Monday, December 24, 2012

My favourite things...

This week I was going to write a carefully thought out and serious pre-Xmas post but instead we went camping with the grandchildren.  Then we went camping without the grandchildren to recover!
So today I did a bit of a wander round our house with the camera and picked out a few of my favourite things.. first up is our new Ming dinner set, a lucky TradeMe buy at $45. Ming was designed in the 1980s by Percy Golding. He is very proud of it and I can understand why. Just look at the detail in this plate. All done in pre-computer days too. 
Ming is from the Contemporary Ceramics range of the early 1980s. And it's still in perfect condition, this range was very well made.
Also in the kitchen are these mugs. They never get used but every day I enjoy looking at them. Note Basil Brush, top centre, a gift from a very generous friend. You don't see him very often!
Speaking of mugs, these cheery little numbers live in on a shelf in the lounge and brighten up our winter days.  The one on the left is probably 1970s, the other is 1980s.
Most of these mugs have Made in New Zealand on the base like this:

This post would not be complete without mentioning my swans. They lived in a box in the shed for years, but then I weakened and liberated them.. and now I quite like having them around. The big one is the less common 'male' shape; the other is the smallest of the 3 sizes made by Crown Lynn.
And now for something completely different, here is a very old shaving mug. I bought it complete with brush, no doubt some poor old granddad's relic. I love the shape of this mug and it's in good condition when you consider it was made in the 1940s or early 1950s. (Later comment: this is almost certainly 1940s, or even late 1930s, rather than 1950s)
The base is unmarked.
If you look closely you can see the crazing that mars many of Crown Lynn's products. After an object has been through the kiln it continues to shrink, very very slightly. If the glaze shrinks a bit faster than the clay body then the glaze cracks, causing crazing.  
And on that merry note I will  leave you. I hope you have a lovely Xmas/New Year break. I will be camping again for the next few weeks so I probably won't be doing another post until mid-January... unless I find something utterly magical in a junk shop that I absolutely have to tell you about!
Take care

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Vases new and old

Vases were one of the first things made by the 'Specials Department' (later to become Crown Lynn). The first were quite primitive but still found a market because wartime shortages had starved New Zealanders of any sort of decorative object.
 This little vase is only 9 cm tall. It is shape number 19, and its glaze and composition are a little 'experimental' indicating that it was made in the early 1940s.  The base is unmarked.
Below is a later version, shape 99. It is more elegant and has an appealing glaze (in my view anyway!) This shape is relatively common, it must have sold quite well.  It would have been made in the later 1940s.

This whiteware vase is classic Crown Lynn.  The factory made breathtaking amounts of whiteware; in1963 there were more than 100 shapes on the market. The whiteware vases include the famous swans, but there are also many other very appealing shapes.  This vase is quite large, 14 cm high and 28 across. The white vases had all sorts of backstamps besides Crown Lynn, including Roydon Potteries, Flair Art Potteries and the impressed four-digit shape numbers.

I am very fond of the Ceramica Greenstone vases which were first made in 1965. They must have been one of the first Crown Lynn products made in the Titian factory, as Crown Lynn first began buying shares in Titian in 1965 but didn't complete the takeover until 1968. Greenstone vases came in various shapes, the largest I have is 18 cm tall. Vases in this style were also made in plain dark green and in white and honey glaze. There was also a very very cool ashtray. Unfortunately I got the dates wrong for Ceramica in my book; later research has shown that they were earlier than I understood at the time.
Before I go, let's have one more look at those early vases. During the 1939-1945 war the Partridge family, trading as Harwyn Potteries, bought glazed vases from the Specials Department and hand painted them with little flowers. The paint didn't stick well to the glaze and in most examples has worn off quite badly. This one, lent to me by another collector to photograph, is in lovely condition. It's about 10 cm tall.
As an added bonus, on the base this vase has the fractionated marks used by the Specials Department to record the various experimental materials and techniques they used in the early days. If the experiment was successful, they could repeat it. Unfortunately the written notes which explain what these marks mean are long since lost, most likely in the many factory fires suffered by Crown Lynn.  
Below is another hand painted vase. This style is known as Salisbury Ware, after Owen Salisbury who, along with his business partner Arthur Martin bought unglazed blanks from the Specials Department. Salisbury decorators hand painted these vases, sometimes with quite sophisticated designs. The paint flakes on these too, but not quite so badly as the Harwyn flowers.  The Salisbury vases are generally unmarked, apart from the occasional painters' signature.  This one can be recognised as Crown Lynn by its distinctive shape. It's about 11 cm tall.

More soon, as explained we are travelling about a bit at the moment so my postings are more intermittent... and I'm looking forward to that Xmas pavlova.. but I have to make it first!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Those British backstamps

When you pick up a bowl that has 'Rainbow British' on the base you don't necessarily think it's made in New Zealand - but in fact this is a rare and collectible Crown Lynn backstamp.  And just look at what it's found on..

Not that the backstamp is bad either.. (Thanks to the gorgeous retro shop Aunty Mavis in St Kevin's Arcade in K Rd who allowed me to photograph this.)
During the 1950s Crown Lynn marked many of their products with 'British' backstamps. At that time NZ china was seen as second-rate - my grandmother never had Crown Lynn in her house, her china was imported from 'home'.  English manufacturers and the importers didn't like Tom Clark's approach but he stuck to his guns and right through to the early 60s you find pieces of 'British' china that are unmistakably Crown Lynn.  Tom Clark argued that all NZers were British because our passports said 'British subject and New Zealand citizen' - which indeed they did, until 1978. So that's why we have the gorgeous Fantasy British:

And Calypso British
Also Aero British on these lovely little beehive bowls:
British backstamps were phased out in the early1960s. Auckland museum records show that in October 1961 a new 'Starline' backstamp was designed -we can be confident that this replaced 'Starline British'. Starline ware looked like this - hand painted gold bands on clear glaze.
One of my most interesting British marks is Ferndale British.  This saucer has to have been made in 1962 at the earliest.  The grey background print was not possible until the Murray Curvex automatic machine was up and running, and that was early 1962. So Ferndale was probably the last ever Crown Lynn 'British' backstamp...
There are many more Crown Lynn  'British' backstamps, this is just a small selection. One can argue that what Tom Clark did was more than a bit dodgy, but in the early1950s his business was in danger of falling over afer a sudden change to the Australian excange rate killed off his export market.  So he did what he had to do to survive. And in any case, as a fellow collector pointed out to me, English china isn't backstamped British - Made in England is the norm.
More next week. I might be a bit more intermittent over the summer holidays, we intend to wander about when we can. But keep checking, I will endeavour to update weekly still.