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Avoca, Here We Come!

Avoca, Victoria, is apparently a lovely little town.  Everyone loves Avoca. Everyone I've ever heard about it from, at any rate. The town is in old goldfields country, and is famous now for wine, recreation, romantic getaways and views, though I'm given to understand that the hopeful still go prospecting!

It would seem that Avoca has much to commend it, and there's always something interesting going on. I'm not going to get to find out anytime soon, however; Martin's going to represent Aleta's Antiques at the Avoca Antiques Fair.

I'm holding down the fort, answering calls, keeping up with my blog, updating the website, watching the market all over the globe, researching our next book and, when I'm not busy, I'll catch up on administration...but then I'll get to curl up with a thick book on ancient ceramics or art glass just to relax...!

The Shoalhaven Gorge
Tallong, NSW Australia
Home to an amazing Cast of Characters, and
Aleta's Antiques

Usually, it's wonderful having time to myself in the natural surrounds of our place in Tallong, but maybe not in the dead of winter with the wind howling. 
Anyway, back to business: Martin has taken some really nice items with him, as always. There's a selection of float bowls, which was to include a penguin by Libochovice, (a Czech house that needs no introduction to glass aficionados, but not so well known by the general public) but alas, it sold to a lovely couple from Melbourne, and I'm delighted, 'cause they love it.

Here's a peek at some of the items we'll have there, because, well, not everyone lives in Victoria, and I want you to see them, wherever you are.

Bohemian glass, including Moser

Art Deco era glass

Walther and Söhne

Kitty Blake for Royal Worcester
The photograph to the left can't do justice to the talent of K.H. Blake, one of Royal Worcester's 'Saucy Six' - the nickname given to the group of female painters (well, I think it was five paintresses and one of their sisters...do I have that right? I'll have to check with MC) That she could paint with such finesse in miniature astounds me!

Lladró figurine
c. 19-ahem!

This darling girl is about as old as I am, 
and, like me, she's still looking good!

Royal Worcester
Blush Ivory Vase

Clarice Cliff
Royal Doulton
Art Glass
Depression Glass

Clarice Cliff Lidded Tureen
c. 1935

Royal Winton
Chintz Teapot c. 1950

Royal Doulton
Jug by Frank Butler

It wouldn't be Martin if he didn't have some serious ceramics, and he's got a couple of surprises. Of course he has Royal Worcester, including George Evans, Kitty Blake, James Stinton, and J. Llewellyn.

In addition, there's a piece I urge you to have a look at if you're in the area: a very large vase hand painted by Edward Raby.

Here's another interesting item - can you guess who's responsible for this little 18th Century imposter?
(Answer in a future post)

There's tons more, so if you're in the area, pop in to the fair and drop by Booth No. 13, Aleta's Antiques Museum (so called because it's not just a selling venue, we really do love hanging out in lovely surroundings talking about antiques, and you're welcome, anytime).

What are Float Bowls?

The Stump Lady - Sowerby (UK)
Grecian Lady - Jobling (UK)
Float bowls have remained an important genre in the decorative arts for decades.  So, what are they?  If you’re guessing that they have something to do with water because of the word ‘float’, you’d be right. Specifically, they’re bowls used for floating flowers or sometimes candles in. 

Modern float bowls are usually simple clear glass bowls with petals or more often a votive candle, floating in or surrounded by water, and sometimes used as centrepiece at weddings.  But the float bowls I love are decorative bowls designed to hold water and flowers and used as centrepieces on mantles and dining tables right through the mid-twentieth century.  They usually required a frog, an insert with holes all around it, designed to hold the stems of the flowers and greenery to be used for decorating the bowl.  Other additions were beautiful figurines or figural groups, which were either made to sit in the frog, or designed to be the frog themselves, with holes all around the base of the figurine.

This example of Walther's Hollanderin is Uranium Glass, prized for its glow-in-the-dark attribute
These float bowls, frogs and figurines are all highly collectable today.  As with any other collecting field, interest in them waxes and wanes, and now, with the worldwide recession, examples can be picked up for a fraction of what they cost only several years ago.  There are exceptions, of course, and rarer items will always retain their value.  As I write this (in June, 2011), a hard-to-find Walther Koala figurine has just sold on eBay for £600 - 600 British pounds; at current rates, that’s a little over 900 Australian Dollars, or 970 USD -  a goodly sum in a depressed market.

A Czech figurine/frog
Float bowls, frogs and figurines were produced by many different glass manufacturers.  Quality varied; there are many nondescript samples, but some truly beautiful items were produced by several outstanding houses. Some have become ubiquitous, like Sowerby’s Stump Lady or the Czech Poisson Volant.  Success guaranteed imitation, and like so many popular glass products, they were widely copies and one can find versions produced by several different factories; without some historical sleuth work it becomes difficult to discover who made what first!  Mass-produced items were manufactured for the export market in Czechoslovakia and exported by the thousands to England and other countries, to the extent that they were assumed to be English- (or Australia-, or American-) made.  Dissemination of information across The Internet has been most helpful here, and many of these pieces have now been correctly identified.
Orla - Walther & Sohne (Germany)

Few people actually use these items for flower arranging today, they are generally considered antiques and collectables, and displayed as such. My own favourites are Art Deco era glass figurines.  I’ve attached photos of some I adore, what do you think?

Pair Grainger Worcester Vases

Pair George Cole Vases - Grainger Worcester
I didn’t even get to tell you about this extraordinary pair of George Cole vases. They generated a lot of attention and sold immediately at the Melbourne Antiques Fair. The vases are signed George Cole, and are in pale blush with hand painted roses.  Date: c. 1902 Height: 30.5cm
In fact, all our Worcester and Royal Worcester urns, vases and potpourris sold in Melbourne.  I believe that is a result of our reasonable prices, and above all, our commitment to truthful dealings.

The good news is that we will have more quality Royal Worcester pieces on exhibit at the Avoca Antiques Fair, all with our mandatory condition reports and guarantee.

Hello, Dali?

Well, hello, Dali
It's so nice to have you here where you belong
You're lookin' swell, Dali
I can tell, Dali
You're still glowin', you're still crowin', you're still goin' strong!

Well, sorta....

As you know if you've been paying attention, I've been somewhat distracted by the goings-on in my real life, like examining antiques, and going to major exhibitions and buying and selling beautiful artworks and occasionally tossing some (usually really good) food at the members of my family. So I've not been paying as much attention to what's going on in the real world outside as I would like to.  Usually I know who's selling what and for how much, and who's complaining about who else did what (which I usually ignore).

Here's something I think I'd better take time to mention, though.  Occasionally there's a serious scam that people need to be made aware of - you know - like, you won't really become the beneficiary of a 30,000,000 pound legacy in a foreign bank account from someone who doesn't even know your name...but you knew that, right?

Hommage à Newton

This present issue is not a scam, exactly, it's more like dubious Dali dealings. In fact, it's likely all perfectly legal.  Here's what's happening: the Salvador Dali Institute, in Spain, is apparently calling for an investigation into the production and selling of....scores...? hundreds...? of bronze sculptures, based on other Dali works, and issued under Dali's name.  Here's the thing:  the licenses to Dali's name may well have been legitimately bought, 'limited editions' may be legitimately issued, and as long as items are correctly identified, or at least, not deliberately mis-identified, the producer is in the clear.

Think of it like the Royal Doulton and other originally English products now being manufactured in the tens of thousands in Asia and Indonesia.  Or 'limited editions' of 300,000 (okay, I exaggerate, but you get my drift). A true 'limited edition' means a run in which very few items are made, so, theoretically, if it's a desirable subject from a great artist and there are only a few of them, this is going to increase in value.  Or so a collector hopes.  But serious collectors won't buy kitschy objects made by the thousand in a foreign sweatshop, which is why the market value of ordinary RD has plummeted.

The Guardian (UK) online quotes Joan Manuel Sevillano of the Gala Dali Foundation in Madrid as saying: "There is a grey area around Dalí sculptures. A lot of material Dalí authorised through licensing, or contracts, were based on drawings by him – but often were not created by him." Further, "You look at a sculpture and you don't know what you are seeing – is it one out of 10, or 300 in three different patinas, so it's 900? And did Dalí make it or not, or is it made by a third person with Dalí's permission or not?"... "These are commercial sculptures, made for decorative purposes."

He's quite right, of course; legitimate it may be, but you couldn't call this Fine Art.  And the real problem is that some people are laying out beaucoup de bucks for these reproductions.  And I mean 'beaucoup de'; we're talking about millions for sculptures that cost around $1,000 to manufacture in a local foundry. Now, for the record, I've got absolutely no problem with the buying and selling of reproductions as long as they're identified as such, and in my view, the price should reflect this.

Makes you feel better about buying a cheap piece of Doulton for more than it's worth, huh?