January 21, 2010 | One upcoming highlight of the New York Ceramics Fair is a lecture and demonstration by ceramic artist Michelle Erickson, who was featured in our September 2009 issue. On Saturday at noon Erickson will show visitors how an early 18th-century Moravian squirrel bottle was made—a subject which she explored for the 2009 issue of Ceramics in America, and which coincides with this year's loan exhibition at the show, Art in Clay: Masterworks of North Carolina Earthenware. Erickson's expertise in 17th- and 18th-century English ceramic technology—she is a partner with Rob Hunter in the ceramic reproduction and restoration firm Period Designs—has led her to experiment with creating new forms of ceramic art that borrow from the traditions of historical wares. The fascinating array of works on view in her booth at the fair and on her website affirms Erickson's dedication to mastering the technical history of her medium, but it is her ability to channel new meaning through her art that gives it relevance to the history of decorative arts.
Below are just a few examples of Erickson's ceramics, shown side-by-side with historic examples.
"Made in China" pickle stand and an example by the American China Manufactory (Bonnin and Morris), 1770-72 (Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Very few examples of objects by Bonnin and Morris—the first porcelain manufacturers in America—exist today. Erickson had the opportunity to examine pieces up close that were the inspiration for her pickle stand, which explores the role of porcelain as a luxury commodity, as well as the appropriation of Chinese art in the West.
Squirrel bottle, Salem North Carolina, 1804-1829 (Private collection, photo by Gavin Ashworth), and "Killer Squirrel (2nd Amendment Squirrel)."
Marrying the pose of a toy army soldier with the color and form of a traditional Moravian bottle, Erickson adds a menacing twist to the whimsical figure.
January 20, 2010 | With the dizzying array of wares on display this week at the New York Ceramics Fair, it seems like an opportune time to review some of the basics of the medium. Though most of our readers are familiar with names like Wedgwood and Grueby, we've rounded-up a few quintessential examples of English ceramics as an introduction to the widely varied styles that have been created in clay.
English salt-glaze stoneware teapot, c. 1760 (Leo Kaplan Ltd.)
Stoneware, which previously was mostly imported from Germany, became the most common form of household pottery in England in the 18th century when it was modifiedto have a lighter clay body and the addition of a translucent salt glaze that lent itself to painted decoration. The colorful pattern on this teapot, which measures 4 ½ inches high, imitates floral designs and complements the naturalistic design of the branch-shape handle, finial, and spout.
January 4, 2010 | Currently on view at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, An Enduring Motif: The Pomegranate in Textiles (through February 21) is a small exhibition of works from the museum's permanent collection that spans a remarkably diverse range of techniques and geographic regions including the 18th-century French block-printed cotton fabric shown here. The pomegranate bears many symbolic associations—from the Greek myth of Persephone to the Jewish belief that it contains 613 seeds that correspond to the commandments of the Torah to its role in Buddhist tradition as a fertility aid—making it an especially abundant decorative device that today can be found on a number of antique furnishings and accessories. Keeping an eye out for a prominent motif is a great way to start building a collection, and below is just a small sampling of antiques that can be found by searching the inventories of websites like 1stdibs, Rubylane, and Trocadero.
December 10, 2009 | When Pantone announced yesterday that it had selected Turquoise (15-5519) as the color of the year for 2010 I wasn't at all surprised. Touted by the company for its "serene and invigorating" qualities, turquoise has been one of the most sought after colors in decorative arts history starting with the turquoise ground, called bleu céleste, developed in 1753 for Louis XV at the porcelain factory at Vincennes (later Sèvres). In the mid-20th century it was the iconic blue/green palette of Arne Jacobsen's Room 606 at the SAS House in Copenhagen (below) that captured imaginations. This minty hue has made its mark on more than a few wares—from Pyrex to fine enamel—and below is just a small sampling of the vintage and antique goods that can be found to celebrate the color.
December 4, 2009 | Starting tomorrow, December 5, New Yorkers will have a chance to see up close over one hundred examples of art glass by René Lalique—one of the leading names in the decorative arts—when Heritage Auctions begins the preview for its inaugural 20th century design auction in Manhattan. For those that can't make the sale in person, we've gathered a slideshow of some of our favorites, presented here in extreme detail to capture the exceptional beauty of Lalique's organic design (To see full images click here).
Assembled from six private collections—including the personal collection of Lloyd Glasgow who joined the company in the 1950s and retired as president in the 1990s—the Lalique portion of the sale presents a chronological history of the firm's glasswork from art deco icons such as the "Victoire" mascot (estimate $15,000-20,000) to contemporary limited edition works, including a full-size table of brilliant amber glass with a cactus-pattern pedestal base (estimate $80,000-120,000) that was originally designed by Marc Lalique in 1951 but produced in 2006. While many pieces in the sale are rare, several—such as perfume bottles and glass brooches—have modest estimates that are the perfect enticement for budding collectors.
Pickle Dish, American China Manufactory (Bonnin and Morris), Philadelphia, 1771-72. Soft-paste porcelain with lead glaze; height 4 3/16, width 4 1/2» View All