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Thursday, August 22, 2013

Women -- California Potteries 1930's thru 1960's

At the turn of the twentieth century, many artists journeyed to California to live and work. The warm climate brought people from around the world as well as across the country to find their golden dream in the entertainment industry and the arts. When it came to the ceramic art/pottery movement Southern California was a major influence. Because of the state's close ties to Mexico, Central America, and the Asian countries a strong influence was exerted on the function and design of many products. Through the years, hundreds of ceramic studios and factories were established, this blog post is just going to cover a few of the ones which seem to be very collectible today. In our region they are not always recognized or desired, but to many worldwide they are much desired.
As with most businesses of the era, these pottery factories or studios, were run by men with male chemists, designers, and production formen. Women were normally assigned the tasks of painting dinnerware or decroating figures and little else.

This post is in honor of the women potters of the time that really stood out then, and still do today in the collectible market.

These figures are from California Potters but unmarked. You have to do alot of research to identify the unmarked pieces but all the styles of the time are similar in style as far as facial features, the colors of glazes used, and subject matter. So it is easy to indentify a piece as being California Pottery but discovering which potter created the piece is sometimes difficult. 

                                   Florence Ceramics   1939 till 1964

Florence Ceramics  Oriental Couple
Florence Ceramics was created in 1939 when a dynamic woman named Florence Ward set up a kiln and decided to take up modeling clay figures partly as therapy for the death of her youngest son. She displayed her early works in her garage and her amazed friends urged her to start her own business. As the news of her fantastic work spread she soon had orders for 84 pieces. Florence set up her business and in 1948 moved The Florence Ceramics Company to a large facility in Pasadena, California where it remained until 1964, when the plant was sold to Scripto. From 1939 to 1964 Florence Ward was the sole designer for the many figurines that were produced by the Florence Ceramics Company. Her innovative designs were sold through fine jewelry and department stores and even established a following overseas. In the 1960s the Lefton Company copied many of Florence Ward's designs and used overseas labor to reproduce them. Florence Ceramics won several copyright infringement battles against Lefton but the Lefton Company simply modified their figures and continued to market them. These cheaper imitations were the downfall of the Florence Ceramic Company.
Kay Finch  1938 until 1963
Godey Fashion Couple, there are different sizes, styles, and color combinations for these particular figures.
 The inspiration for these were the famous Godey Fashion magazine ads of the Victorian Age.

Unmarked adorable squirrel attributed to Kay Finch
She is considered a pioneer in several ways for she was not only a member of a select group of female ceramic artists but was also successful in almost every venture she ever undertook. Exhitbiting artistic flair at a very young age, she was encouraged to develop her talent by her parents and school teachers. Considered to create from the heart, and understood and loved by the public whom took her to its heart. Enter a gift shop anywhere and you will find humorous, elegant, thought provoking collectibles with charm and detail. Kay Finch pioneered in this field with animals and angels these figures topped the best seller chart for two decades and further proved the woman was ahead of her time. Her creations had a whimsical side in their design but careful inspection will testify that they are true works of art. That is why collectors seek her work still today.
Hedi Schoop  1933 til 1958 
Oriental Female Water Carrier
One of the most talented (and imitated) artists working in California in the 1940s and 1950s was Hedwig “Hedi” Schoop (1906-1996). She designed and modeled almost every piece in her line. Though her ceramic creations include vases, plates, bowls, ashtrays and other forms, Schoop’s figurines of men and women are the most popular with collectors. 

In 1933, Hedi Schoop fled Nazi Germany with her husband, composer Freidrich Hollander, and immigrated to Hollywood, Calif. Schoop amused herself by creating figural plaster dolls dressed in fashions of the day. Upon successfully showing them at the Barker Brothers department store in Los Angeles, Schoop switched to the more permanent slip-cast ceramic medium and opened a small Hollywood studio where she produced and sold her creations. Hedi Schoop’s creations are often figures caught in motion – with arms extended, skirts aflutter, heads bowed – and serve a purpose in addition to decoration. She designed shapely women with skirts that flared out to create bowls and women with arms over their heads holding planters. She also produced charming, bulky-looking women with thick arms and legs.When TV lamps became popular, Schoop used her talents to create them in the form of roosters, Art Deco Tragedy and Comedy masks, and elegant women in various poses.
A fire destroyed the Schoop pottery in 1958, at which time she sold many of her molds and did some freelance work for other California companies.Schoop retired from working full-time as a ceramic designer in the early 1960s, but her talents would not let her retire from art completely; she focused on her painting throughout her semi-retirement, which lasted until she died in 1995.
The photos included in this post are some of the items we have available in our shop. For more information and photos of these artists works there are very good reference books out there. These few pictures and styles provided do not touch the surface of the scope and style of the products they produced.


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Cast Iron -- A Love Affair

The Early Iron Age, following that of the Bronze, is regarded as 1500 B.C. to A.D. 100, the period in our civilization when iron weapons and tools were introduced. Bronze was available only to the ruling classes; when iron came along it was available to everyone.

Cast iron is iron or a ferrous alloy which has been heated until it liquefies, and is then poured into a mould to solidify. SO  because it liquefies, it can be poured into molds and be mass produced, everything imagineable has been made of cast iron, weapons, tools, cookware, furniture, clocks, toys, nick-nacks, etc. It is still being manufactured today because of its flexibility and strength.

Victorian Mantle Clock
Industrial Pulley

Toy Truck

Outdoor Bench

This blog post is about cast iron collectibles from the Victorian Era and forward, of which there are many different catagories. Iron was used for everything imagineable because it was less expensive than other metals and extremley durable.

Wrought iron was fashioned by hand - heated, hammered, and beaten into forms. The transition from wrought to cast iron evolved gradually from increasing labor costs and a shortage of professional craftsmen who could rapidly turn out quality items in volume.

The 1830's through the mid 1850's has been called the "Great Era of Cast Iron". Victorians couldn't seem to get enough fanciful castings in truly intricate and beautiful patterns, using them indoors and out.  Thus a "Love Affair" began.

Foundries were hard pressed to supply innumerable neccessities while also trying to concentrate on the fancy appendages and furniture. Walls of kitchens were literally lined with cast iron cooking vessels. In the photo above an entire cast iron stove and fireplace built as one, with fancy iron trim surrounding.

Catalog page for furniture pieces
By 1845 cast iron building frames and bridges were produced. The cast iron furniture was made for both indoors and out and included lawn ornaments such as animals. Many castings represented classical Greek and Roman motifs, actual and mythological, flowing drapery, flora, and fona. Because of durability many of these items still exist today.

Cast Iron Pillars

The following photos are just to show you the variety of items made, some are practical items, some are decorative, and some were needed.

Match Safe

Grate covers

Window Grill


Tractor Seat

Lamb Food Mold

Water Pump

Shoe Stretcher

Mortat & Pestle
Bulldog Doorstop





Childs Toy Stove

Garden Urn

Fence Fenial

We always have plenty of cast iron items available for sale so come by and check us out sometime.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Simple Useful Practical and Attractive

Well what the heck is it? Hint, it has to do with flies/insects! The antique ones are hand blown or a two piece molded pressed glass. This one shows a cork as a stopper on top and an opening at the bottom where the glass goes inward leaving a well for a liquid such as sugar water (in the Victorian era people used milk mixed with arsenic). It can be found in many sizes and colors of glass. Some are found with metal tops or a decorative glass stopper for a closure (most had cork stoppers) and some have a wire bail to hang by. They were made in different shapes and sizes, usually have feet on the bottom for elevation and easy entry, or somewhat warped on bottom, and the top is covered. If they do not have feet, they were made for hanging only with a wire bail attached.

Have you figured out what they are yet?

They could hang in a tree, be found on the porch, or sit on a table in the house.
They are fly/insect traps.
The genius is their simplicity, extremely useful for catching the pests, practical because they can be used anywhere, and when displayed in an area with the light shining through they are attractive.
The fly,bee, or any flying insect attracted to sweet nectar, will enter at the bottom hole, and the hole is just the right size so that you wouldn't catch larger bugs such as moths. They will then drink from the liquid in the bottom well. When they decide to leave apparently they only fly sideways and upward, not downward, and not back the way they came in through the bottom. Doom 
Interesting huh?
The photos above show the bottle shaped traps which are from the 1900's. Earlier forms are usually in two pieces and shaped differently. In the early 1900s, there were many "bottle" fly traps that were apparently made from bottle molds. These pieces have definite mold marks, molded lips and simply appear to be bottles with the bottom pushed in.
 These are still being made today because of the genius and simplicity involved. Only experience in recognizing the difference in old versus new glass can help you determine if you have found an antique bottle or a brand new version. You will usually not find a new one that is hand blown but that doesn't mean they are not out there.
For some history -- Many of the Victorian fly traps (1890's) were either blown by art glass makers or they were two-piece pressed glass contraptions.

An older blown glass fly trap. Note the blown glass stopper.

Dome shaped Victorian flint glass, pressed, two-piece fly trap, patent dated 1890.




Close up of fly finial.

Pressed glass fly trap with fly finial.


The "Unique Fly Trap" has a 1914 patent date, an inserted fly screen cone and a tin lid. This is a blown-molded piece and some examples do not have the patent day, just Pat. Appl'd.

So, the next time a fly is in your house, you might wish you had one of these on a table to attact it, instead of running around with a fly swatter trying to get it.