "C Eyes" in the chart refers to "character eyes", which was a decorating style on many DW animals in early Monrovia.
What she's not: a white slip Scamper pulled out of the white gray decoration line-up, and accidentally sprayed as if a palomino. Her body slip is tinted a cold eggshell color, almost a greenish tan. She has the same rust color body shading as seen on regular palomino Fillies of her sub-era. The shading and hoof black is even decorated at the same angles and in the same places, so it "feels" like a genuine HR.
Other examples of HRs with the wrong overspray deco for their slip color are well known and documented. Instead of the wrong body (since the tinted castings all look very similar when dry) being grabbed and decorated as something it's not, I suspect the wrong slip color was grabbed and poured into a Scamper production mold.
Here's the Morgan family mother, Heather in what appears to be a similar coloration:
It could be that she over-fired, burning the clay pigment out and shrinking her overall. Her weight would remain because she isn't losing material, just the spaces between clay molecules got tighter and melted together. This idea seems to be supported by her dry, sandy glaze... glaze doesn't absorb well on partially vitrified ware. Her mold features are all there, except no sign of the copyright in the inner thigh, which has been established as the norm. Her airbrushing does appear to be by the same hand that decorated her palomino sisters (brothers were airbrushed in an earlier sub-era).
Here is what over-firing can do to the pigments on an earthenware piece.
I tried the vitrification test, and her unglazed dryfooting is resistant to water. A normal Scamper kept a sheen of wet on its dryfooting, but this Filly wouldn't absorb and wiped dry.
Maybe she is a mold reduction at HR? If so, we'd expect to see more small Scamper Fillies turn up. Do you have one?
Or, she might be a Japan copy. I have heard a rumor that a person once-associated with the company went forward with some DW molds to be made overseas, many years ago, against HR's wishes. I have seen very few Asian copy molds as nice as this, and none that matched complex airbrush angles, stroke for stroke.
How about another decoration oddity?
Here is a brown Scamper missing his mane decoration, which could have been confused for a palomino by collectors. This is the Colt version of the mold, and we know that by his mane detail, not just his show tag.
Whether they glitter or not, with knobs or nobs, this mold is one of my favorites. It is a great study in animal sculpture. Too often, Scampers get passed up in the show ring because they are grazing, and it's hard to see their faces. Perhaps this will lead to a new appreciation of their variety, even within the mold's most common color: palomino. Do you have a brown or white with even more variations?
Thank you to Jayne Kubas, Ed Alcorn, and Marcia Miner for the use of your models and/or photos!
Benuish, Alison, ed. Hagen-Renaker Research Materials: 1949- Present. N. pag. Salisbury, MD: WMHC, 1995.
Roller, Gayle. Hagen-Renaker: A Charlton Standard Guide. Third Edition. Page 76. The Charlton Press: Palm Harbor, FL, 2003.
Monday, December 1, 2014
Truth be told, this sharing phenomenon occurs year-round, with collectors always finding something interesting in our collecting hobby. Depending on which online collecting group you frequent, the increase in posted photos is quite noticeable in late December.
Some people feel that this is a rude habit, "bragging", but here is why it is not:
1. The Audience
China collectors build groups on social media with the purpose of sharing photos with each other. There are also model horse photo competitions, which are unrelated to the collector groups. If you go waaaaay back to the old mimeographed Model Horse Showers Journal's, and even the printed The Hobby Horse News, you will find ads where collectors share one particular model, listing its wins and pedigree, in the tradition of real horse showcase advertising. Most of us over the age of 18 have at least a passing familiarity with this within the model horse hobby, and we don't see it as "boasting" in the rude sense. It was promotion of a show horse, just like real horses are promoted. In other words, collectors view this showcasing without malice.
2. The outlook of the person doing the sharing
Instead of the goal of the braggart- to inspire envy- the collector share is just, "Hey, isn't this neat? Do you know more about it?". It is meant to inspire wonder, memory, and critical thinking.
3. A nurturing environment with an interest in freshly rediscovered antique equine art.
The shares are being made, as point 1 identified, to an audience already prepped for a positive, traditional context. As a group, we love ceramic art, and the more we see, the happier we are!
4. The sharing doesn't fit the format of the attention-seeking "humble brag" so many complain about on social media.
A humble brag is a boastful post or description on a shared photo, self-deprecating, often minimizing the difficulty or expense in acquisition. Example: "I tripped over this on the way to the mailbox" captioning a photo of a shiny new motorcycle.
China collectors just don't do that, or if they do, it's a private message for laughs between close friends.
5. The listing of the price paid is made known by two means:
If it was a bargain, the information is provided to encourage other collectors that cheap finds can still be had, they are still out there, and the era of eBay has not destroyed all chances of an affordable score. It's not meant to tear down others as a brag, but to be uplifting to the community.
If full collector price was paid, it was generally already public knowledge due to online ads or auctions. To reiterate and report that price on the photo share is rather redundant, so most do not.
6. It puts the sharer more at risk of negative attention. They do it anyway, because they want their friends to experience enjoyment of the art, and the sharer hopes to learn something, as well.
Risk of negative attention? Yes, when you share photos online, even to a private group, you open yourself up to uninvited offers to trade or purchase your item. This can be a little off-putting or even alarming, as selling the item was probably the last thing on your mind when you posted the photo. A gift from a loved one, or perhaps a find of a lifetime, and even years later, you get emails... Sometimes, the requests are quite persistent and distracting. It can really get out of hand when your shared photo is used without permission, sometimes in want ads. As the poster, you feel raw being pestered to begin with, and then photo theft adds lemon juice to the wound.
So what are the benefits? Replies, comments, or Likes? A genuine photo share is not fueled by a boastful person seeking such tepid ego strokes. The only real benefit the sharer was seeking was history or other conformation that the crowd might have to offer. There are so many makes and materials of ceramics to collect, it is very difficult to acquire all the knowledge, let alone most of the books, on every single one. Many manufacturers are not even covered by books, yet. Trivia preserved by specialist collectors can be seen as gems to be mined by sharing a photo and jolting a memory. Education is the main benefit of sharing, for both sharer and the audience. The second possible benefit is if someone else out there has the mate to go with it, or a foal to complete a set, and that someone offers the piece needed for completion.
Those looking at our collecting hobby from the outside may not understand why we tolerate online "bragging", but to us, it is far beyond that low form. Don't call it bragging, gloating, or boasting. Scientists share their findings in published papers, is that bragging? Of course not, it is discovery. That is similar to how collectors view their sharing: bringing something new, lost, or hidden to light!
Monday, November 17, 2014
How do you know that cold is a threat to ceramics?
Fact: Extreme cold makes standard ceramics more brittle. Silica ceramic space shuttle tiles are not in discussion, here. Our typical ceramics, going from room temp to freezing contact (such as in snow, or a cold stream), are at risk for breakage. I know it's pretty to photograph ceramic models in streams and lakes, but there is an inherent risk. There is also the problem of a hollow body, full of warm room-temp air, and those thin legs, now deep in snow... There is a temperature differential between body & legs that can't be good. I've heard of a ceramic horse that shattered its body on impact with snow. Cold is not a friend.
What is thermal shock?
When hot or cold meets a room temp (or more extreme) item, the resulting spontaneous damage is from the thermal shock.
Picture the ceramic horse as not only a big, hollow body with solid-poured, delicate legs, but the clay and glaze each have layers, bonds, and weaknesses inside them, due to salts, hard minerals, how much water was used to seam them after drying, and the temperature at which they were first bisqued.
Now picture this horse, with all of its many variables, some intrinsic and some acquired, full of air at any temp, and then expose just its surface area to a temperature extreme from that inner temp. Or how about just its legs? Maybe a soak of cold rain or sleet?
Thermal shock makes the bad stuff happen right where the materials host these temperature and humidity extremes. The bad stuff is dunting, shattering, shivering, and shock-caused (not age-related) glaze crackle.
Nothing good comes of this, unless, of course, you are doing a raku. Even then, there is planning, and things still can explode.
Earthenware is the most susceptible, although stoneware, porcelain and bone china also can be damaged by extremes. A home dishwasher is a micro-climate extreme example. The Victoria & Albert Museum site puts it succinctly:
"Do not use a dishwasher to clean valued ceramics. High temperatures, high pressure water and aggressive detergents can permanently damage glazes and coloured enamel decoration."
What if it is a hot summer? How do you know that ceramics that came in from hot outdoor temperatures are safe to unpack in an air-conditioned home?
Because my kiln says so. "Unload kiln when temperature [of the kiln interior] falls below 130˚F." Just above this, it says the kiln must not be used where it exceeds 100˚F, so it is assumed that some kind of climate control is in use around this model of kiln. The 100˚F limit is intended to protect the KilnMaster computer.
There is little chance that deliveries will be made on a day where your local outdoor temperature is 130˚F, so don't sweat it. The big trailers, that carry parcels to distribution centers, are said to reach 130˚F inside. Most people do not receive a box direct from a tractor-trailer at their doorstep, and usually hours have passed since that exposure.
Now, if your item has known restorations, and was shipped through extremely hot or humid weather (including the weather at carrier hubs, where it sat on sizzling tarmac) that is probably bad news, whether you open it sooner or later.
What is the most heat-retaining package material?
To put it simply, Air. The more closed bubbles of it, the more it holds the temperature at which it was packed.
Styrofoam and egg crate foam are the winners in this. Bear in mind, for summer shipping, egg crate heats up fast and holds that warmth. Cold-painted (including restored areas of chinas) will want to stick to it, if heated.
I don't recommend shipping with a heat pack, because the one pack means heat on one side, and cold on the outer extremities. Even if the warmth is retained in foam, it only lasts about 6-12 hours. This is why live animals are shipped by overnight 10am delivery, or faster.
The package insurance covers any breakage if the box got too cold in transit, right?
Only if you also inquired and bought that carrier's Freeze Damage insurance policy, which is a whole separate fee from normal insurance coverage. The USPS, for instance, does not cover damage from freezing nor overheating in transit, even if you bought their regular insurance.
What is the usual method of unpacking cold boxes?
There are a few variations on a theme of Wait. When the box is handed to me by the carrier, I carefully set it down near a space heater and don't touch it until it's warmed up.
Knowing how outer boxes insulate, I will sometimes cut open the tape on the outer box only, arrange the flaps open, and sweep any styrofoam peanuts off the top of the inner box. I don't move the boxes, at all. Now, room temp air can touch the outside top of the inner box.
If the boxes weren't terribly cold, and the inner box feels room temp, I can open it at the end of the day. Sometimes, I don't open it for 24 hours.
Why do you tape the open edges and the seam of boxes, not just the long, middle closure?
Because when a box travels through various hubs, it may be exposed to humidity, rain, snow, leakage from other boxes. Even just a simple edge taping can reduce the risk of box failure. I have had soaked boxes arrive that were only held together by the extra edge tape. They resembled the sagging Halloween pumpkins of mid-November. Not only does this tape help guard against the loss of the box's integrity during storms, but it prevents that super-cold moisture from seeping into the packing that touches the ceramic horse. Icy water suddenly soaking a room-temp, insulated ceramic induces temperature shock, too.
Now that I have thoroughly horrified you with some risks to shipping in extreme weather, I will share one little story.
A sudden snow storm came up here, while I was anticipating the arrival of an (earthenware) vintage Hagen-Renaker large Zara. The shipper had done a fine job, but the postal online tracking system, the day before she was due to arrive, completely lost her. When my mail arrived that afternoon, no Zara, the post office itself had closed to the public for the day. Snow had upset the normal carrier schedules. A phone call to the PO, now after hours, and they said they'd take a look in back, but it wasn't on the computer (no kidding). When they had found it, they called and instructed me to pick it up right then, since the staff were still working in the back. The snow was coming down thick, and my husband drove us there. At the back door, I received a wet box that was positively freezing. It felt like it had been sitting outside in the snow storm, on the loading dock, for hours. It looked like it had been dropped a few times, too.
I got into the car with dashed hopes. There was no way this survived. The only comfort was that I knew the Zara already had some damage. I waited an hour, with the box by a space heater, and figured the shock damage was done- why wait any longer?
Thanks to the seller's packing, she was fine. Ice cold to the touch, and I let her rest in her packing a while longer, but no new damage.
Take a little extra time with your winter arrivals, and always ship something the way you'd like to receive it. Stay warm, and enjoy your new additions!