Synchronicity and Art

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Women in Japanese woodblock prints at Mussee Guimet. Miroir du Desir

I am constantly astounded by synchronicity in the way ideas present themselves into my sphere of being, even though I know that is how the universe works. I inevitably am reading three or four books of varying types at a time. Today, while resting my legs, I picked up Between Form and Freedom by Betty Staley,  which I have been reading for spiritual and practical ideas for working and living with my late-teen-years daughter. This book is written with the perspective of Rudolf Steiner’s philosophy or anthroposophy. It was serendipitous, after just posting about art, that the chapter I came to in my reading was about art. I want to share some excerpts that were particularly meaningful to me:

We live in a world that is splintered. The spiritual life is separated from scientific and artistic life. We classify knowledge and experiences into neat compartments, but the soul of the human being fights against such fragmentation and cries out for unity, for interrelationship. . . . Art is the healing remedy for fragmentation. . . .

Art becomes the saving grace for human beings cut off from their spiritual origins and suffering from the loneliness of the human condition. . . . When human beings feel whole once again, they are able to use their energy to enliven and transform social life. . . .

When we engage in artistic processes, we have a conversation with our inner being. We are not so concerned with the product of our work as with the process, which puts us in touch with the spiritual in us. In most activities of daily life, we respond to the outer world, but art allows us to awaken our inner eye and inner ear to imagination and inspiration. It helps us understand our thinking, feeling, willing and to gain insights into who we are and who we are not. It helps us explore the qualities as well as the quantities of life.

As [we] experience the many-textured levels of artistic process, the diverse ways of coming to an answer, the richness of metaphor in language, of rhythm and melody, of the living quality of form and space, [our] capacity for imagination deepens and [our] inner soul-space expands. A transformation of the common place stimulates [our] consciousness and sense of existence. . . .

When we create something artistically, we stand before a mystery, something unknown. We feel that  something alive is present and that we are the means for it to come into physical form. . . . [We] experience the artistic process as a time of quiet contemplation and communication. It resembles a conversation between lover and the beloved. This is the power of art. . . .

When the artistic approach is applied to the everyday world, to the dishes we eat from, the clothes we wear, the furnishings in our homes, we imbue our surroundings with beauty and care. . . . To make a well-formed plate of clay and take it though the entire process until it is ready for the table; to card, dye and spin wool, and then use it for knitting or weaving an article of clothing or household item; to make a bookcase or a chair; to print calligraphic invitations; to bind a book; to make a stained glass window; or to do any one of a variety of other crafts is a major accomplishment. . . .

The word craft once meant power or magic. It is not surprising, then, that those who take hold of a craft develop power in their lives.

Staley, Betty. Between Form and Freedom. Stroud, UK: Hawthorn Press, 1988.

writing by candlelight

These observations from Rudolf Steiner’s worldview that Betty Staley so aptly lays out illustrate the meaning of art and craft in my life. My home is significant and spiritually satisfying because I have infused it with artistic beauty. Antique dolls and Depression Glass are a considerable part of the heart and soul of my home. I have a deep sense of satisfaction, and perhaps of power, when I create something artistic; a handmade dress for an antique doll, a crocheted shawl made from soft natural fiber, a delicious and nourishing meal, a poem, a well written blog post. And I usually spend time in contemplation and communication with the physical form of what I have brought to life.

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Hand sewing Mary Morgan’s 1860’s style dress.

Much more observation and contemplation could be written about the spirit and meaning of art and craft in our lives (and indeed has). I welcome your observations and comments here.

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Spice Mice cookies on a Ruby Red plate.

Ruby Red

In the shop fluorescence frames

Substance of years past

In shades of daguerreotype

Until on a shelf, on paper doilies,

Gleaming abreast of crystal twinkle lights

I behold a red glass cup

Shimmering in that clutter of decades

Like a garnet embedded in a cavern wall

Millennia past compressed of primordial vegetation

A gemstone hiding in darkness

Facets beckoning to be sought.

The cup flows, curves like a womb

Lifeblood of grandmothers and great-grandmothers

Immutably setting tables with gossamer lace,

With Ruby Red glass

Boasting warm cookies, hot tea,

Tinkling sounds like echoes of laughter.

Rotund glass glows within from twinkle light

Embodied like an embryo

Fecund with viability, filial love, felicity

Apposing danger red, war red, depression red.

I take the red cup from its insipid shelf

Exchanging only a few paper bills and clinking coins

For its florid rubescence.

I take it home

To hold my hot tea, my laughter,

My flame

To glimmer like a garnet

On cotton lace.

~~ Jennifer Anne Stewart 1997

Royal Ruby cup Anchor Hocking

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Aesthetics and Whimsy: Thoughts on Dolls and Depression Glass as Art

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Miss Oita is one of the 58 Ambassador Dolls sent to the US from Japan in 1927 after US children sent 12,739 “Blue Eyed” dolls to children in  Japan. Miss Oita represents Okayama Prefecture and resides in the Springfield Museum of MA.

A whole weekend off work is a rare pleasure for me. Last night I was reading my newly acquired book about the Japanese Friendship Dolls, especially the chapter on “The Japanese Doll” (so much new and useful background information for me!), and the subsection entitled “Why Ambassador [Friendship] Dolls are Art.” In a nutshell, this essay points out that one of the Friendship doll makers, Hirata Goyo II, signed his dolls on the back of their heads indicating that he viewed himself as an artist. All of the 30″ high Friendship Dolls were made by hand to the highest standards of craftsmanship and consistency of style. Because they were hand made, the dolls of each of the six makers had slight variations in their style. Goyo most likely signed his dolls because his way of thinking was leaning toward the new way of innovation and individuation, while the other artists were thinking in the more traditional Japanese style of working collectively.   After much reasoning, examples and details, this essay concluded that all 58 of the friendship dolls, not just those of Goyo, are indeed works of art.

Miss Kyoto-fu by Hirata Goyo II

Miss Kyoto-fu was made by Hirata Goyo II and resides in the Children’s Museum of Boston. Note the variation of her smiling mouth with teeth showing.

This essay on dolls as art has helped me to crystalize my thoughts on German china dolls as art. To point, can factory made objects intended for play be considered as art? I believe that they can, especially when we are considering the earlier dolls where careful attention was given to individually hand painted features. While the dolls of each factory had to conform to consistency standards of production, there were still small individuations in the dolls, such as wisps in the hair along the hairline, and slight mouth and eye variations that lend differences to expressions or moods for the dolls. Even though the German chinas were not signed by individual artists, they were painted by doll makers, and many (though not all) do reach the standard of art.

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This early Meissen German china doll has the most beautiful and serene expression that I have seen on a doll of this mold.

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A variety of green Depression Glass in my collection. Some think that green is more desirable than pink glass. I’m glad that I have some of each.

Today, the second day of my full weekend off, I unpacked my last box of Depression Glass to fill out my collection displays. And doing so, I pondered this question of art further: Can mass produced objects like this glass be considered art? Perhaps this is pushing the definition of art too far, yet there are definitely artistic qualities to this glassware that I hold so dear.

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Here is a bowl in the “Oyster and Pearl” pattern in my collection viewed from above to show the lovely symmetry of its design.

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The same “Oyster and Pearl” bowl from the side.

This glassware, produced in a variety of jewel-like colors, was made from the late 1920’s until about 1940 (hence its name). It was often given, or sold at low prices, as premiums for purchasing products such as oats or laundry soap. Therefore, it was quickly produced without much quality control, so rough edges and seam lines, and other imperfections are often found. Oh, but the array of patterns, shapes, proportions, pressed designs, and colors are delightful! There had to have been designers to come up with the patterns that were put into production–were they not artists in their own right?

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“Aunt Polly” is a most extraordinary shade of blue!

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A “Mayfair” cup and saucer in a different shade of blue. Note the beautifully pressed floral motif.

In his book, The Re-enchantment of Everyday Life, Thomas Moore makes the point that useful and utilitarian objects and tools can be so much more delightful and whimsical, as well as useful, when we give them creative and artistic form. This is exactly what Depression Glass does with otherwise utilitarian objects such as dinner plates and refrigerator boxes.

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“American Sweetheart” is made from thin milk-white glass that takes on the color underneath it around the pattern edges.

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A Royal Ruby berry bowl in “Coronation” pattern stacks fine ribs on top of wide ribs for an elegant design.

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Even the handle is elegant.

Of course, one’s sense of the aesthetic is colored (pun intended) by one’s time and place of being. By the 1940’s, people considered that colored glass to be old fashioned (which they thought was a bad thing; imagine that!) and the new clear, or crystal, glass with modern straight lines and geometric shapes was in fashion. Oh dear, I just don’t understand. I will stay with the whimsical jewel tones!

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“Manhattan” candle holder. This pattern was made from 1938 to 1943.

References:

Kita, Terry. The Sun Shines For Us All: The Friendship Dolls From Japan. Valparaiso, IN: Valparaiso University, 2015.

Florence, Gene. Collector’s Encyclopedia of Depression Glass (14th Ed.). Paducah, KY: Collectors Books, 2000.

Moore, Thomas. The Re-enchantment of Everyday Life. New York: Harper Collins, 1997

Woman at sink 1930s farmhouse kitchen

I think she finds joy in washing her colored glass in front of her sunny window. (circa 1930’s)

 

Nuances of an Art Recapitulated

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A reproduction Lydia china doll with well done face painting

Antique dolls are an art form. It is easy to see the art in the beautiful French bisque dolls of Bru, Steiner, and Jumeau, yet the less complex porcelain china dolls exhibit their artistry in the design of their face and shoulder mold, in the purity of the porcelain from which they are made, and in the beauty of their hairstyles and face painting. As one who collects and studies antique dolls, I often come across reproductions of the antique dolls in my searches. The durability of the one piece porcelain shoulder-heads renders them quite attractive for making new molds from the antique heads.

In all fairness though, molds, or copies,  were being made of the old doll heads when they were still contemporary. Old papier mache heads have been found that are copies of German china dolls, and not all have a known maker. Martha Chase modeled her cloth dolls after French or German bisque dolls of the time, possibly using a bisque doll as a mold for her oil painted dolls. Even the Schoenhut “Miss Dolly” was modeled after a German doll owned by a child in the company’s family.

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This Schoenhut wooden Miss Dolly doll in my collection dates to about 1915.

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Schoenhut, an American manufacturer, found it profitable to add the Dolly Face doll to their line of character dolls at a time when dolls could no longer be imported from Germany during WWI.

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Here is an antique German bisque dolly face by Heubach. The Schoenhut doll above is quite similar with fat cheeks and pretty, but non-descript, features.

Many antique china dolls (as well as other antique dolls) are so rare now that a well executed reproduction can be a blessing for collectors like me who may never see one of these older revered dolls, much less ever expect to own one.  For this reason, a few artistic reproduction dolls, as well as a reissue doll, have gained entry with respectable status into my collection of antique dolls.

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I have already introduced you to my reproduction Izannah Walker doll, Miss Ruby. She is a faithful and artistic rendering of an antique doll, made by Paula Walton. She is very close in her production to an antique Izannah Walker doll, and very likely as close as I can come to owning an example of this highly sought after and extremely expensive example of American folk art at its’ best.

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Miss Ruby is my reproduction Izannah Walker doll

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Cordelia, a reproduction china doll, has pleasant face painting, but it is not the same as an antique German china doll. Also, the glaze on her porcelain causes the crisp lines of the detailed braids to be lost. She is not signed by the artist.

Another reproduction doll in my collection is my first china doll, Cordelia. She was most likely molded from a Parian doll, a porcelain doll that was not glazed, but made from white bisque. This hairstyle was also reproduced by Emma Clear and named “Toinette.” I have not yet found an antique doll with braids like Cordelia to add to my collection.

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This antique Parian doll has the same hairstyle as Cordelia, but with added flowers in the loop of the braid. She also has molded lace around her shoulders and glass eyes. Her braids are crisp with individual brush strokes in the hair. She is much more exquisite, and better artistically rendered than Cordelia.

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An antique  Hertwig “Curl on Top” china doll is shown next to a reproduction of the same doll.

The Hertwig “Curl on Top” china doll is uncommon, but not rare. I purchased the reproduction of this doll, on the right above, while waiting to find an antique one to add to my collection. I was not happy with the reproduction. In comparison, the porcelain quality is inferior, the hair color is a bit garish and lacks crispness, and the face painting has no depth. I am happy to have found my antique Hertwig doll. Notice that the reproduction shoulder-head is slightly smaller than the original. This shrinkage occurs when a mold is made of an existing head. The new head is molded from the antique and shrinks when fired in the kiln.

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The face painting on this 13″ Hertwig doll is typical for this manufacturer, circa 1900. The hair is nicely molded with brush strokes.

Another doll on my wish list is an 1840’s Lydia china doll. Unfortunately for me, this antique doll is quite rare, and well out of my price range when she is to be found. I have, however, seen a few good reproductions of this doll, and I was fortunate enough to have added one to my collection.

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An antique china doll with Lydia hairstyle circa 1840. The face painting on this doll indicates that she was made by the A. W. Kister Porcelain Factory. Note her pink tint with whites of eyes.

The reproduction that I purchased has an appropriate reproduction body with flat soled shoes and spoon hands. Her face painting is well done. She cost me 1% of the $5000 to $6000 that an antique Lydia sells for.

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This is the reproduction Lydia, marked “Rossi” on the back of her shoulder-plate. She may have been molded from a doll like the one above. Her coloring is not as high as the antique doll pictured above, and her lips are painted differently, yet her painting is good. As with the antique Lydia, she has a pale pink tint and the whites of her eyes remain white.

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The little doll in the pocket of the antique dress is an antique “baderkinder” or Frozen Charlotte with a Lydia hairstyle.

“Curly Top” is another uncommon, though not rare, china doll that is often found reproduced. This one with black hair is marked “P S” on the back of her shoulder-plate.

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The painting on this 3″ reproduction Curly Top is well done, but not quite like the originals. Again, the hair is not crisp through the thicker applied glaze. Some antique Curly Top dolls have delicate wisps of hair painted at the tips of the curls.

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This circa 1880 antique Curly Top in my collection, with Cafe Au Lait hair, is larger than the reproduction above, with a shoulder-head that measures 5 3/4″. She is beautifully painted in the style of Alt Beck & Gottschalck dolls. The accent line painted between her lips has a very slight V dip in the middle which gives her an introspective smile.

Almost all of the newer china doll copies are reproductions; however, there is one that is a re-issue of an antique doll made by the original company. This is the Royal Copenhagen porcelain doll with a brown bun that was originally made in the 1840’s. Royal Copenhagen re-issued this porcelain shoulder-head from their molds beginning in 1977 with production lasting into the 1980’s. This doll (along with a larger lady and a boy doll) is well made and artistically rendered from the original company. It is difficult to tell the difference from the original antique doll. She is a work of art, beautifully sculpted with her long lady’s neck, mature face, pale pink tint, and face painting details.

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The smaller re-issue Royal Copenhagen Bun Lady doll in my collection is also known as “Amalie” by collectors.

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This antique 1840’s Royal Copenhagen doll, from the collection of Kirsten Johansen, was featured on the May 2015 cover of Antique Doll Collector magazine for their article on Royal Copenhagen Dolls.

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“Denmark” and the Royal Copenhagen waived blue lines are clearly visible on the back of the shoulder-plate of the re-issue doll in my collection.

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I recently found an appropriate body for this doll with low heeled shoes and lady-like hands, but she has no clothing yet.

With much of what we consider as art at its’ finest, we must visit a museum to see it in all of its’ splendor. It is the rare and wealthy collector who can hope to own a Degas sculpture or a Carl Larsson painting. We may decide to bring home a small reproduction of a favorite sculpture, or a print of a painting we admire. Likewise, some of the most lovely antique dolls are so rare that bringing one into our personal collection is just not possible. Of course an oil painting will be much higher quality than a print of that painting. And so an original antique doll will be superior to a reproduction. With this maxim in mind, it is best to bring the antique doll into a collection whenever possible. Yet a good quality reproduction of an antique doll can bring the art of the doll recapitulated into our space, and bring joy to our collection when the original doll is out of reach.

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Antique photo of girl holding a Covered Wagon style china doll

May you surround yourself with art that speaks to your heart and soul.

Introducing Hannah Lavender through The Daybook of Eleanor Rose

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Although an antique doll who comes to us often feels private and personal, we  know that our antique dolls and their clothing have a history of their own. To have provenance for a doll is a wonderful validation of her place of origin and her people who came before us. Many dolls that come to us from “The Market” do not come with provenance. Below is my creative imagining for how this wax head doll, who I have named Hannah Lavender, came to her family of origin, and how she had her wardrobe bestowed upon her:

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Antique Regency Era Fine Muslin Dress. Notice the diamond shaped back panel.

April, 1811:    It is in this month that I, Eleanor Rose, reach my 16th year. I have received an invitation to the ball to be held at Dawlish next month. I am admonished to keep my deportment demur, tho I must confess here that I am quite overcome with excitement! MaMa has orderd muslin from London. My new gown is to be the latest cut with high waist, tiny puff sleeves, and narrow skirts.

Late April, 1811:    My new gown is ready! The muslin is of pale lavender patterned in circlets. The sleeves and bodice seams are set with tiny piping, and there are self fabric bands accenting the hem. How the muslin does flow when I walk and dance! MaMa has saved some nice lavender sprigs to accent my hair, and I am to wear her amethyst necklace and earrings. The ball is Saturday next!

 

Antique Sheer Regengy dresses Hamburg Museum

Oh what airey muslin!

May 1811:    The Dawlish ball was just the most gay affair! Ever so many ladies turned out in the palest muslin gowns, though mine was not to be bested. I was introduced to Mr. Adam Fletcher, a most amiable dance partner. He attended on me often during the evening and arranged to be seated at my side for the banquet. He is to call on us tomorrow. My heart is aflutter!

Antique Regency cream muslin dress with Spencer

A spencer jacket and lovey embroidery.

June, 1817:    Our dearest baby girl, Juliet Henrietta, arrived this month–the very month that my Mr. Fletcher and I were wed these five years gone. Charles and Hudson are lovely energetic boys yet I am delighted to have a girl child to dote upon.

January, 1823:    Christmas was a fine celebration this year. Charles received a bow with arrows and Hudson has a fine set of soldiers. Juliet was delighted with her wooden doll with black curls on each side of her face. Adam also brought her a wee set of tea dishes made in the Staffordshire district. We all delighted in the artistry of the blue painting on the pot and tiny cups. They will be kept back for Sunday play until Juliet is old enough to care for them properly. We will keep occupied these cold rainy days in making petticoats and frocks from pickings out of the rag bag for the new poppet.

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Early 19th century attire for well-to-do children

October, 1847:    Our Juliet has given us a granddaughter. Praise God, the child is born alive and is thriving. She is christened Louisa Elizabeth. Master Graham, being nine years her senior will not be of an age for her playmate. He will soon be learning the estate.

October, 1856:    Louisa is quite the young lady. Adam, the ever doting Grand PaPa presented her with the most lovely wax head doll for her birthday. The doll has curls of real auburn hair and blue glass eyes. She is of a likeness to Louisa. I took my old muslin dress that I wore when I first was introduced to Adam from the rag pile. There is enough good material to make a play frock with a yoke for Louisa and a dress with tiny white braid trim for the doll. Louisa has named her doll Hannah.

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Mid 19th century child dress with wide neckline and puff sleeves.

June, 1870: Some days my tired old bones do not allow me to walk down the stairs. Today Louisa came up to sit with me. She is quite the fashionable lady now, and is skilled at copying the latest Paris designs. She learned sewing making simple frocks for her wax doll. She brought that old doll up to show me with a new frock she had created with remnants. It is fashioned of bright red strips with gold tinsel woven in the fabric. The little frock has a low waist and a nicely fashioned coat. I must say, it lacks the elegance and flow of my old lavender muslin dance dress. I wonder what ever became of Juliet’s wooden doll with the black curls . . .

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This is how the wax head doll appeared on the sales table in Portland, August 2015. Everyone, including me, noticed the lovely and demure muslin dress before noticing the doll to whom it belonged!

Again, the above journal is a fictional account. Yet it is an apt provenance for a lovely little doll and her varied wardrobe.

Hannah Lavender is 14.5″ tall. She has a shoulder-head attached to a cloth body with possibly papier mache arms and legs with bare feet. Her limbs are smoothy painted or gessoed. She has blue glass stationary eyes and soft mohair auburn hair with bangs. I believe that she is English.

Dating wax dolls is not easy because they are rarely marked. This little girl seems to be from the mid 1800’s. A post by Dolls By DianeComplete History of Wax Dolls, gives good information on this type of antique doll.

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The lavender muslin dress seems to be the earliest style in the wardrobe , possibly dating circa 1850, while the red dress with the drop waist, pleated back, and longer jacket is an 1870’s to 1880’s style.

 

The lavender muslin dress, which is the highlight of Hannah Lavender’s wardrobe, is a lovely creation in its modesty, even though the red dress is more showy. Muslin is a plain weave fabric which originated in cotton in the Middle East and was imported to England from India. It was a favored dress fabric in the early to mid 19th century in gauzy weave of pale pastel colors. Jane Austen’s Mr. Tilney knew all about fine muslin–his sister wore only white muslin dresses. Today, we know muslin more readily in a denser weave of bleached or unbleached serviceable material that was used for backing quilts and making sheets, curtains, aprons, nightgowns, and undergarments.

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This photo shows the reverse side of the dress with the cartridge pleats at the waist. You can also see the ties that fasten the dress at the back neckline. All is hand sewn.

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The hem is reinforced with a denser cotton which gives the dress more body to hold its flared skirt. This is different from the airy flowing Regency styles shown above.

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Here is the condition of the dress when I received it, after a light laundering. The hem is adorned with two self fabric bias cut bands edged with tiny white braid at the top of each band. Some of the thread holding the bands in place has rotted away, leaving the bands loose and with frayed edges.

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A close-up shows the delicate print of white circles on the pale lavender muslin. It is faded with a few sections showing more color. The top band is newly sewn while the bottom band is tacked in place with pins to position it for hand sewing.

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Hannah Lavender’s wardrobe consists of the featured red dress and lavender muslin dress. She wears a knee-length chemise and ankle-length split drawers under her muslin dress. There is also a cream wool narrow petticoat with a cotton waistband, two coarser made short dresses (one in off-white with black velvet bands at the hem, one in pink with white stripes) and a soft muslin nightgown with a pink satin ribbon. She also has a straw bonnet with blue silk lining, which is cracked at the brim. The added brown velvet cap with red flowers compliments the red dress.

 

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Hannah Lavender is sweet and demure with her freshly mended dress. Though stable, the crack in the wax on her forehead is evidence of her age and endurance.

 

Finding an antique doll with her original wardrobe is exciting! Some dolls had several dresses and accompanying clothing made within a few years as their young mistresses learned sewing skills. Other dolls, as seems to be the case with Hannah Lavender, had clothing evidencing styles from a wider span of years and sewing skill level. The styles and construction are indeed a delight to behold, learn from, and speculate about.

 

Please Come to Tea, Part 2: Little Toy Dishes

Antique Photo girl with big hair bow toy tea with bisque doll

Little child-sized and toy dishes were made in abundance in England’s Staffordshire district potteries, especially throughout the 19th century. Staffordshire, which is a district of six towns on the western edge of England near Wales, was well suited to the pottery industry because of the ready availability of clay, salt, lead, and coal. As with Thuringia (Germany) being a center of toymaking before the advent of the china dolls made there, Staffordshire made pottery before the advent of porcelain. It was a center for pottery production since the early 17th century, noted for reddish brown wares. In 1720, potter John Astbury discovered that adding heated flint to the clay produced a more desirable lighter clay known as creamware. Soon after this discovery, beautiful English made pottery began to grace the tables of well-to-do families in England and America. Of course, modifications to the pottery continued to improve and add variations from soft paste or semi-porcelain, to ironstone and fine bone china.

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18th century creamware and feather edge shards

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The two little 3″ Leeds feather edged plates, circa 1790-1800

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This tiny cup, saucer, and teapot are all hand painted. Though not part of the same set, the painting and color are similar enough on both that they display well together. The London style handleless cup and deep dish saucer date to 1810. The cup is only 1 5/8″ tall. The pot is pearlware dating to about 1820. It has the characteristic ball shape, raised rim, slightly curved spout, and plain handle of early English teapots.  It is 4″ tall.

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This photo shows the size of these little dishes, and how they display with an antique china doll. Moira is a stout 19″ tall. Her hair style is a molded snood. She is planning to have tea at home with no guests–she is wearing her morning dress with tiny waived braid (rickrack) trim.

Thanks to the Children

Children’s and toy dishes were made alongside those created for adults. The play dishes, then as now, were a whimsy that delighted adults as well as children. Dinner and tea sets were charming gifts for children from parents, grandparents, and adoring aunts and uncles. And so, we can thank these wealthy and merchant class children for the little dishes that have been cherished, and those that have made it through well preserved (or not), and passed down through time to become available to us, as admirers and collectors in our time.

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Two sugar boxes or bowls. First is a beige rectangular one with an Adam Buck transfer from about 1820. The lid is missing its finial, and is actually the matching teapot lid, which was the same size-it has a steam hole in the opposite side. Second is a circa 1835 hand painted bowl with pink luster trim. Both are small (doll sized)  at about 2 1/2″ tall.

The poor children, though, deserve just as much, if not more, thanks for our little whimsies. Poor children have always had to work just as soon as their parents could find employment for them, and the Staffordshire potteries did offer employment for many children throughout the 19th century. Children as young as five or six years could fetch, carry, prepare raw materials, and provide power for the few machines that potters used. Many children at age eight to ten were working 72 hour weeks to the detriment of their health and education. At age 14, most children working in potteries became apprenticed to a particular trade-thrower, presser, transferer, or paintress. In 1840 Parliamentary inquiries were made into the state of children employed in mines and factories, leading to child labor laws.

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Preparing plates for transfers which were applied on tissue paper

 

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Two sugar bowls dating 1835-1840 have light blue transfers. The lids for both have not survived. These bowls without the lids measure 3″ tall by 4″ wide, and 2 1/2″ tall by 5″ wide.

To Teach, to Play, to Cherish

With so much to teach the young ones in the way of ettiquette, it was inevitable for child sized and toy tea and dinner sets to become more readily available. Children learned rituals and manners by having dinner or tea parties with their peers or by serving their dolls.

 

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Girl with a Goat is a pattern dating 1860 to 1870. Notice the fancy handle on the cup. This transfer is a pleasant forest green. The set was also made in red and a lovely flow blue, and I saw one for sale in an amazing mulberry color. It is a child sized set with the saucer being 5″ in diameter.

The 1860’s marked the start of mass production of toy dishes. After this time, parents could be more generous with their children with gift giving. An 1890 Butler Brothers catalog is evidence that there were toy sets available for the taste and means of every family. Children’s tea sets were available in price from five cents to five dollars. By studying the quality of sets we find today, we can guess which ones were at which end of this spectrum!

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This doll “house” with the 8″ Ginny and Muffy dolls always photographs dark. You can see the two Fishers plates on their shelf. Barely over 2″ across, one is red and one is blue. Below is a slightly larger plate with a blue floral transfer.

Transferware became the decoration of choice for English pottery after its development in the second half of the 18th century. Early designs were based on Chinese designs, called Chinoiserie. Early transferware was blue because only underglaze cobalt blue could withstand the heat of the glost ovens. Lead oxide gave wares the characteristic depth of color that made them so successful.

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Examples of early blue transfers, circa 1830 to 1840. The Kite Flyer plate on the stand to the right is a favorite colonial scene. The other scenic transfer is Monastery on the Hill. The transfers on this pattern are often more clear, and it has a nice floral border. These are doll sized dishes. The little tureen is just 3″ across.

By 1800 some English scenes became available as transfer designs. After the Napoleonic Wars, in 1815, there was a trade boom and European scenes and subjects were in vogue. Pieces made for export to America were often very dark blue, and some had patriotic subjects.

Later developments allowed for other monochrome colors in transferware such as green, mild red known as puce, mulberry, black, and sepia or brown. Polychrome designs were made by adding painted colors over a transfer design.

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The sepia color Dresden Flowers teapot is circa 1830. It has a flanged rim with a well-fitting recessed lid. It is 2 5/8″ tall. The vegetable bowl, also in sepia, is Souveneir and dates 1830-1840. It is 4″ across. Both of these little treasures are perfect in the 1:4 scale doll house.

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These plates in graduated sizes are also Dresden Flowers like the teapot above. This transfer is moss green, though this pattern has not been recorded as available in green. The largest plate measures 3 1/2″ in diameter.

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These soft paste plates are not a recorded pattern, though they have the characteristics of toy Staffordshire. 3″ and 3 1/4″

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A desirable transferware sheet pattern in soft paste dating circa 1830’s, Dimity is found most often in blue. This green collection shows some breaks and blurring to the transfers, which is typical, as these were considered as play dishes and were meant to be inexpensive toys. Dimity has been found in puce, sepia, and black as well as blue and green.

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This blue May with Pets sugar pot (or biscuit jar) is from around 1880. It measures just under 5″ to the top of the lid. The other tall sugar pot shares a shape, or blank, with several documented tea sets from circa 1862. I have not found this red transfer of oak leaves and acorns in the reference books. This one has seen rough times with a broken handle and missing lid. It is 4″ tall without the lid.

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This pattern, a lovely example of transfer with hand painting and gold trim added, is called Amherst Japan. There is a child’s tea set in this pattern, circa 1854, but no mention of a child’s dinner set. This small tray may be a piece from a full size dinner set. It measures 6″ across.

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The Amherst Japan tray is the right size to be a serving piece in the 1:4 doll house. It is shown here with two pieces of the French set that is described below.

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While Staffordshire is the place for children’s play dishes, there were lovely sets from other places as well. These tureens are part of a set made in France. The pottery, known as “Old Paris,” is very white, and the red and gold painted accents are quite detailed. The finials are two nobs that look like hops berries. The tureens date circa 1870-1880 and measure 5″ across.

Toy Copeland Lavender Leaf dish set

This lovely Lavender Leaf partial dinner set has recently joined my collection. I love how well made it is. The transfer pattern is clear and sharp, the deep lavender blue color is superb, and the little dishes are even and not too heavy. It dates to 1840-1850 and is doll sized. The square covered dish is just 2 3/4″ across.

For Your Pleasure and Continued Education

Staffordshire has been home to well known potteries such as Wedgwood, Copeland, and Ridgway, as well as to hundreds of small firms that have come and gone through the years. The variety and patterns available for antique toy Staffordshire dishes are too numerous to document–more are being discovered now, and several that I have shown you here are not in the reference books. The best reference books with color illustrations are Doris Lecher’s English Toy China, and Lorraine Punchard’s Playtime Pottery and Porcelain. Find them new and/or used from BN.com.

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These two child sized collections are displayed in a small cabinet. The top shelf holds blue and green tureens, cups, saucers, and plates from the Maidenhair Fern collection. Below it is a tea set with the transfer known as May with Pets. The tall sugar pot with this set is also referred to as a biscuit jar. Both sets date to 1880-1890.

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This is the large green Maidenhair Fern tureen. I especially like this find because it came with the pottery ladle! The ladles for dinner sets are rare because they were so easily broken. The tureen is 6 1/2″ long and the ladle measures 3 3/4″.

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This darling sugar jar is from the Old Mother Hubbard collection, circa 1870 to 1890. It is 4″ tall. One reference claims this is English while the other says American made.

Living in the Pacific Northwest, I do not find toy Staffordshire at my local antique shops and sales. Luckily, it is fairly available on eBay and Ruby Lane, if one is not too discerning in searching for particular patterns and colors. When you are ready to shop for your own toy Staffordshire dishes, I highly recommend Nancy Barrister’s Ruby Lane shop, “Childhood Antiques.” She offers a good selection of antique children’s tea and dinner sets. Additionally, if your budget can only handle single pieces rather than sets, she has a good revolving selection on eBay at nbarrister. Nancy is a friendy and accomodating seller who provides professional packing for your treasures.

For a broader view of the scope of English toy china dishes, an observation of how they changed over the years, and more information on the makers of these pottery whimsies and their marks, I highly recommend two books:

  • English Toy China by Doris Anderson Lechler. 1989; Antique Publications, Marietta, Ohio.
  • Playtime Pottery & Porcelain from the United Kingdom & the United States by Lorraine Punchard. 1996; Schiffer Publishing Ltd, Atglen, PA.
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Miranda’s Humphrey’s Clock tea set is now complete. Here we have the last sugar bowl of our mystery grouping from Part 1 of this article, at circa 1900. It is open and intentionally has no lid. This sugar bowl is 2″ tall, while Miranda is 26″ tall.

Now that you are well on your way to appreciating Staffordshire children’s dishes, please come to tea and tell me about your observations and finds!

 

Please Come to Tea, Part 1: A History of Tea and Equipage in England

 

Antique postcard two girls doll and Staffordhire tea set (2)

Damp winter days are the time to cuddle up with a hot cup of tea and a good book, but spring Valentines, bunnies, and baskets beg for a tea party! All the antique dolls are invited, and there will be plenty of dishes to go around with all the lovelies that were made in the Staffordshire district in England, and a few other places of note as well. There will be plenty to share for two articles on this subject:

While Germany is the place of origin for fine antique china (glazed porcelain) dolls, England is unequivocally the place where delicate and whimsical children’s dishes were made in beautiful abundance. Antique children’s Staffordshire dishes are the perfect compliment for antique dolls. The depth in their history, and the wide variety that these little toys provide, make them a joy to collect, display, and play with!

When Tea Came to England

The history of English porcelain, and that of play dishes, is closely connected with the history of tea in England. Great Britain has been one of the world’s  greatest consumers of tea since the 18th century. Tea was already know by the upper classes in Europe  when green tea, exported from China, was first offered in London coffeehouses in 1657. Coffeehouse owner Thomas Garraway had to explain the new beverage in pamphlets and advertisements. For 30 September 1658, he offered “That Excellent, and by all Physicians approved, China drink, called by the Chinese, Tcha, by other nations Tay, alias Tee, …sold at ye Cophee-house in Sweetings-Rents, by the Royal Exchange, London.”  By 1659, coffee, chocolate, and “tee” were sold in London in almost every street, with tea being mostly consumed by men of upper and mercantile classes.

Catherine of Braganza

Catherine of Braganza

In 1662 princess Catherine of Braganza from Portugal married Charles II and brought with her the preference for tea, which had already become common in Europe. As tea was her temperance drink of choice, it gained social acceptance among the aristocracy. Catherine of Braganza’s choice of tea was also instrumental in the popularization of tea in Britain. Because tea was introduced primarily through male frequented coffee houses, there would have been far less social acceptability for women to drink this beverage had it not been for her example. Catherine of Braganza’s use of tea as a court beverage, rather than a medicinal drink, influenced its popularity.

Black tea overtook green tea in popularity in the 1720s when sugar and milk were added to tea, a practice that was not done in China. The growth in the import of tea parallels that of sugar in the 18th century. Between 1720 and 1750 the imports of tea to Britain through the British East India Company more than quadrupled. Tea was particularly interesting to the Atlantic world, not only because it was easy to cultivate, but also because of how easy it was to prepare, and its ability to revive the spirits and cure mild colds.

Porcelain for Serving and for Showing

When tea was served in such a grand setting as that of Catherine of Braganza, it was generally in the company of female friends within a bedchamber or closet (a small room for entertaining guests near the bedchamber). The tea itself and the delicate pieces of porcelain for brewing and drinking it were displayed in the closet. Inventories for wealthy households during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries list tea equipage in these small private closets or boudoirs, not in kitchens or dining rooms.

17th century tea drinking

The earliest English equipages for making tea date to the 1660s. Small porcelain tea bowls were used by the fashionable; they were occasionally shipped with the tea itself. Tea-drinking hastened the search for a European imitation of Chinese porcelain, which was first successfully produced in England at the Chelsea porcelain manufactory established around 1745 and quickly imitated. Chelsea is the first important porcelain manufactory in England; its earliest soft-paste porcelain aimed at the aristocratic market.

Soft-paste porcelain resulted from the earliest attempts of European potters to replicate Chinese porcelain at a time when its composition was little understood. The earliest formulations were mixtures of clay and ground-up glass.

Tea-set-Getty-Museum-chg early Leeds type

Still Life: Tea Set  Jean-Etienne Liotard (Swiss, 1702-89) About 1781-83

The tea equipage in the painting above has the characteristic shape of early Leeds Pottery with Chinese scenes which were popular at that time. The teapot on the left has a round shape, a raised rim, and plain handle and spout with a very slight curve. Behind it is a tea caddy, a piece that is not commonly found in sets after the early 1800’s. The bowls or cups are handleless and the saucers are deep dish. There is a large slop basin, or waste bowl, in the upper right corner. This was a necessary piece for English sets, as it was never appropriate to pour fresh tea onto cold tea in a cup. Next is the sugar bowl, which is large, with tongs on top. Sugar was less refined in the 18th century, so more was needed, hence a larger bowl. The milk jug, or cream pitcher, has a small pointed spout.

In her blog, Unique Histories from the 18th and 19th Centuries, Geri Walton offers more on English tea equipage:

When tea was introduced to the English in the mid 1600s, the English drank it using the traditional handleless bowls the Chinese used, and referred to a “dish of tea” rather than a cup. These handleless bowls were about half as large as teacups are now. They held just a few sips, anything from two or three elegantly sipped mouthfuls to two or three tablespoons. Interestingly, coffee cups had always been larger, and straight-sided, in comparison to the smaller, curved teacups. Coffee cups also gained a handle before teacups. Eventually, however, the English adapted the handle for teacups from the handle used on “posset” cups. Posset cups served as containers for hot spiced medieval drinks of curdled milk mixed with wine or ale, and these cups acquired handles to prevent injury to sensitive fingers. However, teacup handles did not appear until the nineteenth century. By the late 1800’s there were many choices of tea cup styles available.

To Follow the Queen: Etiquette and Manners

If you have read Jane Austen, then you realize how complex, and how very important, etiquette was to people–especially in England–in the 18th and 19th centuries. Tea and dinner evolved into complex rituals requiring the correct accoutrements.

Even Americans followed a proper etiquette, which changed over time. I have always been intrigued with this passage about tea drinking manners from Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder. The setting here is Upper New York State circa 1866:

Eliza Jane was more bossy than ever [after a term at Malone Academy]. She said Almanzo’s boots made too much noise. She even told Mother that she was mortified because father drank tea from his saucer.

“My land! How else would he cool it?” Mother asked.

“It isn’t the style to drink out of saucers any more,” Eliza Jane said. “Nice people drink out of the cup.”

“Eliza Jane!” Alice cried. “Be Ashamed! I guess Father’s as nice as anybody!”

Mother actually stopped working. She took her hands out of the dishpan and turned to face Eliza Jane. “Young lady,” she said, “if you have to show off your fine education, you tell me where saucers come from.”

Eliza Jane Wilder as a young woman

Eliza Jane Wilder

Eliza Jane opened her mouth, and shut it, and looked foolish.

“They come from China,” Mother said. “Dutch sailors brought them from China, two hundred years ago, the first time sailors ever sailed around the Cape of Good Hope and found China. Up to that time, folks drank out of cups; they didn’t have saucers. Ever since they’ve had saucers, they’ve drunk out of them. I guess a thing that folks have done for two hundred years we can keep on doing. We’re not likely to change, for a new-fangled notion that you’ve got in Malone Academy.”

That shut up Eliza Jane.

Wilder, Laura Ingalls. Farmer Boy, Harper & Row; New York, 1933.

. . . We would have to surmise from the history above that people in England and America didn’t have saucers before 1665, and possibly the cups referred to before then in the above passage were posset cups!? And we do indeed drink tea out of cups these days.   😉

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Late 1700’s Feather Edge Leed’s England toy plates blend well with little 18th century pewter plates and Victorian toy forks and knives. The plates are only 3″ in diameter.

With so much to teach the young ones in the way of ettiquette, it was inevitable for child sized and toy tea and dinner sets to become available, along with dessert and toilette sets, not long after full sized English-made sets were part of middle and upper class households. Children learned rituals and manners by having dinner or tea parties with their peers, or by serving their dolls. The second part of this series will present a diversity of English toy dishes with the joy they bring in their charm and whimsy!

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A century’s worth of children’s sugar boxes or bowls. Tune in next time to find out how they rank from circa 1820 to circa 1900!

P.S. “Can’t I Just Have a Tiny Book?”

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Miss Ruby and Little Davie snuggle in with their “tiny books.” “Davie, how many strawberries did the caterpillar eat before it turned into a butterfly?” “Oh, Ruby, I lost count. I was watching the pearl turn into the moon in Grandfather Twilight.

While working in the bookstore tonight, I witnessed a tantrum. Now, it is not unusual to hear little ones put up a fuss, and it is usually not pleasant to listen to. This, however, had to be the cutest tantrum I have ever heard:

A little girl, about 7 years old, is wailing as she follows her mom who is striding purposefully toward the exit. She sobs, “Can’t I just have a tiny book? They have tiny books!”

What a synchronicity when I have just been writing about tiny books! Now I know that this little girl most likely meant an “inexpensive book” in this situation, but maybe she, too, has a special affinity for small things. And I, for one, hope and wish that little ones will have “tiny books” and big books to their hearts’ content.

Sweet reading, and sweet dreams.

Jennie