Regular readers will know by now my love for all things of yesteryear. My decade of choice is the 1950s, though I will go to the ’60s and late ’40s at a push. I do have some magazines from the ’70s and ’80s but they never get read, so I’ve made the decision to sell them. If you’re interested, all of the magazines below will be listed on Ebay from this evening for seven days.
There are some quite interesting articles and adverts in them. My favourite advert is a Nivea one: it has a picture of a really old Native American woman and a caption that reads something like, “Looks 80 doesn’t she? Halve that to get nearer her real age.” Apparently using Nivea will stop you looking like a wizened old squaw…
Have a look at the magazines on Ebay here.
Fohr seemed to produce good quality, simple yet stylishly designed and beautifully coloured pottery:
We’ve only got a few, but it’s no surprise that we’ve ended up keeping most of them.
What’s everyone up to this weekend? I’m off out for dinner tonight with my lovely workmates, and then – if I get my way! – to the SpotiFriday Night at the Deaf Institute, Manchester. Quite looking forward to it and need to get thinking about my requests now.
Today is also a big thank you to everyone who’s been reading my blog and leaving me lots of lovely comments. This has been my busiest month yet in terms of views; it’s nice to know so many people seem to enjoy my randomness and ramblings!
- Pop Pots (littleowlski.wordpress.com)
Last week was spent frantically sorting out and preparing for the Saturday Sale in Glossop of West German Pottery. Saturday morning dawned and everything was ready:
Wowie Zowie owners Jenny and Goff were first in at the crack of dawn… well, not quite. But they were first in as the shop needed to be opened. A quick whizz round and they’d grabbed a gorgeous lamp, a fantastic Italian planter that we were quite partial to ourselves and some other lovely West German Pottery. I’ve said it before (and I’ll say it again!), but their shop really is the embodiment of all of my retro shop fantasies. Every time, and I do mean every single time, we go in there, we’re blown away by how fantastic it is. I love the fact that some of our stuff ends up in there.
Our neighbour, Helen, was next through the doors and I was more pleased than anything else really that she bought one of the pots! I love it when we sell something to friends and family; it’s like a little confirmation that it’s not just us and a few others who like this stuff AND that we might have a chance of making a go at this as a real business. Helen’s pot is already in her window and I like that the WGP world is spreading through Glossop. She bought an excellent 1950s Scheurich Heinz Siery piece to put her flowers in. I’ll grab a picture one day, if she’ll let me!
After that, Julian, Lisa and Chris were the next to arrive – and were amongst the last to leave! As always, lovely to see them and this time, Chris bought some pieces of pottery as well!
Chris is holding the pieces he bought and Lisa is holding what has been christened Julian’s ‘Chef Hat’ Carstens. They bought some other lovely things as well, but I won’t give them away. Instead, you can go and visit Lisa’s blog here and take a look for yourself.
Lots of people came on the day, virtually everybody we’d invited. Unfortunately, in all of the excitement, I completely forgot to take many pictures! Richard Holland, who owns the largest Ceramano collection in the world, came along with his friend Janet, who professed herself to not actually being a collector. I think we may have changed her mind though as she left with more than Richard! Unsurprisingly, Richard bought a large Ceramano piece, along with a small Ilkra. Janet bought a few gorgeous 1950s pieces by Scheurich and Bay, including that fabulous orange Bay Contura piece that I loved; and a few of the glass solifleur vases. Steve and Lesley from Derbyshire came over – they’d already bought a few bits and bobs from Aidan’s Ebay: penguinaidan. They took one of the amazing Scheurich huuuuuuuuuge Wien pots! Those are seriously amazing pots:
Stuart Brownrigg, who runs the most amazing West German pottery stall at Bygone Times, turned up carrying a bottle of German champagne and some delicious-looking rhubarb chutney from his wife, The Kitchen Witch. We should be having some of that for our lunch today! Stuart bought a fab Ruscha 313 with a crackle glaze and… I’ll be honest, I can’t remember what else! He was another who managed to escape the photographs! He did provide us with some information regarding pots we’d still not managed to identify. As always, it was fantastic seeing him… and as to re-use a thought, you really should get yourself up to Bygone Times to see his stall if you haven’t already. Trust me, it’s worth it.
We also met Kevin Thorpe and his wife, Joanne for the first time. Kevin is a relatively new collector, but yet someone else from the North West who has discovered the love for West German pottery. Thankfully, he was more than happy for me to take a picture:
As well as the few smaller pieces in the box, Kevin and Joanne bought two massive Scheurich vases with psychedelic flowers on the sides. I absolutely love how pleased Kevin looks in this photograph! Really lovely to meet them both, and again, very glad that we had something that they liked.
Stefan, a recently met collector was last through the doors and he was like a whirlwind too! That seemed to be the theme of the day, regardless of how long you spent. At one point, we had that many people in the front room, even I had to make a retreat to the kitchen!
More than anything, it was just such a lovely feeling to have brought so many people together who enjoy looking at and chatting about West German pottery. I was ever so excited – though this might have had as much to do with the amount of diet coke and tea I’d drunk by the end of the day! By five o’clock, the last person had left and we were left with a still very full living room, a few more pennies in the pocket and a extremely satisfying feeling of having made a little mark on the WGP world. A massive thanks to everybody who made the huge effort to come along: Jen, Goff, Helen, Julian, Lisa, Chris, Steve, Lesley, Richard, Janet, Kevin, Joanne, Stuart, Stefan and Dave (dragged along by Helen, probably!). We promise to try and make it at least an annual event.
Not deliberately patriotic, but still a pretty impressive collection all the same. All of these pots are for sale on Saturday. Even if you can’t make it, enjoy the pottery porn!
As seems to be the case, the West German pottery that we decide to keep often gets blogged about last. Because some of the stuff we sell shifts so quickly, I often write about it before it’s disappeared from my memory. Unfortunately (for my little blog), Aidan’s managed to shift so many of the pots already this time. It feels like the house is bare! Comparatively speaking, of course…
Here are some of the pieces we’re keeping this time:
This Otto pot is possibly one of the most unusual pieces of West German pottery we own: it looks like it’s made of metal, with thin lines of green-copper ‘cracks’ running through it.
Otto do make some lovely pottery. They always seem to have either a unique glaze, shape or colour to them. Some of our best pieces have come from this factory.
We seemed to find some altogether peculiar items this time. Though none perhaps as odd as this…
We bought this from a couple of women on a flea market who were rather bemused with our purchase! It’s certainly one of the more unusual pieces of West German pottery we’ve got. I think it’ll be staying with us for a while longer yet as it’s quite cheery looking in the bedroom.
This is the first Sgrafo piece we’ve ever come across. Honestly, having looked on the Pottery and Glass forum, I think it’ll be the only one we have. Can’t say I’ve been too keen on others I’ve seen on there…
Thank God it’s Friday! Hope everyone who’s had a tough week has the weekend they deserve. I’m already drinking a beer…
- West German Pottery Wall Hangings (littleowlski.wordpress.com)
- From Spritzdekor to Madbrit: The Many Personas of Kevin Graham (littleowlski.wordpress.com)
- West German Pottery Exhibition: June 18th 2011 (littleowlski.wordpress.com)
One field I know virtually nothing about is that of glass. We’re starting to pick up more and more pieces on each of our trips; this time, I think we got some of our best ones. We must have an eye for greens and blues in glass: virtually all of our pieces are in varying shades.
The smaller vase was bought on the last but one trip; the larger last time. I didn’t realise they were slightly different colours until I put them together for that picture: I’d bought the bigger one thinking it matched the other one.
Sticknobills at the Pottery and Glass forum has been filling me in about some of these glass pieces. These vases are Vase 1379 for Riihimäen Lasi (1970), designed by Tamara Aladin. If you ever have queries on any piece of pottery or glass, the forum must be your first port of call. The members there are amazing at identifying pieces and providing that extra bit of information about them.
The label on this one reads, Svensk Form, Bo Borgstrum, Sweden, Aseda.” I orginally thought this was called ‘Seda’, having not realised the stylised A on the logo was part of the name. Thanks to Ursa_Major at P&GF for telling me this!
Aidan has set up a display and photography bit up in the garden today, as the weather is so glorious neither of us wanted to sit inside. We tried to go for a run this morning in the sunshine. However, I think too many beers and too much curry was weighing us down and we ended up walking round instead…
These are ‘unknowns’ at the moment. I’ve posted them up on the Pottery and Glass forum and am combining writing this with discussions about them. Hopefully someone will have identified them before I finish writing this.
I’ve got a few more to post as well. Unfortunately, my wordpress has started messing around with where I can insert pictures again and my patience is running out! Think I’ll carry on reading ‘The Crimson Petal and the White’ in the garden while Aidan takes pictures of pottery. He’s uploading a bumper crop to Ebay this evening so make sure you have a look.
- A Gaggle of Glass: Dartington to Murano (littleowlski.wordpress.com)
“I have collected things before: fast cars, fast motorcycles and even faster women…”
Kevin Graham certainly lives up to his nickname of Madbrit. I knew before I began that interviewing him was going to be an interesting experience. Certainly, I hoped that I would be able to get at least as much sense as I usually do – the last conversation I had with him via Twitter resulted in the image of Kevin riding around a giant West German pot dressed as a banana… though he is keen to point out that the banana actually referred to his motorcycle; it was me who added the dressing up element!
Random conversations and jokes aside, with several exhibitions and books due this year, I wanted to find out from Kevin himself how he’d become the Grandmaster of the West German pottery world.
The reason most people have heard of Kevin is as a result of finding his Pottery and Glass forum on the internet, or by purchasing one of his amazing books on West German Pottery. Whatever method you have stumbled across him, both the forum and the books are fantastic resources for any level of WGP collector: novice or more experienced fan. The sheer wealth of information available on the forum, for example, can add a whole new dimension to the WGP collecting experience. It is an extremely friendly and welcoming place; full of keen collectors from across the globe, all who have a different experience from which to draw on and offer valuable advice.
Collecting appears to be in Kevin’s blood, having inherited his Mother’s jugs (“Steady, they were milk jugs”) and his father’s glass and stoneware bottle collection. As with most collectors, it seems to be as you delve into the past, they come from a childhood filled with a random assortment of objects, shelves filled with bits and bobs and a magpie-like obsession with certain things. Before getting into pottery, Kevin collected many artworks from Charlotte Lindsay and Mick Cawston. However, we may be able to credit Kevin’s wife, Esther, with the instigation of his love for WGP. In his words, “it wasn’t until I met Esther, my wife, in 2004, and moved to Germany that the real obsession kicked in.”
The first ever pot, the one that began Kevin’s obsession, was a Bay Keramik Fat Lava piece, found in a charity shop in Chard, Somerset. That was over ten years ago. Since then, Kevin estimates he has over 21,000 pieces with approximately 20-30 pieces being added each week. This, he claims, is a slow-down in buying:
“At first, I bought everything, but in the last 4-5 years, I have been buying pieces that please me. The aim, I guess, is to pad my retirement fund!”
I’m sure most of us avid WGP collectors have had the same hope that some of our WG pots could fund a retirement: Kevin is likely to be the one who can actually do it.
Picking and Choosing:
With just so many pieces of West German pottery, I wonder how on Earth Kevin manages to keep track of them all. Does he have any particular likes or dislikes?
“My likes and dislikes tend to move. Although I love the Fat Lava glazes produced by Oswald Kleudgen for Scheurich, a lot of the forms they produced in the 1970s & 80s are, for me, bland by comparison. Earlier Scheurich pieces designed by Heinz Siery, to me, are far more appealing. Scheurich, of course, shipped everything, including items that many other companies would have not shipped after quality control. I have a 1970s 414-16 which has another 414-16 part embedded into its base, the vase rocks, it will not stand still. This would have happened when something exploded in the kiln, but it was shipped anyway. I am beginning to dislike Scheurich from a quality aspect.”
As collectors, we tend to move through various phases of collecting. We began, the way most WGP collectors did, by buying a vase in a charity shop or from a flea market; beginning to research the origins, then moving on to buying everything in sight. Eventually, you begin to refine what you buy, restricting it to pieces you love, certain glazes, forms or factories. Deciding what to buy, what to keep and what to leave behind can form the most difficult – and enjoyable – part of the process.
With a collection of over 21,000 pieces, does Kevin ever leave anything behind?
“Many things I could say, however anything brown. I leave many pieces behind, at Fleamarkets, Trödelmarkts and Charity Shops. I don’t buy much Scheurich now, I leave it if the glaze does not attract me. I leave most Jasba pieces also. If they don’t have a Fat Lava or interesting glaze, I walk past them. Realistically if it isn’t studio or an interesting glaze I leave it where it stands.”
Are there any regrets for things left behind?
“Many, many regrets. Mostly not buying studio pieces, or Pseudo studio like Ceramano. Also I regret leaving the antique wooden skis & poles behind, from a Spermuhle (ie it was free) just before Christmas, later to find out that they were worth over 2000 euros!”
That is a decision that would plague me! However, with the regrets come some fantastic finds. With so many pieces in the collection, Kevin must surely find it tricky to choose; he admits it’s a difficult question. So, which are his best finds?
“There are so many that would qualify, like 58cms Ceramano Sunset vase, bright yellow. Dümler & Breiden Fat Lava vase with a hole, Kera Keramik Lampbases designed by Walter Gerhards. Many Horst Kerstan pieces, IB Langelot piece too, but probably the best is a vase with rotating platters created by Gerda Heuckeroth & Heinz Siery in 1963.”
One of the things I was keen to gain from Kevin was a sense of where and how he thinks the market for West German pottery is developing. For me, part of the excitement comes from feeling that I am immersed in a field that is newly emerging. Every day, there seems to be something new to be learned about it. Kevin is in agreement.
“I think that we have just scratched the surface of WGP, most of the catalogues have not surfaced yet, and I think we just have the tip of the iceberg. My West & East German Pottery Marks, Form Numbers & Decors Vol/Edition III has over 120,000 shapes recorded. Since its release in November 2010, I have found 1800 more, with 17 new catalogues from Marzi & Remy, Fohr, Ruscha, Ceramano and Scheurich, which have added form & decor data. It is an ongoing project. I think it is still in its infancy, whilst a lot more is now known, there is so much more to discover.”
This infancy and the element of the unknown about the field may be being exploited, however:
“Some worrying aspects are that certain WGP pieces companies are being copied. Otto Keramik acquired the moulds from Ruscha for the steer figures, and as Otto Gerharz Snr produced the Vulkano glaze for Ruscha, this glaze is amongst the 19 they currently offer. They are identical, in size and weight.”
These are worrying words. I assume many collectors feel the same as me: they want the original, not what is essentially a copy.
A while ago, I mentioned that we’d had a nocturnal disaster with a few of my 414 collection when Aidan accidentally blundered into them in the middle of the night. I was interested to know if Kevin had ever had a similar accident; having that many pots must surely come with its problems?
“In my house in the lounge I have a huge window (approx 5mx2m). And on its large window sill (6mx1m) sits a lot of pottery about 100 pieces or so. A neighbourhood tom cat got into the house and my two tom cats chased it into the lounge. The huge window looked like his route of escape, and he proceeded to run across it. I lost three really good Carstens pieces, some Gräflich Ortenburg, and seven Ruschas, which at current values would be worth over 500 pounds.
Another disaster was at a fleamarket, in Wesselburen. I had 12 good high quality pieces in the rucksack, and a Wächtersbach handled vase in the hand, when I tripped over a piece of metalware poking out of a stand. I dropped the Wächtersbach, and twisted around to save those in the rucksack. End result a slipped disc and a broken pot.”
Back to the Future
So, what is next for Madbrit? For a man who used to work in the semiconductor industry, it seems a massive change of life and job.
“Now, I research and write factual books. The next one will be launched at the Exhibition in Amsterdam I am organising with Emiel Monnink, in June. Mark Hill will be opening this exhibition, with a working title “More than Fat Lava: Mid Century & Modern German Ceramics.” The exhibition will show rare WGP pieces, not just main factory but also studio work too, It will have Fat Lava as well. The book/CD that I will release is call Bauhaus Generated and focuses on Studio, Töpferei & Atelier pottery.”
More collaborations are planned for the future with Mark Hill; and Kevin speaks almost daily with Forrest Poston. Dr. Michael Thomas is also another friend and avid West German Pottery chronicler. Just like Madbrit himself, all three men have been vital in expanding the world of West German pottery. Perhaps the unsung heroes though, are the amazing men and women who frequent the Pottery and Glass forum, endlessly scouring new posts and pictures to offer their friendly advice to experts and novices alike.
From one Bay Keramik vase found in a charity shop to exhibitions, books and a hugely successful forum for the avid collectors of WGP across the globe. It seems that while there may be much more below the surface of the pottery iceberg, Kevin is certainly the man to explore it. At the very least, he’ll have his wooden skis on, leading the way for the rest of us.
- Spritzdecor to Fat Lava II Book on a CD
- West & East German Pottery, Marks, Form Numbers & Decors III
- Bauhaus Generated Studio book 1920-2010 (June 2011)
- Ceramano the Story June/July 2011
- The Complete book of Ruscha (Fall 2011)
- The Good, the Bad & the Ugly, Roth design history (Fall 2011)
- Life of Design a book on Cari Zalloni (Spring 2012)
- 20th Century German Designers (Spring 2011)
Twitter: @Spritzdekor (Kevin Graham) and @Littleowlski (Me)
Fat Lava Lounger: Kevin Graham’s Flickr Page
Unbelievably, March is nearly at an end. Which means I need to post up the last of my March illustrations. This time, they are all from 1972 editions of Woman And Home and Woman’s Own.
I’ve not seen the name ‘Sommer’ mentioned before, so I don’t know anything about it. I do like this one though; it seems simple yet quite striking.
There’s a definite change in the style of illustratrion as the decades move on. I still think I prefer the ’50s and early ’60s illustration style.
- March Illustration: The ’60s (littleowlski.wordpress.com)
- More Illustrations from the ’60s (littleowlski.wordpress.com)
- Illustrators in March: Harris, Carter and Heseltine (littleowlski.wordpress.com)
I’ve finally been to a jumble sale – it’s been far too long! On Sunday, we went down to Stafford to see my sister on her birthday. (See ‘Nurses and Brides’ post). I swear the Midlands is the Mecca for jumble and car boot sales. We went to a village jumble in Gnosall, queued up from quarter to with everyone else. My sister, Megan, very loudly proclaimed that she hated kissing old people on the lips; Kirsty, equally as loudly, said she loved it… It’s a miracle they sold us anything.
Megan was right in there. I’ve never seen anything like it. Elbowing O.A.Ps left, right and centre: it was amazing. I was a bit more sedate. It’s been that long since I’ve been to one, I think I’ve forgotten the knack of it. The bits and bobs were easy to look around… it was the clothes mountain that scared me off. However, scary women (and there was one VERY scary woman in particular: “If you want to get in there, I’ll move. You’ve only got to ask, there’s no need to be so rude.” This was said to a very old lady who had gently – she was quite old, mind – nudged her on the elbow. Cue five minutes of vitriol pouring out of her mouth.) aside, we did get a few bits and bobs:
All those for a pound!
My best find though wasn’t even retro or vintage:
It shouldn’t really be featured as I do try to limit my posts to anything vaguely retro or vintage BUT it was such a fantastic bargain, I had to show it off. We looked it up when we got home and the same model should cost £110. It works perfectly and has everything with it, including the instructions. I’m a bit excited. I know it’s sad… as soon as my evil week is over then I’ll get making some stuff. I suppose that’s fairly retro, isn’t it? Aren’t we supposed to be modern women nowadays, all debauchery, lager, late nights and loose love? No…? Ah well, best continue on like nothing’s changed then.
I think I could get addicted to jumble sales. They’re so cheap, it’s almost scandalous. On the way out of the hall, Megan said, “I really feel like going and looking around the charity shops now. Is town open?” It’s the thrill of finding something for nothing, isn’t it, that gets you hooked. Just a shame that I can’t seem to find any in Manchester.
- Being Modern: Vintage (independent.co.uk)