Monday, June 15, 2015

Mystery Molds Mega News

I'm excited. Are you? Five years of research and active hunting on my part, even longer for other dedicated collectors.

In 2010, I began publishing all the information I could glean about the Mystery models by Maureen Love. Not produced by Hagen-Renaker nor her own studio pottery, they were clearly mass-produced by an unknown source. The pursuit mattered because so many of us admire her works, and it seemed such a shame that some of her largest sculptures should be forever lost to obscurity. This blog hosted wistful, bright-eyed musings on the eventual discovery of identifiable mold markings or stickers, the only ways to completely identify a factory name.

In the past couple years, it has become apparent that her unidentified works, including those in their first versions- closest to her hand- were produced by more than one California pottery. My primary focus was the Mystery Horse saga, which turned out to have connections to Lane Ceramics and Marcia of California. Suddenly, other animals glazed by Maureen (dispersed via her estate) began to take on new significance as Mystery molds, as their mass-produced contemporaries appeared in auctions and antique shops. The best I could assume was that both/either pottery producing her horses also made these animals. They were clearly made in the same California pottery tradition, at the same time.

This year, Dawn Sinkovich and I have made some exciting new discoveries. Dawn's own words of how she found a new pottery identity andnew Love molds can be read here. Thanks to Dawn's pottery name discovery, I was able to identify a previously unknown Love mold, as well. That story is a little further on, in this post.

OK, so the back-patting continues, bear with me. You all know I have terrible luck finding anything "in the wild", so it is no exaggeration to say that the factory-finish Love rooster on eggplate was my greatest Find. I still get goosebumps realizing it was there, at eye-level, in my town, waiting to be seen by the one person curating its only known example. 

Left: previously the only known example, from The Margo Potheau collection
Right: my Find

That discovery led to an exciting year of searching for more online, and sharing those rooster purchase links with the Muddy Hoofprints audience, as I found them. 

I still hunt for them, and this month, it paid off in an exciting new way: I located one for sale, with its original factory sticker. Not only that, but it was slipstuck (assembled) with a plate I had not seen before. This time, the rooster was on a leaf ashtray. I knew immediately that this was the one for Dawn, as she has been searching for a Love rooster factory item since its discovery. She'd always been 5 minutes too late, every time I linked one. I sent her the link to this stickered example, and the rest is history.

photo from eBay

The ashtray rooster is definitely the same manufacturer. The character and idiosyncrasies of the production is the same as on my eggplates. During the glost firing, the white glaze of the rooster follows gravity, and oozes into the color glaze of the ware beneath it. The speckles in the white glaze are new to me!

photo from eBay

The rooster is not glued on, he's slipstuck and glazed on, which makes the glaze run possible. This is why I am confident in identifying the Maureen Love crowing Rooster (with whatever functional ware he is paired) as produced by Belmar of California. Yes, the plate molds are sometimes found with other molded figures in a variety of finishes by at least two other potteries. However, since this white, featureless rooster repeats, and the fact that Belmar did a lot of leaf-themed ware...  those points seal the deal for me. Maureen's rooster never shows up with those other potteries' stickers (or has not, yet).

photo from eBay

A short-lived California pottery, Belmar was located in Los Angeles. The years 1965-1967 are given as its operation lifespan. However, I have no information on whether they sold their molds to other potteries upon their closing, or how much ware went to distributors at the time of factory closure.

This is not to be confused with any of the Ohio potteries: Bel-Mar (1950); BelMar China Co. (1912); nor Bel-Mar pottery Co. (1932-1935). Being in Ohio, and in those years, none of those fit for Maureen. We are talking California pottery, Belmar of Los Angeles.

With the data we have already amassed, it is understood that this is just one more company Maureen free-lanced for, not the only one. 


What about the other discovery I hinted at? Dawn's factory ID made it possible for me to do my own searches, and I located this next treasure.

The Chinese or Golden Pheasant was a popular exotic bird in decoration motifs of the Mid Century. Some might mistake such figures for a weird art stylization of a regular pheasant, but it is its own species. Here are some of Maureen's sketches of the bird.

Photos courtesy HR On-Line Museum web site/Maureen Love Estate auctions week 16

And here is Maureen's heretofore unknown, giant sculpture of the bird. When I say, "giant", I mean, it is dwarfed only by certain herons in the Maureen Love Originals pottery line. This Golden Pheasant is 11" tall by 18" long, and if straightened out, the tail would bring it to 25" long.

Maureen's shorthand for feathers, using cuts or scoops in the surface of the model, is evident in this design, as well as her other identified birds for the same company, and in her own studio pottery! This style sets her birds apart from other designs in the same company's product line (the peacock is not Maureen's). She also did an interesting eye disc technique, to suggest the pale iris and dark pupil of a bird. It almost looks like a metal washer, floating on the surface. There is also a wave-like ridge on both sides of the breast and wings, present on other birds she designed for this company.

Even the base design fits with the other free-lance models she did at the time, for other companies. For more about this newly discovered pottery brand, read this post at Share The Love.

Isn't this a lovely crackle glaze? There is even a hint of iridescence (not overglaze luster) to it. It is not the only handsome art glaze used by this pottery.

I realize that in sharing our discoveries with the wider collecting world, Dawn & I have just made collecting these that much harder on ourselves. Directly, prices will climb and these Love auctions will now be on everyone's radar. At the same time, neither of us can bear the idea of so much of her work- and really interesting, large-scale pieces, at that- going to the dump or being passed over for lack of information. If you use the data for your own searches and successes, please pay it forward, and educate others.