Monday, December 22, 2014

A Visit From St. Clinkolas


'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house 
Not a clinky was stirring, except a green mouse; 





The foam boxes were set by the armoire with care, 

In hopes that St. Clinkolas soon would be there; 




The collectors were nestled all snug in their beds; 
While visions of Special Runs danced in their heads; 





And ending eBay's mischief, as I'd hit my cap, 

Had just settled invoices for a long winter's nap, 


When out in the cabinet arose such a clatter, 

I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter. 


Away to the curio I flew like a flash, 

Tore open the doors veneered crisply with ash. 


The cabinet lamp brought forth a warm glow, 

Gave a Luster of Pearl to objects below, 


When what to my wondering eyes did reveal, 

But a Miniatures sleigh and ponies plumed with chenille, 





With a little gloss driver missing a chink, 

I knew in a moment he must be St. Clink. 


More torpid than mudfish his castings they stood, 

And he whistled, and shouted, like he does in his 'hood: 


"Now, Splasher! now, Saggar! now Lera and Kaolin! 

On, Biscuit! on, Liquid! on, Dauber and Porzellan! 


To the top of the chifforobe! the one near the wall! 

Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!" 


As clay motes before the old SlipMaster fly, 

When they meet with whirl'd water, mount to the sky; 


So up to the wardrobe the castings they flew 

With the sleigh full of clay, and St. Clinkolas too— 


And then, in a tinkling, I heard sharp as a tack

The assembly all settling right next to the plaque. 


As I lifted my head, and was turning around, 

Down the dresser St. Clinkolas came with a bound. 


He was dressed in raku, from his head to his foot, 

And his clothes were all burnished with ashes and soot; 


A crate lined with foam he had hung on his back, 

And he looked like a shower about to unpack. 


His glaze—how it twinkled! his details, how merry! 

His cheeks were like Rosenthal's, his nose à la Barye! 


His claybodied mouth was drawn up like a bow, 

And his beard slip-trailed as white as the snow; 


The stump of a stilt he held tight in his teeth, 

And white engobe, it encircled his head like a wreath; 


He had a broad face and a wide belly-hole 

That he covered with a sticker, makeshift camisole. 


He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf, 

And I laughed when I saw him, here flown from my shelf; 


A lash-dot tri-eye and the tilt of his head 

Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread; 


He spoke not a word, but went straight to his job, 

And filled all the foam boxes: drafters, stock horse, and cob, 


And laying his finger aside of his nose, 

And giving a nod, up the chifforobe he rose; 


He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a click, 

And back to my cabinet they flew very quick. 


But I heard him exclaim, ere he turned out the light—

“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”



(with apologies to Clement Clarke Moore)


Monday, December 15, 2014

Something To Crow About

I woke up yesterday morning with no intention of going out. Insomnia and a crummy Saturday had set my mood. My husband wanted us to go to our favorite Indian Sunday brunch, and meet a couple old friends. I trudged through my morning animal chores, grumbled as I dressed, but all at top speed. We'd inadvertently slept in, and people were waiting for us.

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?"




Photo taken "in the wild".

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?




This white OF piece had a rough time in greenware.
Either crude casting or cleaning reduced some of his beak, hackle/cape, and the blade of his comb.
I have already seen much better examples, online.






The variations I have found in just a brief search are:

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)


Two different colors of green glaze!
Mold number 515 refers to the plate mold, not the rooster mold. 
The rooster mold number is unknown.


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.


< Crispy Chicken                  Soft Chicken >


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!


References:

*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

Cast This Way

This post does not reflect the opinions of Hagen-Renaker nor its employees. The following is my opinion and interpretation of the submitted examples. This disclaimer is necessary because the established stance is that HR's Designers Workshop molds were never altered between Monrovia and San Dimas. 

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.





<  Fillies           Colts  >          


Fillies have longer detail sweeps but smoother outline.    




Both Fillies. Photos courtesy Marcia Miner.




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.




          <  Chicks           Dudes  >




< Lass                            Lad >



It's a Girl!
No idea about photo source, sorry.



It's another Girl! Owned by Jayne Kubas.
This one is unusual, as it has the engraved © HR in the inner thigh.
It isn't seen on Fillies often, and never on Colts.



gloss Test



Did you know that she has two names? 
Scamp and Scamper, both Fillies, both stickers date to late 1950's.


Here is the data I gathered on some Scampers and a copy: 





Updated with completed file.



The term "C Eyes" in the chart refers to "character eyes", which was a decorating style on many DW animals in early Monrovia.



Various character eyes, and outlined nostrils and lips on the gray Tony.
Only the glossy regular run Scampers are known to have character eyes.


The Japan copy was produced by Enterprise Exclusive. It is from an entire set of copies of the HR Morgan foals: Scamper, Clover, and Roughneck. The other models in the chart, with the exception of the EE Japan, all have lash-dot eyes with eye-white. The Japan lacks the eye-white decoration.



                      <  Oddity                       Japan EE copy  >         




What is this Oddity? 

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.




The available palomino filly for comparison is a gloss Test, hence the super-rich color.
Look beyond the gloss to the shading directions.



Odd filly compared with an earlier, matte Colt Scamper.



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:



Owner unknown, photo by author at NAN 2014.

When I saw the above mare in harsh lighting before, I thought she was a white slip casting, factory-goofed as palomino. Without seeing this horse in natural light, I can't tell you if she has the same cold eggshell color of body slip, contrasting with the white legs and mane/tail, as the Scamper. The similarity is pretty uncanny, though.




Wait. In the chart, this Oddity is a full quarter inch smaller in every dimension than her siblings, yet weighs right about the same. How is this possible?

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. 



< Normal                  Over-fired >


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.




Model courtesy Dawn Sinkovich






Better view of the Test Filly gloss palomino.
No character eyes, and the gloss is tinted yellow, visible in mold grooves.
This model was photographed (before and after restoration) in all three editions of the HR Handbook.




Maybe there was something about gloss and Fillies at HR? Another Test gloss, also a Filly. 
Photo courtesy Ed Alcorn, The Hagen-Renaker On-Line Museum.


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!



References:

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.

Stickers
http://hagenrenakerhorses.com/WebPageStickers.html


Monday, December 1, 2014

Seasons Gloatings? A Perceived "Vice" Explained

As we enter the time of year when many china collectors add to their herds, there is a very visual side effect found in the aftermath. Collectors will often share a photo or two of their latest acquisition on social media.

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

Winter and Ceramics

As I stare down the approaching snow, I can't help but think of our ceramics parcels, and the danger of the chill. I grew up in a place where our seasons are "fire season/Santa Anas", perfect, mudslide, and "just enough rain to make drivers lose their cool". I never worried about the problem of freezing weather as it pertains to ceramics shipping, because I never saw it. Now, I plan my shipments carefully between November and March.

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.




Cold or warm, shipping tape hates humidity!


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!




Monday, November 10, 2014

Collectors Vs. The Holidays: Survey

Here at the studio, we notice a change in hobby activity between late October (about Hallowe'en) and February 1st. When I lived in CA, the hobbies steamed forward year-round, due to the mild weather. There, model horse shows and sci-fi conventions were held year-round, almost every month. A quick glance at the CA horse show calendar seems to indicate that, with the exception of a quiet July during BreyerFest/NAN, this continues. 
Sales were not tainted by weather too cold to ship breakables, nor waiting for roads to be safe to drive to the local Breyer dealer to choose the latest releases, and the local economy ensured at least some significant sales, even close to the holidays. Likewise, the sci-fi sales drop around mid-November because formerly-single collectors have gone on to become parents, and they now have to budget for Christmas action playsets for their kids, not for themselves. Partners and co-parents look askance at a spouse spending the house payment on a toy for themselves, when the offspring needs a new Christmas bike for his commute to school!
Why does the hobby buying pick up in February? This is about when early tax-filers are getting their tax refund checks, and they do a little shopping. Big shows also pick up again in late March/early April, which means interest in new (or new to them) horses to add to the new year's show string. Also, the post-holidays expenses have been paid off in January, and breathing easy commences.
I've been in the Mid-South of the USA for over a decade, and winter weather and local economy surely hamper major hobby activity. Some hobbyists manage winter collection tours or visit each other locally, but wide-ranging travel is subdued and individual. Our weather is unpredictable and can close roads in a matter of minutes with downed trees, power lines, ice, or flash flooding. Here, formal NAN-qualifier shows drop off after November; even my own show was moved up a month to avoid wild weather. Hobby sales over the holidays are thwarted by both a weak regional economy and, online, it's a Buyer's Market- lots of awesome competition! It's a hobby deadzone for us, with the exception of commercial art jobs, which peak at this time of year and have zero-tolerance deadlines. (And people wonder why we don't travel!) One of my artist friends assures me that it is her busiest direct-to-collectors sales time of the year. Her products are not holiday-themed, so it's not time-sensitive. This opposite dynamic puzzled me, and I wondered if it was also present from the collector perspective. 
For myself as a collector, I see less of what I collect (granted, I collect only certain molds and The Weird and Unusual) coming available as the winter months progress. I used to say this was because flea markets here close until March, so no one was finding Ugly Horses (and tiki) to sell or trade!
Wanna Hippopotamus for Christmas?

Twenty-four asked to participate in time for this post (that were visible to me on FB), and 17 responded. The 2014 Holiday Collector Survey and results:
As a collector, do the holidays (October-January) temporarily change your strategy?
About 65% said the holiday time did change their strategy.
Interestingly, ~18% specifically mentioned that they become vigilant for bargains to be had when other collectors put up items suddenly, to raise money for their personal family gift-giving. This is definitely a condition specific to the holiday season.
The balance of respondents said the holidays had no effect on how they collect.

Do you slow down on acquisition/shopping for your collection, or amp it up due to holiday gifts of money that you spend on ceramics?
Slow down 35%
No change 24%
Plan to shop discounted hobbyist sales strategically 24%
Monetary gifts become model purchases 12%
No response or Other 5%

Do you decorate for the holidays?
Yes 59%

If you do, do you incorporate ceramic horse models in your holiday displays?
Only 53% purposefully incorporate ceramic horses (not static year-round cabinets) into their holiday decor. So, about 6% do holiday decoration, but models are not purposefully included.

Have you ever bought a ceramic horse model with the express purpose of using it for holiday decoration (examples: AA Christmas and Halloween models, HR horse & sleigh)?
There seemed to be some confusion over what sort of models I was asking about, although this survey was advertised only to ceramics collector circles. Some respondents said they purchase and decorate with plastic Holiday models, or ornaments (which are not model horses in the primary sense). 
The result of 47% calculates only for those who purposefully purchased ceramic Holiday-themed model horses for holiday display.

If you invite non-collector guests for the holidays, how do they react to your displays (holiday or everyday cabinet)?
Guests show no response 41%, whether because no one notices, or due to guests being acclimated to the homeowner's collecting habit.
Positive guest response was at 35%.
A cited negative guest response:
"Shouldn't your china dishes be in there?"

Are the holidays a hinderance to your collector activities, such as attending shows, or buying/selling on eBay?
No 47%
For Yes, results varied:
"nothing to do but watch eBay" 
"no shows, less selling"
"depends on work schedule, less energy to participate"
"more obligations"
"time & money reduced"
"nothing to buy"
On the bright side, "still go to shows", "my eBay sales increase", and "I save up for the UK china releases that always come at this time of year" were positive points of the holiday season for some ceramics collectors.


All of these ceramics, from vintage to current reissues and Special Runs,
 were for sale at Clinky Classic in November 2014.
A table like this is one big reason we go to model horse shows!
Ed & Sheri Alcorn's vending space.

Do you feel non-collectors give you "the hairy eyeball" at this time of year because you are a collector?
Boy, did I ever get this from both family and acquaintances. Family believe they know best for the collector. There may be expressed opinions that certain luxury items are actually necessities, compared to yet another model for a collection. I still would argue that cosmetics and couture are luxury items that can be dismissed in favor of a Grail for a collector. Those things lose value with time, and literally expire or fade, while many ceramics prove to be good investments, in the hands of a collector. There are also those who are unaware of (frequently kept private) charitable acts by the collector, and disapprove any visible non-essential acquisition during the season of giving. Those closest to the collector may know of their charity work and donations year-round, and would never disparage the few joys they allow for themselves, not even at Christmas.
No judgement upon the collector: 59%
Yes, there's that holiday "hairy eyeball": 18%
Emphatic, "at all times of year" disapproval: ~12%
No response: ~12%
(With rounding up figures, I realize that's 101%.)

Whether you welcome or dread the holiday season, this may show you what a handful of your fellow collectors experience. It may even give you insight into how they make the holidays work for their collecting habits. Maybe it's just comforting to know that they, too, cope with reactions from non-collectors. Go forward, and make it the best season, yet!