Monday, May 19, 2014

Muddy Monday: Collector Gatherings

Alternate Title: How To Have Fun Without A Show Nucleus

I will intersperse personal experiences with the tips on how to organize it. Rather than a report that might inspire envy, the aim is to encourage you to arrange your own gathering, in your own neighborhood. The intent of collector gatherings is not to replace shows. If anything, it augments one's overall hobby experience. The pressure and crowding of a show is not for everyone. There are some friends I only get to see in this tour setting, because it is within their comfort level.

1. Select a geographic region that has several collectors willing to have visitors view their private collections. This is your gathering's range. Some areas of this country have four or five, all within an hour of each other.

To further qualify stops on the tour, it is most convenient if the selected collections are all out on display. Even if their collections aren't unpacked or displayed, the collectors themselves may want to participate on the tour as visitors, which is fine. It's not ideal to go box by box, although it has been done before without damage. Comfort levels are much better for everyone when the collections are behind glass and don't need to be touched.

I feel that gatherings are a fantastic way to learn, and to find new material to share with you, via this blog. I currently participate in one annual tour in the DC area. I already host a ceramics show every so often, but a multi-collection tour has a whole different vibe to it. It's an addition to the hobby experience that I love so much, I just want to make more of them happen.

2. Ideally, there is a percentage of overlap between collection foci within the tour, so that there is a chance to see variants of some editions, while also seeing the works of multiple manufacturers and artists.

For example, the DC tour has collectors with overlap in collecting Hagen-Renaker, bone chinas, European porcelains, artist resins, animal art, and custom glazes. Individuals also have unique flavors they bring to the tours, such as sci-fi and fantasy art, Native American art, canine artifacts and collectibles, bronzes, dolls, glass, and even Tiki mugs. 

3. To get everyone out together and seeing the sights, replace a show/competition with another event: a birthday celebration; an antiques show; a flea market weekend; a real horse farm tour or show.

A gathering or tour doesn't need an event to give it a reason, but it does help if everyone can get the time off from work for the same days. If weather does not permit attending an outdoor event, pick a home where everyone can meet.

4. Invite new people to participate. It's not a better gathering if it has record attendance, but it is nice to hear new opinions and see different things.

There will always be an ebb and flow of the participants each year, as their personal schedules allow. Generally speaking, those who are interested in getting together to learn and see collections tend to be over the age of 18, so we've had no concerns of liability for damage caused by a minor. We are all adults, and aware that we are personally responsible for our actions or accidents. If you start a tour, you may wish to generate a liability release and parent/guardian responsibility document if minors will be included. I only mention this because I was interested in ceramics as a minor, so there may be others out there. However, it is doubtful that grabby infants and toddlers, young children, or even adults who can't keep hands off of stuff, will be invited to such breakable events.

5. Each person is bringing their unique perspective, experiences, "sightings in the wild" of collectibles, and their items for show & tell. It's important to take turns and let everyone have the floor.

6. This sounds silly, but learn from my repeated error: carry throat lozenges. With like-minded people and no rushing to and from judging tables, you will talk a lot more than usual. You may lose your voice after a couple days of this.

7. Get an idea of everyone's food preferences and dietary restrictions in advance, so it's easier to choose restaurants or plan meals. Some gathering locales have more restaurant choices than others. Where I live is pretty limited without a minimum 30-minute drive!

8. Bring stuff. I 'd suggest bringing several types of things: gifts for everybody or personalized gifts for individuals; paper leave-behinds for future contact (business cards, etc.); show & tell from your personal collection that is best viewed in-person.

Even if you are flying to the destination, you can fit some vintage photos, or maybe photos burned on gift discs, buttons or medallions, business cards, etc. in your carry-on. Even though you are going to go see things, it's nice to bring things!

This reunion photo was possible only at a tour gathering.
These are three horses personally glazed by the sculptor, Maureen Love.
L-R: models courtesy Elizabeth Bouras, Jo Ellen Arnold, and Keith Bean.

9. Be ready to be happy and gain so much more from the gathering than you ever thought possible. You will learn new things. Mysteries will be solved by someone else's experiences that they never thought to mention before. You will see cool stuff, some of it stuff never seen by anyone but the owner. You will absolutely be surprised by something. You will wish you had a recording of it all, to play back at will.

Something unusual that you will get to see at a collection tour is a rare Hagen-Renaker family, or pair, together. As "collector's classes", a group entry of 8 or more models, have fallen out of fashion in favor of individual horse Collectibility qualifying, it is now unusual to see rare colors of families displayed together at shows. Tours are just full of them!

Models courtesy Janet Hicks.

10. Be super flexible. It takes flexibility from all parties to put together a weekend of three or more collections on a tour.

11. Mutual respect is expected, regarding photographs and any handling of collectibles. These are so important, especially in today's internet, and the sticky situations of liability for damage to handled items. If someone doesn't want to pose in a group photo, don't harry them. If they ask you to not photograph their collection or home, do not do it. It is the height of rudeness to post photos of someone's collection anywhere without their express permission. It is also grounds for exclusion from further tours. If someone gives you verbal permission to touch an item, it is OK. If none is given, the default setting is touch nothing. Don't fingerprint their glass, and don't try to open anything without asking for help.

At a show, there is tolerance for people asking if items are for sale, or what their value may be. In someone's private home, it is not cool to ask if something is for sale. Exceptions may be if the owner has told you "This group/cabinet is for sale", or you know that the owner is the source for the exact items via public sale (Special Run dealer or ceramist).

Some things are so rare and delicate that only the owner should touch them. If the owner is afraid to move the object, or move other items around it, don't press them. They know the delicacy of that particular piece best.

Model courtesy Elizabeth Bouras.

Shows are fun, but they are not the only reason to visit with friends and spend all day talking about the art and animals we love. Thank you, DC crew! The tour is the highlight of my year.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Muddy Monday: Post Position

My position on weekly posts: I must do them. There is too much cool pottery trivia coming to light (with the help of friends), so I will not take a hiatus during my annual trade show rush. As information and photos come up, I feel like it's my duty to share with you, and keep the positivity moving forward.

It is also horse racing season, and there just happens to be a related subject in ceramics. 

Maureen Love sketchbook images courtesy Share The Love.

This may be her closest sketch to the HR mold.
From Sketchbook Horses of Maureen Love, 1990.
This blog has the permission of the original publisher.

The Hagen-Renaker Designer's Workshop "Thoroughbred and Jockey", mold # B-760, is a wonderfully complex sculpture, with enormous decoration potential. I fancy it to be designer Maureen Love's best snapshot of suspended equine action, and the truest human figure work in her 3D portfolio. Sadly, few exist because it was so difficult to produce, and this was the highest-priced horse in the HR line, at the time. The original issue was produced during one factory season, Fall of 1962.

The only order form appearance of #B-760.
I'm delighted by the "orange" color note for Modern Horse!
From Benuish's HR Research Materials.

Original Hagen-Renaker advertising image.
Courtesy Nancy Falzone.

The McCall and Abelson books list the production colors as "grey, brown, and bay" with variable jockey's silks colors. Oddly, one sees more original issue chestnuts ("brown"), in both bisque and glazed, than the other colors.

Chestnut or "brown" factory glaze
Model courtesy Jo Ellen Arnold

The care that was taken to keep the silver luster overglaze from running over!
Chestnut or "brown" factory glaze
Model courtesy Jo Ellen Arnold

Chestnut or "brown" factory glaze
Note different decoration from chestnut, above.
Non-factory base.
Photo courtesy Black Horse Ranch/Peter Grimm

Bay factory glaze
Photo courtesy Black Horse Ranch/Peter Grimm
Note that the decoration does not match the bay in the HR photo, so this a different example.
Not original mold's base.

There was no specific horse identity tied to this model, unlike the other Thoroughbreds in the DW product line. They always carried the number 7 on the saddle cloth, but all I can guess is the significance was "Lucky Number Seven", a bettor's charm in horse racing.

From a moldmaking standpoint, this is a genius job. Look at how the jockey's whip hand has finger detail, and and it pulls from across the horse's back.

The jockey's face has emotion, ear and hair detail, and even crow's feet!

Chestnut or "brown" bisque
Photo courtesy Nancy Falzone
Non-factory base.

Chestnut or "brown" bisque
Photo courtesy Black Horse Ranch/Peter Grimm

Chestnut or "brown" bisque
Owned by Sharon Carabajal, photo courtesy Nancy Falzone

Chestnut or "brown" bisque
Owned by Simmie Smiljanic, photo courtesy Nancy Falzone

The rubs through the underglaze color, which we can see on the bisques above, are invisible on raw greenware. They are caused by laying the item down on surfaces, while switching grips or changing out airbrush colors. Modern studio potters have developed several techniques using padded materials to prevent these rubs. Underglaze is unforgiving, and you can't just patch rubs without darkening the entire area.

Now that you have seen how similar all those bisques are, here's an odd one from the personal collection of Maureen Love. It was sold in the first week of the estate dispersal auctions, starting May 22nd, 2005. The auction described it as PlastiCarve, Maureen's prototyping wax, but it isn't.

Acrylic custom base by Paul Francis.

How did this rare casting end up in Maureen's hands, if it is not a PlastiCarve wax? 

Well, the white slip color might indicate it was cast to be one of the gray horses, mentioned earlier. However, if it was intended for issue, it would have the same belly hole treatment as the others. The others have a filled pourhole and a vent hole punctured into the chest, or a completely unfilled pour hole. This one has a filled pour hole and a vent hole punched right in the belly, next to the pour hole.

It is a mold test casting, or, as known in other industries, a "test shot". It appears that the caster didn't know what to anticipate in terms of the mold's capacity and absorption, because it is a very thick casting. A mold's tendency-to-be-thick, or maybe tough to drain, is discovered with trial castings like this, and corrected for production (as much as possible).

Being so thick and heavy, it was laid down to bisque fire, which either caused or enhanced leg warpage. The initial warp could have been tugs from demolding, as they all are to the same direction. It wasn't an ideal casting for archiving as a mold insurance bisque, but Maureen was given imperfect or test castings to take home and glaze for her own fun. She never got around to decorating this one, perhaps because he lacked an original base?

Both the left foreleg and the left hindleg bow slightly inwards.

A little smaller size is to be expected.
Thicker castings shrink more.

Even with the hind legs raised off the base, the bisque is still shorter.

Model courtesy Jo Ellen Arnold

Then, this interesting race horse came my way. He is from the HR archives, a gift to a collector (now out of collecting) from Maxine Renaker, over two decades ago. The finish reportedly dates to the original issue of this mold. The breaks and ear chips are through his finish, so it was not applied after he was damaged. The slip color matches that of the chestnut bisques shown earlier in this post. 

It has the same unfilled pour hole as visible on the chestnut bisque owned by Sharon Carabajal, above. These points confirm that this earthenware body was pulled from the production line. As it resided in the HR archives for decades, it was probably decorated by an employee or family member.

Who is that? What is that? Is that glazed? Is that a stoneware by Maureen?

I feel a tug at my heart that this reveal may disappoint readers: as much as the surface decoration resembles a Maureen Love stoneware, this is acrylic paint on earthenware bisque. This photo even shows the thick brushstrokes. The overall style and novelty of this piece would lead one to think that maybe Maureen painted it, but with a little sleuthing and a personal experience, I can tell you why she did not paint this rare bisque.

Clue #1: Painted teeth.

While at a BOYC ceramic show, Laurilyn and Maureen invited me out to the car, to show me their progress on my "Gig" Thoroughbred order. He was nestled in the trunk, well, more like taking up a lot of it... I asked Maureen if she would be decorating his teeth, inside his open mouth. She was quite adamant that the teeth should never be decorated because it is too distracting. If there are any Gigs out there with teeth, I'd be surprised, after her reaction!

Beyond that personal experience, I would venture to say that Maureen knew better than to paint horse teeth like a solid human tooth array. She would have left the bars of his mouth open and toothless!

Clue #2: Eyes painted outside the lines, and uneven eye scleras.

A collector might find these errors in fired glazes, where the materials are difficult to apply and see raw. The glazes may melt and spread over surfaces during firing. However, an experienced hand with all decoration media- oils, glazes, stains- would not make this error with such an easy-to-use paint as acrylics.

Clue #3: The "stoneware" mimicry stops dead at the jockey's face. 

A soft, realistic decoration makes up his face. Maureen's stoneware riders (Indian on Pony) showed no such sudden break in the decoration style. The dark antiquing continued into their faces. This soft, realistic jockey is uncharacteristic of her riders with this type of stain.

Indian on Pony MLO stoneware figures.

Even though he clearly was not painted by the original designer, and not a factory-glazed piece, this custom painted bisque is still a cool piece of HR history, and worthy of display. A horse can't stand on just two legs, so there was the problem of replacing the missing limbs. Fortunately, the white bisque Racehorse and Jockey was here, so I used it as the reference to sculpt the replacement limbs. I used calipers to measure how much leg was needed for each. This told me how long to make the steel pins that would serve as the armatures for the new legs.

Drilling and pinning steel for the replacement legs.
The glue shows the bisque chestnut color when wet.

With Aves epoxy, I generated new limbs that were line-for-line copies of the white bisque casting. Even where a mold tug or unfinished seam ran through the white bisque, I recreated the look on the epoxy limbs. This was a good exercise in sculpting what was in front of my eyes, using someone else's 3D solutions, and not sculpting as I would for myself. 

I mixed up paint to copy the red underpainting, then other colors for the dark over-painting or antiquing. Finally, he was sealed and a couple applied layers of pastels recreated the years of varnish and dust embedded in the finish. This final bit made the legs "believable" as part of him, since I can't clean him without damaging the finish.

After all that, he can run with pride again.

The story of this mold does not stop there. In 2009, the DW model was reissued in a variety of made-to-order color options. With so few original issue in collector hands, this was an exciting option for collectors. Add to that excitement the fact that it could be ordered in an array of horse and silks colors!

HR Reissue Racehorse

Silks Color



Dark Chestnut

Dapple Gray

Rose Gray

Other Gray*
















The two charcoals were made with different mane and tail colors. The one with blue silks has black mane/tail, while the red silks has white.

Both dapple grays are Tests.

In the Other Gray category, the two red silks are Light Gray with white mane and tail. The blue silks has black mane and tail. The green's hair color is unspecified at time of post.

Reissue Rose Grays, photo courtesy Ed Alcorn.

Reissue Dark (left) and regular Chestnut, photo courtesy Ed Alcorn.

Reissue Charcoals, photo courtesy Ed Alcorn.

Reissue Test Dapple Grays, photo courtesy Ed Alcorn.

The issue price was $500, which was the upper level of the reissue range at the time (a parallel with the original issue's circumstance). Only 18 were made, alas, succumbing to similar technical and expense difficulties that complicated the original issue. The reissues were opened for orders during the same BreyerFest weekend as the reissue DW "Maverick". I got to see the brand-new factory samples of both in Gerry Bowman's room. Guess which one I chose to order? Yes, I am kicking myself, now. 

You might hear collectors refer to this DW mold as the "Racehorse and Jockey". This can cause confusion with the smaller HR Specialties "Racehorse With Jockey", mold # 3297. This Maureen Love design debuted in Spring of 1999, sporting a bay horse color and salmon silks. This design is also a complicated ceramic figure, in that the jockey is cast separate, and has opening in his hands to hold the crop and the reins in final assembly. The reins are thread, and have been issued in both brown and black thread. Later issues have pale pink, blue, and iridescent green racing silks.

Specialties "Racehorse With Jockey",
photo courtesy Ed Alcorn.

Left: Specialties "Racehorse With Jockey"
Right: Designer's Workshop "Thoroughbred and Jockey"

While it may be difficult to acquire the DW mold due to its few numbers, the Specialties mold can easily be found for sale. It's nice that HR made the design available in a handy and affordable size, to enhance our collections.

Well, I have breezed through this post, it's time to run!


Dawn Sinkovich/Share The Love and Joan Berkwitz for blog permission for various Love sketches.

Jo Ellen Arnold for her great hospitality, and allowing me to photograph her lovely show model, "Santa Anita", an original issue chestnut Thoroughbred and Jockey.

Nancy Falzone and Jo Ellen Arnold for their combined efforts to track down the quantities of the reissue colors, as well as Nancy's vintage photos of the original issues.

Ed Alcorn, for the continued permission to use his HR Online Museum photos on my blog.

Peter Grimm, for sharing Karen's wonderful photos.


Abelson, Cheryl Ann. Hagen-Renaker Collector's Catalog. Second edition. Page 40 and plate #58. Privately published: Howard Beach, NY: 1980. 

Alcorn, Ed. Web site. Maureen Love Estate Auctions.

Benuish, Alison, ed. Hagen-Renaker Research Materials: 1949- Present. N. pag. Salisbury, MD: WMHC, 1995. (order form)

Berkwitz, Joan, ed. Sketchbook Horses of Maureen Love. Privately published: Carlsbad, CA 1990.

Falzone, Nancy. pers. comm. May 12, 2014.

McCall, Jeannie. The Hagen-Renaker Horse Reference Guide. Page 76-77. Teena Housman: 1988.

Roller, Gayle. Hagen-Renaker: A Charlton Standard Catalogue. Third Edition. Pp. 87, 492. The Charlton Press: Palm Harbor, FL, 2003.