Sunday, September 2, 2012

Ball handles... the most amazing stuff!

In the 1960s Crown Lynn made cups like this - the handles were shaped like little golf balls.

 
They were designed by Dorothy Thorpe 'of California' a glassware designer whose clients included movie stars and the seriously rich. Tom Clark formed an alliance with her because he wanted to make a real design statement, partially to help Crown Lynn break into the American export market.  As well as the cups and saucers the Dorothy Thorpe Crown Lynn range included milk jugs: 
 
And a sugar bowl.


Of course they were totally impractical to use. Imagine actually drinking tea out of this cup.  The ball handles were not easy to hang onto and they dropped off occasionally. 


This is the Laguna design. I bought the set as a reward when I finished my first book. It cost about $300 at the time and would be worth more now. I love it, soft soft pale mossy green inside and mauve outside. There were other designs - Pine and Palm Springs (both by Crown Lynn designers) Brocade and the garish Monterey, handpainted in pink and yellow.

Here is a photo of some of Billy Apple's amazing collection at the exhibition in Auckland last year.  Note the coffee pot centre stage. Unfortunately it was crazily topheavy and few survive today. I don't own one, wish I did. (Though imagine the stress of looking after it!)


 The Crown Lynn staff hated making this stuff, though in retrospect they talked about it with pride.  At first the ball handles drove them nuts because they exploded in the kiln, but then they hit on the idea of putting a tiny hole in the base of each ball to release the pressure.  Dorothy Thorpe had exacting standards. Previously backstamps had been literally stamped on; she insisted that each one be applied as a separate transfer. Which was much tidier but sometimes the transfers folded up and came out like this:
 
 
Most of the ball handled ware was exported, but defective pieces such as this were sold in the seconds shops. When the range was released in NZ the ball handles were ditched and a more conservative shaped handle adopted, though the wide flat saucers and wide cup shapes were retained. 
 
Sadly the Dorothy Thorpe range was not a huge export success. She didn't have the US marketing networks that Crown Lynn expected, and the ball handles were probably just a bit too eccentric to sell well. The two New Zealand designs, Pine and Palm Springs, were adapted further and sold in New Zealand as standard shaped dinner sets for many years. Pine (below) is sought after, Palm Springs less so because it is more common.
 
 
Even in the good old days you hardly ever saw a ball handled item in a second hand shop. This is my sad story:  When I was collecting things to photograph for my book George and I went up north for a junk shop weekend. Back in Auckland, I showed him a photo of  a ball handled cup.  And this is what he said:  'Hey I didn't realise that was Crown Lynn.  There was one in that junk shop in Kerikeri.  Didn't you see it?'   
 
No I didn't see it. Oh well no doubt it made someone else very happy.
 
Take care
ValM

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


11 comments:

  1. This is a most enjoyable read - informative, educational and amusing. Looking forward to the next installment. Cousin Lesley

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    1. Thanks Lesley. I intend to update once a week, so there's lots more to come!

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  2. As a student in Auckland in the 1980s I went to a junk shop where the Sky Tower now is. There was a complete Palm Springs set (with coffee pot) for $30.

    ... I bought a $10 cafetiere instead.

    (although, travelling in California about ten years later I didn't make the same mistake with a Pine coffee pot)

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    1. Have you still got the Pine coffee pot, if so, well done. They really are like hen's teeth, mainly because they're so wobbly I guess.

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  3. Yes, still got it. They really are a totally useless design. Not only are they top heavy, but the pedestal base is not separated from the round "chamber" so not only are they are very difficult to pour from, the coffee in the pedestal base cools down very fast due to the large surface area to volume ratio.

    On the ball handles exploding, I was always lead to believe that it wasn't that they didn't realise they needed a small hole to allow the air to escape when firing (this is something potters have known for centuries)but that the glaze used to run down the ball handle and block the hole, causing them to explode.

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  4. I have a pine sugar bowel & milk jug, brought from the factory shop in Otahuhu in the late 1960's. The jug does not have the ball handle. It has a more traditional handle but I brought it because I loved the colours.

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  5. I love that pattern too. A a lot of the Dorothy Thorpe sold in NZ had the more traditional handle. Pine and its sister pattern Palm Springs were actually designed by Crown Lynn's designer David Jenkin, but marketed under the Dorothy Thorpe brand.

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  6. I have Florence 6x large plates, 8x bowls, 6x saucers, 8x side plates. They are in very good condition

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    1. Thanks very much Sereana, I had a good response when I first asked for Florence, and tempting as if find this, I have enough now. It is a fairly rare pattern so if you put it on TradeMe someone will be glad to have it.

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  7. Hi val i note your address putaruru i have a 3 faces of eve cl lamp in putaruru came across this site researching gold fleur British dinner set just purchased unfortunately no cups

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  8. Hi Jocelyn, nice to hear from you. We lived in Putauru for a couple of years but moved to Whangarei just over a year ago... it's warmer but wetter up here! Well done for having a 3 faces of eve lamp base, they are very rare. I have only ever seen a couple. And Gold Fleur is not common either, you never know, the cups might turn up one day! All the best.

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