Sunday, January 25, 2009

Raising a little Hull...

That is HULL...just in case you thought I was going to go off...but, alas, I am only potted with pottery! Although my heart is with McCoy, there are other US potteries. Of course, the infamous Roseville Pottery is well known along with Van Briggle, Rookwood, and Weller for their high end pieces from the early 20th century.

But, one company that always puzzles me is Hull Pottery of Crooksville, Ohio.

Sometimes when these goose planters come up at auction...and they fly in chartreuse green can be a toss-up as to which one of the regulars will do a mercy bid so we can continue.
It can command high prices like the big names previously listed, but I have to say they produced a Heinz 57 variety that never ceases to amaze me. Here is a 6” matte glazed vase which can be well over $100 in value.
At the same time, you will see stacks of their brown drip dinnerware for under $1.00.

The Hull story is another family venture…why don’t families work together to build companies anymore…you can discuss that among yourselves some night when the power is out and you are not staring at a screen! But I digress…I know…as usual…anyway, Addis E. Hull created a stoneware manufacturing company, Globe Stoneware, in 1901. His brother began to produce a dinnerware line in 1903, and in 1907 they bought Acme Pottery, making stew and baking pans. I read that men were paid 25 cents per 100 to attach bale handles to the pots.

It was not until Addis Hull died and his son, Addis, Jr., took over that the pottery lines that they expanded to art pottery. The created both matte and shiny glazes and colors, producing some of their finest lines.

The company finally ceased production in 1983. But to give you an idea of their production lines, it went from the Old Spice mugs between the late 30s-late 50s
to Madonna planters to art pottery. The pieces I have in my shop now are from the 1940-50s era.

Comparing it to McCoy, you can see a real difference….which brings me to a final thought…once you are familiar with the companies you can recognize their work unlike companies today where one company produces, and then someone ships it to China to reproduce rather than create. Now, let me sound like an old piece of pottery…ah, for the good old days!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

When you go to auction

you see shelves and tables of all kinds of treasures and trash...and I do not use that word in a negative way, believe me, there is good trash!

Anyway, the day after Christmas, I saw the auction ad that included these words: "30+ pieces of McCoy." I was thrilled! Santa had cleaned out some houses while he was on his rounds and dropped them off at my favorite weekly auction!

I have shown some McCoy on the blog before...but check this out...this is in my shop!!!

This is mainly show...just a look at the variety of pottery made. I love the earlier colors...the soft greens are so pleasant. Those came out of the Derpression era...when money is tight, creativity flourishes...maybe there is hope for us!

Anyway, McCoy started as a primitive utilitarian company producing crocks and bowls like I discussed last week. The McCoy that is "art pottery" began its life as Brush McCoy around 1911. In 1918, McCoy sold their interest, and Brush survived until 1981.
In the meantime, J.W. McCoy assisted his son Nelson in establishing the Nelson McCoy Sanitary Stoneware. What is always wonderful about researching early American companies is the saga of family connections unlike the mega corporations of today.

Anyway, in 1933, in response to consumer demand, the company reorganized into the Nelson McCoy company. It survived until 1967 when it was sold to Mount Clemens Pottery. In 1974 Lancaster Colony purchased the business. Throughout the aquisitions, Nelson McCoy stayed involved until he retired in 1981. In 1985, Designer Accents took over, and finally in 1990 the company was gone...another victim of imports, and corporate greed probably factored in that as well.

Anyway, enjoy the tour...

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Life is a Bowl of Cherries!

Ah, life is a bowl of cherries...or as Mary Engelbreit saw it...a chair of bowlies...did you know that the original song "Life Is Just a Bowl of Cherries" was written in 1931 (music by Ray Henderson and lyrics by Buddy G. DeSylva and Lew Brown)and was revived in 1953 by Jaye P. Morgan. But, the Depression Era lyrics play well in today's economy also...

Life is just a bowl of cherries
Don't take it serious,
Life's too mysterious
You work,
You save,
You worry so
But you can't take your dough
When you go, go, go...

Well, I use my dough when I buy for my shop, and ever since I opened it, I have always had a good selection of bowls. At auction, if a bowl went up, so did my hand. I have no idea why I developed this obsession…it is not as if I had been raised in a home where bowls were constantly in use. Sure, my Mother cooked, but she had a Pyrex bowl (nothing against Pyrex, and they also grace the shelves in my shop); however, once I had my antique shop, I fell in love with pottery…and, in particular, yellow ware and stoneware bowls.

This is a 17" yellow ware bowl that I just purchased, and I was lucky enough to snap a picture before it sold! It barely had time to settle in on the shelf!

There is something solid about them…not to mention the hundred years of food that filled their cavities. And, there is something about winter, especially in the colder climates, that brings the heavy pottery bowl into the picture…whether it is holding dough as it rises for bread or apples that have been collected from the root cellar…it has a sense of hearth and home.

Even in a modern chrome kitchen, an 1800s yellow ware or stoneware bowl can provide a provenance that is not gained by a sterile new piece of pottery. Sure, these bowls are still being produced. Here is a Robinson Ransbottom bowl…they are in Roseville, Ohio, having opened in 1900, and, amazingly, they are still in existence.

Clay City Pottery is another modern pottery company that has been in existence since 1885. Here is a Clay City Bowl.
Beryl Griffith, an English-Welsh potter, created “Griffith’s Pottery,” and, when her son took over, he changed the name to Clay City Pottery in 1912. The Pottery is still in the family with the fourth generation now in charge. The great-grandaughter, Cheryl, runs the company, and still uses the designs that Beryl created. The colors have been modernized, but many of the processes are still the same.

The Robinson Ransbottom Pottery was founded by Frank Ransbottom and has been in operation since 1900. Frank had close ties with the world famous art potteries of this era, and his brothers Ed and Mort held important positions at Roseville Pottery. During the late 1890's, Frank Ransbottom had become one of the area's best known and most successful jobbers of the stoneware and earthenware products. Frank and three of his brothers - Ed, Johnie and Mort, acquired "Oval Ware and Brick Company" in the fall of 1900. Among the earliest products were jardinieres, cuspidors and red flower pots. The pottery business grew rapidly and established itself as a leading producer of stoneware jars. By 1916, the Ransbottom Pottery had become the world's largest manufacturer of stoneware jars, a position it still holds.

In 1920, the company merged with Robinson Clay Products Company, a manufacturer of tile and brick products. The product lines were expanded to gardenware, a category which includes bird baths, planters, pots, jardinieres, vases, urns and strawberry jars. Much of the American made pottery that you see in garden centers is probably from RRP. Their large crocks have a crown on the them and show up at flea markets quite often being touted as antique.

Although the Ohio potteries are still in business, New Jersey produced the first yellow ware with Pennsylvania following next. Yellow ware was produced from a finer clay and was less dense than stoneware. Redware fell out of favor when it became apparent lead was a by-product (notice what goes around comes around). The earlier varieties did not have the thick “shoulder” (rim). This is a Weller utilitarian bowl…Weller is a New Jersey pottery company who is better known for their art pottery, but I love the yellow of their bowls…very warm.

This is a Red Wing bowl…their bowls have a wide "shoulder" and the vertical ribs.
Red Wing is from Minnesota, and they are still producing stoneware. Here is an example from their web site.
One of my early favorites is McCoy’s “Dandy Line,” which was introduced after WWI.
I remember when Martha Stewart's TV show hit the air, and she had all those wonderful yellow ware bowls on a shelf over her stove...they were McCoy's Dandys!

If you are intrigued by the old bowls, the market is great for buying now...while their prices soared a couple years ago, they have fallen with housing prices! I cannot afford to collect houses...would not want to anyway...can barely keep up with one...but I do love to collect bowls! So, I am easily bowled over by a auction, they know if they need me to pay attention, all they have to say is bowl...but I do believe life is a bowl of cherries...and a chair of bowlies is fine by me also because as the song goes...

Life is just a bowl of cherries
So live and laugh, aha!
Laugh and love
Live and laugh,
Laugh and love,
Live and laugh at it all!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Button...button...who's got the button?

The new movie out, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” set me off this week. I am sure many of you wonder how my mind works…yeah, so do I! But, you might want to pour a cup of coffee…or brew a cup of tea…or perhaps a martini…this is a long one…too many fascinating twists…the button may be small, but its tale is large!

So, history lesson for the week (although I teach composition, my first love was history)… a functional button, made of stone, was found in Turkey at a site dated to 10,500 BC (no Joann Fabrics there, I bet!) Then archaeological digs in China and Rome uncovered button-like objects that were used as ornaments rather than fasteners. It appears clothes were held together with pins and belts.

At some point the idea of running thread through these items came into play, and the button as we know it today made its debut around 1200 in Europe. The Crusaders picked up the idea from the Turks and Mongols, and, as clothing was starting to become form fitting, the button and loop worked better than a pin.

The French, fashion mavens even in the Dark Ages, established a Button Makers Guild in 1250. The word button appeared and stems from either the French bouton for bud or bouter to push. The button became a work of art created for the aristocracy, and laws were passed prohibiting the peasants from buying the buttons…which they really could not afford anyway…but they were allowed thread or cloth covered buttons only. So, the button became the Prada of the 13th century.

Europe became so button crazy that the Church denounced them as 'the devil's snare', referring to the ladies in their button-fronted dresses. So many buttons adorned clothes that professional dressers were hired to assist. A 1520 report describes a meeting where King Francis I of France, his clothing bedecked with some 13,600 buttons, met King Henry VIII of England, similarly weighed down with buttons. (Maybe that is why Henry had so many wives…could not find one to sew on a button!!!)

The Puritans condemned the button in the 16th century, and you know how fashionable their clothes looked! So, as the numbers of buttons diminished, the button makers turned to their high artistry again, using gold, ivory, and diamonds. They hand painted portraits and scenes on buttons.
Louis XIV adored his buttons and returned to the excesses of previous ages, but he also encouraged others by having his army wear silver-colored bone buttons on their tunics.

In the 17th century, a button war broke out in France between the tailors and the button makers. The tailors were using the thread buttons they created, and the artisan button makers protested. A law was passed that fined the tailors, but it is unclear of the extent of its enforcement.

Napoleon was responsible for the buttons on sleeves, and during this time the double breasted jacket came into vogue. When the outside of the jacket was soiled, the wearer just had to unbutton it and place the soiled surface on the inside then button the clean side outermost. Who knew?

Once buttons entered mass production, the landscape changed, but everyone still kept a button box. The pearl button has a fun story…that of the Pearly Kings and Queens of London. According to one account, the Pearlies derived from London cockneys who sewed pearl buttons onto their clothing. An orphan named Henry Croft collected any pearl buttons that fell off clothes and covered his clothing with them. Another story claims that in the 1880s a cargo of Japanese pearl buttons was salvaged from the River Thames, but in true British spirit, the Pearly Monarchy lives on today!
The most popular button of the 19th Century, however, was the black glass button. This was made for the masses in response to Queen Victoria's demand for mourning buttons following the death of Prince Albert. (Guess they kept the buttons in the can…)
By the turn of the 20th Century, picture and novelty buttons were very much the fashion. They no longer needed to be hand-painted when they could have scenes printed onto them, and molding allowed shapes and sizes, and it was perhaps this that began the trend for collecting buttons for their own sake.

From the National Button Society’s web site, I found a fascinating story. Listening to the radio was a favorite activity during the Great Depression of the 1930’s. Dave Elman, a former Chautauqua performer and vaudeville actor, launched a radio show called "Hobby Lobby" (yepper…those of you in the Midwest are familiar with that label!) in October of 1937. Elman’s show featured one hobby each week, with an offer of a free trip to New York City for the person with an unusual or particularly interesting hobby. In 1938, Gertrude Patterson brought to his show her passion for collecting buttons, a hobby just about anybody could afford during those lean times, and a national search of attics, basements and sewing rooms commenced.

Otto C. Lightner, an entrepreneur who believed everyone should collect something, founded Hobbies magazine in the 1920's and in 1938 organized a hobby show at the Hotel Sherman in Chicago. Button collectors contributed to the show and later that year they formed the National Button Society, hosting their own show in Chicago in 1939. Many state and local button clubs were established during the 1940's, and many of those clubs sponsored their own button shows.

There are many who craft today with has particularly reached a fine art with buttons as a base. I have a friend who fashioned pins from buttons, and below is a heart pin that I bought decades ago...I love blimps!

Erica at makes some wonderful bracelets from old buttons...I have none in stock right now, but here is a current offering from her web site...

I am sure buttons still find their way into jars or tins…many outfits come with extra buttons…however, in the word button is BUT…and the question is…but how many of you are back to using the pin to hold that button on? Just like the ancient civilizations taught us!

So, by now you are ready for me to button my lip…even if you think my puns are cute as a button…so I shall button it up!