Saleroom Life

by Sheffield Auction Gallery

Month: September 2015

Mabel Lucie Attwell: Nursery Ware

Mabel Lucie Attwell (1879-1964) was a successful British illustrator. She financed her own studies at both Heatherley’s School of Fine Art and St Martin’s School of Art, although disliking the formality of the training never completed either preferring to branch out on her own. She was represented by London art agents Francis and Mills and had immediate success with her drawings of children and fairies so much so that in 1922 the ‘Lucie Attwell Annual’ was produced and became a lifetime series.

Attwell illustrated for books, cards, magazines and posters as well as having her images used by advertisers so it was no surprise that her pictures of cute chubby children, supposedly based on her own daughter, eventually got turned into patterns for ceramics namely nursery ware. Although nursery ware, ceramics aimed at children, had been around since the early 19th century, they had always been designed around moral and educational messages which children would reveal as they ate their food. By the early 20th century, however, the trends were changing and the serious themes were being replaced by more playful and relaxed ones perfectly in tune with Attwell’s illustrations.

A Lucie Attwell Nursery Plate

A Lucie Attwell Nursery Plate

In 1926 Shelley Potteries commissioned Attwell to produce a series of designs for a range of their nursery ware. The first series included pictures of children, animals and Boo Boos (little elves in green suits) and was an immediate success with her wares even making it into the nursery of Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret and later Prince Charles. She continued to design for Shelley and in 1937 also extended her range to include figurines.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website

Georg Jenson

Georg Jenson (1866 – 1935) was a silversmith. He opened his own studio in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1904 and is widely considered one of the most important silversmiths of the 20th century. Born in 1866, he began life as a sculptor before establishing his own company producing silverware. His small workshop found fame after Jenson exhibited his work at the Museum of Decorative Arts in Copenhagen in late 1904. He specialised in jewellery, flatware and hollowware, concentrating on simple and elegant designs.

Georg Jensen; a Hallmarked Silver Bracelet of double tulip design, stamped 100B

Georg Jensen; a Hallmarked Silver Bracelet of double tulip design, stamped 100B

Jenson’s silverware was governed by the principles of the Arts and Crafts movement; preferring handmade items using traditional methods over mass produced inferior products with a perfect balance between functionality and beauty. His designs, and those of the designers he employed to work alongside him such as Henning Koppel, Johan Rohde and Sigvard Bernodotte, were in the Art Nouveau style, with inspiration from the natural world particularly flowers and grapes. They used hand-hammered techniques to finish, drawing attention to the quality of the silver with minimal decoration and simple, clean and often rounded shapes.

Many different hallmarks are found on Jenson wares as they changed over time, which makes pieces much easier to date. Many designers also had their own hallmarks alongside the Company’s. One of Jensen’s greatest assets was the quality of his designers. He hired designers with values and principles similar to himself and nurtured their talents, giving them an extraordinary amount of freedom to create and design with outstanding results.

The Georg Jenson Company is still producing today; a hugely successful venture still working by the same principles and design ideas of Jenson himself.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website

Action Man

In 1966, Action Man was born in Britain, two years after the American G.I. Joe. He was produced by the toy manufacturer Palitoy, under Licence from parent company Hasbro Industries. G.I. Joe and Action Man were a brand new concept; the first doll designed specifically for boys, the first moveable, jointed action figure.

The first figures produced were a sailor, a soldier and a pilot complete with uniforms, accessories and even dog-tags. The early figures had static hands and painted hair available in brown, auburn, blonde and black. In 1970, more realistic hair was introduced to black and blonde haired Action Man. The new hair was extremely hard-wearing and is usually found in good condition today. Alongside the new hair, came a softer head with more realistic skin tones and a more enhanced scar.

Action Man’s body had remained largely the same until in 1973 the ‘gripping’ hands were introduced to hold weapons, climb ropes or cling from walls. Unfortunately these early gripping hands were fragile, made changing outfits difficult and haven’t stood the test of time; it is hard to find these early Action Men with their hands intact.

In 1976, ‘eagle eyed’ Action Man was produced; his eyes moved from side to side using a lever on the back of the neck. These new heads were made with a bit more shine and ‘tan’ to them and lead the way to the more muscular and sun-kissed model available from 1978 onwards.

Collectors like early figures for their superior quality and for the quality of their clothes and uniforms. Uniforms were originally made from thick twill material with stitched insignia or metal buttons but later they were produced in cheap thinner cotton often with printed insignia or plastic buttons.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website

Ceramic Decoration

Over time there has been a huge variety of techniques used to decorate all types of ceramics from earthenware pots to ornate sculptures. Some very traditional, while others revolutionary.

Developed by John Sadler and Guy Green, the transfer printing process began in Liverpool in 1756. Josiah Wedgwood being one of the first to embrace it on his ivory based “Creamware”. It was developed in response to consumer demand for cheaper, mass produced wares – something more embellished than the previously plain merely functional alternatives. Most early patterns had an oriental theme as Chinese blue was a favourite at the time.

Ceramics, more specifically porcelain, is commonly gilded. Gilding is where surfaces are decorated with gold leaf or fine powder before being fired at low temperatures. Mixing the gold with mercury gives a brighter metallic finish, while honey creates a dull but very rich effect.

Gilding has been around for centuries, as has the lustre technique which involves dissolving oxides of metals such as gold, silver and copper in acid and combining them with an oil medium. This is then painted onto the object before firing, it creates a metallic or iridescent shimmering finish.

As well as differences in the design techniques there are also different types of glazes. Underglaze is popular as it is less expensive; designs are applied to an unglazed surface so objects are only fired once. While an overglaze, as the name suggests, sees designs added onto an already glazed surface and re-fired at low temperatures to fuse the colours to the surface. They frequently require multiple firings making them much more expensive.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website

Rookwood Pottery

Arts and Crafts pottery became big business in America after inspiration from the European wares on show at the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition in 1876 and Rookwood Potteries was where the finest examples of ‘Art Pottery’ were produced.

Rookwood was established in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1880 and from the very beginning focused on making high quality art pottery by employing the best designers and potters available. Artists such as Matt Daly, Grace Young and the Japanese ceramicist Kataro Shirayamadani worked for Rookwood as did Laura Fry who developed and patented the now famous ‘Standard’ clear glossy glaze and William P. McDonald and Matthew A. Daly who painted the highly collectable American Indian portraits.

It was the designs and quality of the decoration that secured Rookwood’s reputation of brilliance ahead of other American potteries such as Roseville, Weller and Lonhuda who were producing simple wares. Rookwood designs were largely inspired by the natural world, flowers in particular, although portraits were also used as decoration mainly the aforementioned Native Indians and the Old Masters. Rookwood was known for their subtly of tone, richness of colour and exquisite painting and these are all reasons why they are so highly desirable today. ‘Standard Brown’ ware was the first major line to come out of the pottery but huge success hit in 1894 with the release of Ariel Blue, Iris and Sea Green.

Most Rookwood pottery is signed by the artist with a date and shape number. From 1886 a RP flame mark monogram was used and each year from 1887 a flame was added to this monogram until by 1900 it had fourteen. Roman numerals were used from 1901.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website

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