Antiques: Head Start for Pottery Enthusiasts
Edmonds, Richard, The Birmingham Post (England)
Every year a new set of people start collecting antiques. Like those who have done so for years, they are looking for bargains and bring their own tastes and attitudes to bear.
What people choose to collect today should surprise none of us, since everything from Bakelite ashtrays to long-necked, glass-eyed 1930s cats, have their enthusiasts. But pottery still reigns supreme, with English pottery drawing the largest slice of the market.
When collecting in specialist areas, knowledge is everything. You will see many of the things I am mentioning in today's column around the fairs wherever you are visiting this summer, but how on earth could you hope to recognise a Middle Bronze Age burial urn unless you had done your research? Or how would you date an early slip-ware pot? Would you even recognise it? All these questions along with thousands of others relating to English pottery are answered thoroughly in the lavishly illustrated A Collectors History of English Pottery by Griselda Lewis (Antique Collectors' Club: pounds 45).
Lewis takes us from the very earliest pieces which archaeologists have unearthed around the countryside, to the latest studio pottery. But she goes via all kinds of decorative things including those delightful plaques beloved of the early 19th century with inscriptions such as "Prepare To Meet Thy God," "Thou God seest Me" or "Except Yee Repent Yee Shall All Likewise Perish", printed on ceramic plates with circular borders in purple lustre and green.
Familiar factories such as Wedgwood are covered as well as many lesser known companies. Sensibly, Lewis takes her hundreds of examples from pieces which appear on the open market rather than in museums.
Everyone needs to acquire a background of solid learning if they are ever to become a true collector. And there is a second reason to learn how to dig deeply, since fakes are always creeping on to the market - the Clarice Cliff imitations of a few years ago, for example. Lewis provides practical information which newcomers to collecting will welcome with open arms.
Cream-coloured earthenware has long been a desirable form of ceramic and recently I saw a pierced chestnut basket which, even though it had been re-glued at the base, was still commanding in excess of pounds 500. Excellent cream-coloured earthenware was made in Leeds, probably from 1765 onwards, and the early stuff is a deep cream colour, very light and silky to the touch. …