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!


*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!


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

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!