Friday, September 28, 2007

California Pottery Planter-- McFarlin Horse and Foal Head.

This planter was a bit of test for me. I don’t regularly collect ware from California potteries but this one seemed fun, a planter with the nicely modeled head of a horse and a foal. On the back of the figure was an impressed name that after rubbing with pencil I made out to be © Mcfarlin. Plugging the name into my favorite search engine came up with several examples of McFarlin and Freeman-McFarlin pottery but not a lot of information

On one site devoted to animal figures-- Freeman & McFarlin's minuature animals are of interest to collectors-- I found that McFarlin's business had a beginning date of 1927. On California pottery site I found that Gerald McFarlin and Maynard Anthony Freeman had formed a partnership in the mid 1940’s (other sources say 1950). McFarlin was an established Southern California potter. Freeman was just out of the service. During World War II when it became illegal to import Japanese items directly from Japan there was a boom in interest in pottery made in the United States and California (along with Ohio and several other pottery producing states) benefited from it.

My planter is only marked McFarlin but because it is marked in the mold, this does not necessarily mean that it predates the creation of the partnership. It does probably mean that the mould predated the mid 1940s.

The base has a mould line and three stilt marks. It is also evenly covered by a clear glaze.
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Thursday, August 2, 2007

The Charm of "Made in Japan" Dogs

My mother's mother lived in a very rural area of the southern Appalachians. It was nothing to be woke up by the scream of a hunting "painter" (panther) at night and indoor plumbing was a dream until about 1967.
As for the outdoor facilities, besides the user being required to share space with spiders, snakes and other assorted creepy crawlies, it was entirely too close to the well where the washing water was drawn. The kitchen had running water which had to be pumped with a hand pump situated on one side of the sink. The table took up most of the kitchen floor space and because there was a big family there were rough and rickety benches on either side of the table rather than chairs. And on most other flat surfaces there were little ceramic animals that I found fascinating.

If I was very good I was allowed to play with them. On the bottom of many of them was printed "Made in Occupied Japan". When I asked her, my grandmother had no idea what it meant, nor did anyone else I asked at the time. Very likely they knew but didn't want to have to explain a rather complicated subject to an 8 year old. Anyway it left me with a love of little MIJ (Made In Japan) figurines that pops up when I see one that catches my fancy. But the things that I love (just to be difficult) have nothing to do with what has become short handed as Occupied Japan or "OC" (which had an incredible vogue in local flea markets in the 80's) but earlier items made for the Five and Dime import market.

They often showed up at a local amusement park or carnival as prizes so they would appear to nominally have a use like the German Shepherd above that guards an ash tray. The little bulldog with his screwed up, pugnacious face is either guarding a dish to keep spare change and cufflinks in or a small cake of soap. The base of the ash tray says laconically "Made in Japan" without any other type of mark. The little soap dish or change tray has the same legend in black. The ashtray is far more finished. The bottom is unglazed where it sits flat. Impressed on the long edge is Made in Japan A904. The bulldog's base is unglazed. There's a bit of an art deco look to the shape of the ashtray's base as well as the deep colors. The bulldog has an opalescent glaze that suggests it was made prior to World War II. I need to admit that nothing I have a picture of belonged to my grandmother. I have no idea what happened to her things after she died. I suspect they simply stayed where they were as some of the relatives continued to live in the house. I haven't seen it in decades but I understand that family members still reside there although the outhouse was long ago pulled down and filled in with dirt.

However I do have one item that she would never have owned.
There was definitely a market in the USA for slightly rude little items. Now they actually command higher prices than the more sedate MIJ figurines. Anyway, I could not resist this particular bull pup anointing a fire hydrant. Standing on the back of an ashtray his little serious scrunched up face suggests concentration on marking his territory. I don't know if the colors are cold painted rather than under glazed but the stray specks of orange which I attempted to remove with a thumbnail are definitely under a clear coat.

The succinct "Japan" on the bottom as well as the colors used argues that this was also a pre-WWII item. The theory of dating items by this simple mark is fraught with possible errors. Prior to about 1921 the McKinley Tariff Act of 1890 required items made for export to be marked with their country of origin as in "Nippon". After World War I a few things were still marked Nippon but mostly the items were marked simply "Japan" or "Made in Japan". From December 1941 (attack on Pearl Harbor) until 1948 direct imports from Japan to the United States were forbidden. Between 1948 (or 1946) and 1951 (or 1952) most Japanese imports were marked "Made in Occupied Japan." Japan formally surrendered in September 1945 and in September 1951 the San Francisco Peace Treaty marked the end of Allied Occupation. It went into effect on April 28, 1952. This explains some of the confusion on sites about when the occupation began and ended. Some people will also argue the the items marked simply "Japan" are older than those marked "Made in Japan" based on a strict reading of import rules but this is more in the way of an urban legend and lacks scholarly support.
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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

For the Newby: The Fake Versus the Real McCoy-- Uh, Hull I Mean

I just happen to be a very good position to illustrate the non-fraudulent fake which can give the newby pottery buyers some ideas about what to look out for when browsing.

Fakes come in various types. There is the unauthorized reproduction of a genuine item, which is the one most often met with at on-line auction sites. These are usually pieces where the original is high value and desirable. They are produced in quantity with an intent to deceive. They usually have an approximation of the mark although it may not be the mark of the pottery where they were originally produced. The fraud may come in when the seller states or even implies that it is an original knowing that it is not.

The second class is the fantasy piece. This is pottery that was never made by the company whose mark is on it. There is a rather notorious piece in certain circles that has two nude women as handles. It's vaguely art nouveau although I have seen no vintage original. It has the script "Weller" mark on the bottom which should be a dead give away because this mark came into use in the twenties after the Art Nouveau period. The second give away is that it is dead ugly and garish. It's very sad to see this item sell over and over, sometimes for quite high prices. This was also made to deceive. Beware the seller who has private auctions and repeatedly sells the same "rare" item.

The third type though is the type I wish to discuss here. That is the piece that was not intended to be sold as a product of the pottery that made the original. It was made by a student as a homage or lesson in pottery techniques. It probably set around for a couple of decades then somehow found it's way into a thrift store or an estate and then-- She's off! The pot passes from hand to hand, some ignorant of it's actual source, some not, acquiring a provenance-- albeit a shaky one-- as it goes.

The first picture above is a piece made by a hobbiest. I bought it from eBay from a seller who described it completely and fairly. The second picture is of a similar piece of Hull pottery from the Granada Mardi Gras line that I bought from a local consignment shop. It is probably fair to mention that the person I bought it from thought it was McCoy. The designs are similar but not the same. If both pieces are side by side it is easy to tell which is the professionally made piece. The first thing to look is the glaze. The Hull fan vase is an attractive matte white glaze although it may look yellow in the photographs. The hobby piece has a white gloss glaze with a number of glaze skips.

Then a good idea is to flip it over and look at the bottom. The bottom of a vase may be distinctive guide to the manufacturer. The Hull vase has a dry (unglazed) ring around the outside of the base with an incised U.S.A. and below that the numbers 47-9". The vase is 9 inches tall. The hobby vase has a totally glaze covered bottom with three stilt marks. On the bottom there is very lightly incised the word "Pearl" and "57". This vase is about a half inch shorter. There are a lot of other differences. The Hull piece is heavier-- 2 lbs. and 7 ozs. The other vase weighs 1 lb. and 4 ozs. The Hull vase is made of a buff clay. The other vase has been cast of white slip. The best way to learn pottery is to look at known pieces and many pieces demand to be touched and held.

Edited to add that I found an example of the fake vase illustrated above on another site that has information about fake and reproduction pottery. This is a fraudulent fake because it has the name McCoy on the bottom. However the glaze is turquoise rather than white. This strongly suggests that the mould was a hobby project. Check
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Monday, July 16, 2007

Courting Couple Platter with the Backstamp of the Atlas-Globe China Company

This piece of dinnerware with its charming and colorful decoration is a good jumping off place for a bit about early dinner ware factories in eastern Ohio. Cambridge, Ohio is due east of Columbus and close to Zanesville. Niles Ohio is northeast of Cambridge. by a good hundred miles. The Globe China Company was located in Cambridge. Niles was the home of the Atlas China Company. According to the American Ceramic Society Bulletin (1946) these two companies on January 1, 1927 merged to form the Atlas-Globe China Company. It continued in operation until about the mid 1930's under that name. The Atlas China company had previously been known as the Bradshaw China Company of Niles, Ohio and briefly as Crescent China. Approximately 1934 all of the potteries connected here were purchased by Universal Potteries.

The edge of the platter is embossed with scenes of Dutch life. There's some discoloration from use that could probably be diminished with soaking in 30% peroxide. However, I happen to like it the way it is. It looks like it has some personality. This blank is known as Old Holland Ware. It was used with other decals, most of them floral. I am not sure of the name of the decal used on this platter although I like it a lot-- the bright colors with the black make it seem lively.

I asked for some help on the Pottery and glass forum on eBay and a helpful poster discovered on, a similar Universal Potteries pattern that was described as a Dancing Couple. There was a dinner plate displayed that had a couple in 18th century clothing dancing. I don't know at this point if this was a set that had a number of different decals on varying pieces or if this was an entirely different set. I do know that the colors on the Dancing Couple plate were more garish. There was a smudgy looking red ring where this platter has a black one. Help from another user (Paddywhisky) provided the information that the decal was called Courting Couple, which seems to be closer to a description of what is going on in the picture.

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Saturday, July 14, 2007

John B. Taylor Ceramics, Louisville, Kentucky Horse Mug

John B. Taylor Ceramics, which later became Louisville Ceramics in 1971, produced dinnerware and art pottery as well as promotional items for other businesses. Tracing its beginning as a producer of stoneware to 1815, it was owned by John B. Taylor from 1938 to 1970 and is now known as Louisville Stoneware. It is probably worth mentioning that prior to 1944 Mary Ann Hadley worked for John B. Taylor as a decorator.

This piece is a large, heavy stoneware mug with a bridled horse head in low relief on one side. It doesn't seem to be part of any particular dinnerware set. does have listed a blue and buff horse dinnerware set but the items pictured have a design that is vaguely reminiscent of the White Horse of Uffington and nothing like this mug.

This thick walled mug is made from Indiana clay that fires buff. The weight alone (1 lb 14 oz)would almost guarantee that it is a display item rather than intended for use as a drinking vessel. The applied glaze decoration has a deliberately rustic look. The thumb rest on the handle is designed and decorated to look like an English saddle with a cinch running under it. The green line that follows both sides of the handle ends in a stirrup.

The mug was made in a mold rather than hand built. The mold line runs up the handle and up the side of the mug opposite the handle. It isn't totally eradicated but there was some effort made it finish it nicely. To the right is the cobalt undergaze stamp used to mark the mug. This is probably the last mark used by this company prior to the take over and renaming of the company. From the examples found online, the dinnerware lines for the most part continued to be manufactured with only a change in the mark. When I posted this there was only one other mug like it to be found.
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Friday, July 13, 2007

High Gloss Tan Zanesware Stoneware Flower Bowl with Low Relief Garlands

Here is a tan high gloss Zanesville Stoneware flower bowl purchased at another antique mall.
This one was found in a booth whose owner was going out of business; however, it had only been marked $10 in the first place. I would have happily paid $10 for this example of a Zanesville Stoneware line that is new to me.

While it is from a later period in Zanesville Stoneware history and molded, not handmade, it is still a nicely done flower bowl about 3 inches tall and 6 inches across at the shoulders. The decoration is low relief floral garlands and the mold was still new enough to give a nice crispness to the flowers and leaves. At four equidistant points there are oak leaf shapes used to pin the garlands. Looking at the bottom which is the only place the mold line is obviously visible, it is possible to see that the oak leaf shapes were used to hide the mold line on the sides of the bowl. The uneven wash of color across the bottom is common for this period of production.

Zanesville Stoneware Company produced pottery from 1889 until 2002 when the plant closed. Robinson Ransbottom Pottery, perhaps better known among collectors as RRP Co., purchased the assets in 2002 before closing their own doors in 2005.

This particular flower bowl is part of line that first appeared in the advertising
in the early 1930's. It's big brothers were large garden urns with the same flower designs. The designs were considered "classical" as opposed to the Arts and Crafts and Art Nouveau style designs that made up most of Zanesville's output then and earlier. I am not sure the name of the glaze although it is not one of the more often seen glazes nor is it one of their more collectible.

Edited October 11, 2007 to add that I found the shape in the Rann, Ralston & Russell book on the Zanesville Stoneware Company listed as shape # 869.
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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Mexican Polychrome Figural Ashtray with Match Holder. Conquistador or Pirate?

Bought in the same antique mall as the Brush McCoy Vellum Vase, this high gloss, polychromal, figural ashtray caught my interest at once. At first I thought "pirate", but later, after having a chance to examine it, I dithered between pirate and conquistador. I think I am settled on conquistador unless something or someone persuades me otherwise.

The piece is about six inches tall and three inches wide at the bottom where the ashtray part juts out. The man's face is nicely modeled but there is something buffoonish about the body. The figure appears unnaturally short between the waist and ground as compared to the upper part of the torso. His pantaloons have a draped and saggy quality that almost suggests diaper. The boots have the least detail. The oval shaped barrel by his right side appears to be the right size to contain matches but there doesn't seem to be a rough striker spot anywhere on the item. I have no idea how old this piece is but I would guess mid 20th century and that it was made for the tourist trade. There is a mark on the bottom which consists of the English spelling of Mexico and a plant of some sort. The color appears to be a colored slip applied to the figure by hand.
The back of the ashtray also has some nice detail such as the short cape in a sort of teal blue and the purple plume that sweeps around the back of the hat in a swashbuckling fashion. The brown strap like thing that runs across the back of his thigh and down between his legs is a sword. Either it was forgotten when the figure was moulded or it was too technically difficult so it was simply drawn on later.

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