Sunday, October 28, 2012

A symphony in ginger!

The other day I dug out some of my original Crown Lynn collection. A disturbingly huge array of ginger mugs, more correctly known as honey glaze. There is also the occasional ginger jug, and of course this kitchen canister, a real classic. It came in various sizes with matching jug and mugs.
Honey glaze ware was made in the Titian factory (owned by Crown Lynn), mainly in the 1970s.
I started collecting these mugs at 50c or even 20c each, as a bit of a joke. I thought they were ugly. Then my friends started buying them for me and now I have three boxes full... But fortunately I have seen the light and now I love them. Look at the lovely glow of the glaze,  they are actually quite well made and have their own beauty.

I also have this jug, once hidden in a top cupboard in George's house. It's a classic Crown Lynn shape, jaunty and cute. You see this shape decorated with all sorts of transfers and glazes, utilitarian but also with its own charm. It's 11 cm tall.

Then there's the Ballins jug. A bit collectible for historic reasons but they must have made lots because they're not that hard to find. There is also a plain honey glaze version of this jug. The commemorative version was issued to all Ballins staff in 1978 to mark the company's first 100 years.
Each jug came with a certificate. 
Ballins was bought out by Coca-Cola in 1975.  Anyway. That's a diversion. Here are a couple more of my ginger mugs for you to enjoy.

I particularly like the way the glaze thins out on the raised parts of these patterns which creates lovely highlights. This beer stein (slightly taller than the rest and not so common) is especially outstanding.
For the record, the base of these mugs looks like this:

Or more occasionally like this - the Titianware mark. Both of these marks were used on products from the Titian factory after it was progressively bought out by Crown Lynn in the mid-1960s. Each shape had a different number.
Re value, these mugs are still easy to find but the price has crept up a little. Expect to pay around $5, though you can often pick them up for less. Look out for chips and cracks. They are more fragile than most other Crown Lynn.
More next week
Take care

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Early days: Doris and Harry Bird

This sugar bowl is one of my favourite pieces of Crown Lynn.  I also have the matching teapot and milk jug.
The set is quite small, this sugar bowl is about 10 cm tall and 15 wide. It was hand painted by Doris Bird in the 1950s.   I found it at the Browns Bay market.  Doris Bird's daughter Gina tells me that she was the only decorator at Crown Lynn who was able to do this design – which is one continuous squiggly line. The technique originated in England, and English-made items with the same design also turn up occasionally.

Doris Bird and her husband Harry were two of the many many people who contributed to the success of Crown Lynn. Both left jobs in English potteries in 1948 and emigrated to New Zealand with their young family to work at the fledgling Crown Lynn pottery. Harry was a warehouseman and Doris a hand painter and decorator.

Until they - and other English experts - arrived, Crown Lynn had been struggling with decoration.  Tom Clark's team had developed trickle glazing to a fine art, as this was the only means of decoration available to them.  During the war they couldn’t import English-made transfers – and in any case they didn’t know how to apply them. As soon as possible after the war ended, Tom employed experts from English potteries, and very quickly the product moved from this:

To this:

The outline of the floral design on this plate was a transfer applied with a roller. The dark blue outline was then hand coloured by Doris. Lastly, a coat of clear glaze was applied and it was fired in the kiln. 
The newly recruited (also English) modellers and mould makers created finer and more elegant products along the lines of the English potteries. Many were decorated by Doris, including this early coffee pot (1950s) which is particularly special as she signed it. It is from around the mid-1950s.
Decorating with gold was especially difficult – if the kiln was too hot the painstakingly applied gold would vaporise and disappear; not hot enough and it failed to stick.  The 'gold' decorations were actually black when first applied and turned gold when heated during the firing process.  Even in those days, gold was very valuable; discarded brushes were burned to retrieve it. 
Thanks to their family I have photos of Harry and Doris. Here is Doris hand painting the Toby jugs made by Crown Lynn in the 1950s.
This picture of Harry was taken at his retirement in 1970:
At that time Crown Lynn staff often decorated chamber pots as gifts for farewells, birthdays etc. Very, very occasionally these oddities turn up for sale – complete with silly poems and slightly ‘off’ jokes.

Both Harry and Doris made a very positive contribution to Crown Lynn. They courageously came to the other side of the world to work for a very new and primitive enterprise. Harry brought order to the rather chaotic warehousing systems and was soon promoted to grading manager, monitoring the quality of the factory's output. Doris, along with other newly employed English experts, added a new level of elegance to the previously rather primitive products. By 1953 Doris was assistant to head designer David Jenkin. After taking up this role much of her work involved decorating one-off samples.
Below is another example of  Doris's work – an elaborate ‘loving cup’ created to commemorate the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. It was designed by New Zealand born designer David Jenkin and English modeller Peter Cooke. Hand potter Ernest Shufflebotham made it, and Doris applied the decoration. Ernest came from England to work at Crown Lynn in 1948, the same year as Harry and Doris. He created hundreds if not thousands of lovely white vases – but that’s a story for another time.
More next week

Saturday, October 13, 2012

TradeMe Prices!

I have made some changes to my blog layout which should make it easier to use. On the top right hand corner (above the heavy black line) is a search box. On the right below the black line there are some new little pop-ups - the one at the top has links to two extremely useful websites that I refer to all the time.

There's also a 'subscribe' tab which you can set up so you are automatically advised of new posts.

Anyway, moving on... the other day I saw this cute little Smurfs mug in an antique shop. It was priced at $45 which I decided not to pay.
This mug is 1980s Crown Lynn and sadly for me, the Smurfs and Crown Lynn are an expensive combination at present.
McAlpine jugs are also trendy. They were made by Crown Lynn, probably in the late 1950s/early 1960s. This jug has just sold on TradeMe for $3010. No that's not a typo... we're talking thousands, not hundreds! It is an unusual colour but even so.... this sale caused a bit of comment among traders. Other McAlpine jug colours are white (the most common), dark blue, green and yellow.  
These pics are lifted off TradeMe, hence of varying quality, but you will get the general idea I hope. A hint for TradeMe sellers - try placing your object in clear light against a neutral background and you will be amazed at the difference in your photos.

Since I wrote about the surprisingly high sale price for the colourglaze cup and saucer, I have realised that plum colourglaze is quite special - this jug went for $230!!!!!
But not everything goes for high prices. Here is an ashtray made, I believe, in the 1950s.  It is terracotta, which is very rare for Crown Lynn, and hand potted with the classic old Crown Lynn star and tiki mark on the base. And it went for $10.50, which is ridiculously cheap. I had to tie my hands behind my back to avoid bidding.
This next item, also an ashtray, sold for $357. It's part of the Wharetana Ware souvenir range, one of the most sought after Crown Lynn products. Wharetana Ware was made in the late 1940s and early 1950s, for a relatively short period. It was a real benchmark of quality at the time and understandably attracts a high price today. 
Then there's Fiesta Ware.. which is fiercely trendy at present. I gave up bidding on these desert bowls at about $30, they finally went for $37.
But there are some inflated expectations on TradeMe. This cup (without saucer) was listed at $250 starting price and didn't even get a nibble. Air New Zealand ware is quite valuable but this seller has possibly overstepped the mark. 
More next weekend

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Recognise this? #2

Autumn Splendour...
Green Bamboo...
Fashion Rose...
Golden Fall...
Aaaannnddd Shasta Daisy!
If you're aged anywhere between 50 and 100 you will remember these patterns only too well. They first hit our shops in 1959 and Autumn Splendour was Crown Lynn's best selling pattern for most of the next 10 years. Green Bamboo wasn't far behind.

They are mass produced lithographs from a New York supplier, chosen because they were attractive and middle-of-the-road. Crown Lynn used them to launch its 'replacement series' - when you broke a plate you could buy a single replacement rather than an entire new dinner set. This scheme proved immensely popular and was extended into many other patterns over the next few years.

This is what the mark on the base looks like. Classic Crown Lynn.

Autumn Splendour and Green Bamboo are far and away the most common of this series, though they are often damaged as the decoration is easily scratched. Today Fashion Rose has quite a following, as does Shasta Daisy.  And as for Golden Fall... well it was reasonably popular at the time but doesn't ignite much passion today!  My photo above shows a later variation of the pattern - the initial plates did not have the yellow band.

In its later desperate years in the late 1970s-1980s Crown Lynn had a lot of surplus stock which was decorated with whatever was available then sold through the 20-odd seconds shops. That's why you get oddities like this:
A plain 'Apollo' plate has been dotted with small Autumn Splendour lithographs to make it look a bit different. Like much of the ware sold in the seconds shops in the latter years this plate carries no mark on its base at all. However its shape, weight and decoration clearly identifies it as Crown Lynn.

More next weekend
Take care till then