Wednesday 30 May 2012

Two Pieces of Australian Pottery

This first vase is another Dayboro Day Antiques & Collectables Fair find.  I was first attracted to it by the colours which looked to me very much like what you would expect to see on mid 20th century Australian pottery.  Upon examination I discovered it to be an example of Diana pottery.  I didn't know much about this pottery except that they produced many different vases as well as kitchen ware that was decorated with dots.  I liked the colours so asked the stall holder how much it was.  The price seemed reasonable so I purchased my first piece of Diana ware.

Diana trough vase measuring approximately 21cm long
This vase was made by Diana Pottery in Marrickville, NSW, probably in the 1950s.  This type of slip cast vase is known as a "trough" vase.  Diana Pottery was in business from about 1940 to 1975.  They began by making utilitarian items during the war, then more decorative items such as vases, bookends and animal figures in the 50s as well as producing a range of decorated oven and kitchen ware. Diana Pottery is considered to be the most important manufacturer of Australian pottery of the 1960s and 70s.

Diana pottery is still readily available and often turns up in antique & collectables fairs.  It makes a great introduction into collecting Australian pottery.  You may even be able to pick up some pieces for under $10 if you are lucky.  More information about Diana Pottery can be found on the Australian Pottery website by Sam Kelly.

Impressed 'Diana AUSTRALIA' mark with 'T6' (probably a pattern number)

The second vase is one that my wife gave to me as a present last Christmas.  It is a drip glazed canoe shaped trough vase made by Bennett Pottery of Adelaide.

Canoe trough vase measuring approximately 29cm long 

I had seen this actual vase for sale a number of times at different collectables fair over the past year and had even discussed buying it from the stall holder (who I knew from my Bottle and Collectables Club).  Each time I couldn't make my mind up to buy it or not.  I'm glad Karen finally decided to buy it for me.

We had seen many similar vases to this one when we lived in Melbourne.  Each antique centre seemed to have one or two somewhere on a shelf.  It almost became an ongoing joke for us as each time we saw one we would say something like "Look! There's another canoe vase."  I am not sure if any of these vases were from Bennett Pottery but I am sure that some were from Bendigo Pottery.  Wish I had bought one now although I don't remember them being as good quality as this Bennetts one.

Underside of vase showing Bennett Adelaide mark (rather indistinct)
Bennett Pottery was founded in 1887.  The Bennett family still operate the pottery on the same site today.  Take a look at the current Bennetts Magill Pottery website.  The company manufactured art pottery only for a short period of time from the 1920s up until 1940 when the pottery suffered a serious fire.  I believe this vase dates from this period.  Glaze specialist Jack Gare worked at Bennetts during this time and it is most likely one of his glazes that adorn this canoe.  Gare had previously worked for Bendigo Pottery until he was sacked for not being willing to disclose his special glaze recipes.

Tuesday 29 May 2012

Australian Pokerwork

Found a few interesting items at the Dayboro Day Antiques & Collectables Fair on the weekend.  At least I think they are interesting.  I managed to pick up these three pieces of pokerwork from the one stall.  These are the first pieces of pokerwork that I have ever owned so I was very happy with the purchase.  I was only going to buy the vase but the stall holder kept bringing the prices down until the asking price for all three pieces was too good to pass up.

The waratah vase measures 15.5cm high and 10cm in diameter

The vase is a real piece of Australiana with its nicely worked waratah flower design.  I have seen a number of different Australian designs on this exact same shape and size vase.  Very happy to have this as my first item in my Australian Pokerwork collection.

Uh Oh!  Does this mean I have started a new collection?  Maybe I'll be satisfied with just three pieces (and pigs might fly as well!).  At least Karen likes these pieces as well.
Love the rich colour

The comport (or at least that was what the dealer said it was) doesn't have a specific Australian design on it but does have a lovely deep brown colour (actually a lot deeper than shown in the photos).  Also, the decoration is not as high a standard as that on the vase but still very pleasing in a naive sort of folk art way.

The comport measures 24.5cm across and 13cm high. 

Looks like a crack in the edge but is only a part of deep engraving 

I like the line decoration on the edge

The cutting board has an even more naive design but lovely rich colours.  It must have taken someone quite some time to do all the stippled decoration around the bunches of cherries (if that's what they are).

The cutting board measures 25cm across

I like the way the centre of the board comes out for cleaning and also to protect the decorative work

Alan Carter has an interesting article about pokerwork on his ABC Treasure Hunt website.

Thursday 24 May 2012

Australian Gumnut & Gum Leaf Vases

Here are some more of my treasure finds from the Caloundra Show.  I had been looking for a vase like this for sometime now and was surprised to find three all together on one stall.  My intention was to only buy one of the small ones but the persuasive stall holder (also a friend of mine) offered me the three at a price I couldn't resist (aided by some prompting from his good wife).

These handmade, pottery vases were most likely made by one of the Sydney potteries in the 1940s - 50s.  Not sure I will ever be able to find out which one as none of them have any identifying marks.  Each of them have some applied branches, gum leaves and gumnuts on a sponged background.  The large vase is also modelled as a large branch with strongly impressed graining.

Large vase (note the nice blue/green interior)

Detail of large vase
Large vase showing actual size

The large vase has a few small chips to some of the leaf edges and a small chip to the rim.  This is not surprising as this type of decoration on pottery is extremely vulnerable to damage.  Thankfully the damage is not too obvious due partly to the intricacies of the decoration.

Back of large vase

Detail of one end of the large vase
The smaller vases below are moulded differently to the large vase but still include very similar applied decoration.  The decoration on the vase with the yellow interior is very similar to the large vase's decoration whereas the other small vase has the same blue/green colour interior but slightly differently modelled leaves.  I suppose it just depends on which potter did which part of the decorating process.

Small yellow interior vase showing actual size

Detail of small yellow interior vase

Small blue/green interior vase showing actual size 

Detail of small blue/green interior vase

Each of the small vases also have some very minor nibbles to a couple of leaf edges though these are extremely hard to see.  Overall the condition of the three vases is extremely good considering their raised decoration and age.

Friday 18 May 2012

Old Pharmacist's Prescription Book

We had spent most of the day at the recent Caloundra show and were getting tired and ready to go home.  I told my wife, Karen, that I just wanted to say goodbye to some of my collector friends from Melbourne, who each year make the pilgrimage to Queensland to sell a few bits and pieces at this show.  Karen was patiently waiting for me while I was having a good old natter to my friends when she spotted a book for sale on their stall.  She eagerly waited for me to finish talking to announce her discovery, knowing full well that this was just the sort of item that I had been looking for for my pharmaceutical collection.  Needless to say, I also got excited about her find and had to have it for myself.  I didn't even quibble over the price and was only too happy to buy it from my friends.  I would never have known what I had almost missed if I hadn't gone back to say goodbye to them.

This book is probably my favourite find from the show.  It's an old leather bound pharmacists prescription book from 1922/23 from, I believe, a Middle Park pharmacy in Melbourne.  Middle park is a very old inner city suburb between Albert Park and Port Phillip Bay, just north of St. Kilda. 

The book has nicely decorated page edges.  Edge decoration or fore-edge painting is the decoration of the edges of the pages of a book, visible when the book is closed.

It is quite a large volume being 42cm long, almost 20cm wide and 5.5cm thick.  It contains a complete list of all the prescriptions issued by this Middle Park pharmacy from the 20th of July 1922 to the 19th of June 1923.  Each page contains customer's names, exactly what was dispensed to them (sometimes with instructions on how to take the remedy) and the prices they paid.  The only address that I could find in the book is on one of the front pages and says 83 Carter Street, Middle Park.  Is this the address of the pharmacy?  Probably not as Google maps shows this to be a domestic dwelling, although it fits the period well, probably from the late 1800s to early 1900s.  Maybe this was the pharmacist's own home address and he worked from out of his home.  Just to muddy the waters a little more, above this address is written a name that looks like "Miss Bushell".  Could the pharmacist have been a woman or does this name and address have nothing at all to do with the pharmacy?  We will probably never know.

Below are some photos of some of the pages of this book.  It is interesting to note that there are many different names signed at the ends of each prescription.  This seems to indicate that there were a number of different pharmacists using the same book.  I would expect this to be the case in a chemist shop today but not in an early pharmacy of the 1920s.  Maybe this book actually came from a large pharmacy right in the city that employed a number of different pharmacists?  Another interesting thing to note is that the pharmacy was obviously open on Christmas day as evident by the number of prescriptions issued on the 25th of December.


Look out for this book on my Pharmacy Dispensing Department display at the September 22nd Antiques & Collectors Fair at Morayfield Leisure Centre later this year. This fair will be hosted by the Queensland Historical Bottle & Collectables Club.

Saturday 12 May 2012

Mum's Treasure

My Mum, Marjorie Mavis Stevens, passed away peacefully in the early hours of Sunday the 22nd of April.  She was 84 years old.  This post is in memory of her.

Since her passing, I have been thinking about what material treasures Mum had.  As I did this I realised that the material things she treasured most were the things that were given to her either as a handmade gift or as a special keepsake from a family member or friend.  What follows is but a few examples of these treasures.

Inlaid Jewellery Box made for Mum by my Dad

My Dad made this jewellery box for Mum before they were married in 1949.  Dad was very good with his hands and made many items of furniture, toys and gifts throughout his life.  Mum treasured these items.  This box is not only inlaid on top but also fully veneered both inside and out.

Some treasure inside
Inside we can see a few more of my Mum's treasured items.  These trinkets were handed down to me for safekeeping quite sometime ago.  Because of my interest in antiques, collectables and our own family history, our home seems to have become the final resting place for our family archives.  Everyone knows that John would never throw these things out.  I don't mind though as these things are real treasures to me and it is nice to know that they are all safely kept together.

Photo frame, brooch, fob watch and chain from the jewellery box

The small rolled gold frame houses two photos of Mum's parents, my grandparents.  Mum had fond memories of her parents.

I never knew my Grandmother Bergstrum as she died before I was born.  Mum nursed her in her final years.  Though she found this time hard, she willingly did this out of love for her mother and a strong sense of duty of being the youngest daughter still living at home.

I only have some vague memories of my Grandfather Bergstrum as he died when I was a child.  At least I have some photographs.

The brooch was another of Dad's creations which made it very special to Mum.  Dad made this out of two coins, a halfpenny and a threepence, and gave it to Mum before they were married.  This was not the only piece of jewellery that Dad made for Mum.  He also made a small silver heart shaped locket out of a two shilling piece.  Not sure how legal it was to be cutting up the currency at the time.

Dad carefully cut the Australian coat of arms out of a silver threepence.  He then mounted this in the centre of a copper halfpenny with some raised scalloping.  Why he chose to use coins with the date of 1914 on them will most likely remain a mystery.  Maybe it was to commemorate the beginning of World War 1 or maybe it was just two coins that he had with matching dates.  Who knows?
This brooch could possibly fall into the category of trench art.

This rear view shows how the pin is fixed to the back of the brooch.  Obviously neatness to the rear was not quite as important as to the front.  Still not a bad effort Dad especially when you look at how he cut out the coat of arms.

The brooch and a halfpenny and threepence

The silver fob watch belonged to my Grandfather Bergstrum.  I remember playing with this when we were just kids.  This was unfortunate as we were probably the ones who broke the hands off and also contributed to its rather battered look.  Needless to say, this watch doesn't run anymore.

The case of the fob watch is nicely engraved all over.  A letter 'B' for Bergstrum can be seen engraved in a shield on the front.

The rear of the fob watch shows more engraving.

The watch is marked '935' inside the case which I believe may be a continental silver mark rather than an English mark.

The fully hallmarked silver Albert chain (fob watch chain) with 15ct gold fob also belonged to my Grandfather Bergstrum.  The hallmarks would date this chain to Birmingham 1915.  Each individual link of this chain is hallmarked and there is also a makers mark 'HP' on the T bar and clasps. I presume that the fob watch was once attached to this chain. 

Mum and I at Easter 2012
I take great comfort knowing that Mum is now at peace with her Lord and that she has been reunited with her beloved Jack (my Dad) in heaven.

Tuesday 8 May 2012

Early Japanese Banjo Baby Feeder (& Packaging)

An interesting parcel arrived in the post a few weeks ago from India.  This was my first time buying something from India and I wasn't sure how fast and safe the Indian postal system was going to be.  Oh boy, was I in for a surprise.  Not only did it arrive quickly (faster than a lot of my parcels from the US and England) but I had never received a parcel quite like this one.  It was wrapped in cheese cloth which had been sewn up around the parcel.  This was then sealed at no less than 13 places with sealing wax, all along the stitching.  Wow what a fantastic looking parcel.

Rear of the parcel showing stitching and sealing wax
 (Name & Address removed for security reasons)

Needless to say, I wanted to keep the packaging probably as much as wanting to see what was inside.  So here I was, like a surgeon carefully removing stitches as gently as possible.  I managed to open one end of the parcel and carefully slide out the contents.  The surprises kept on coming.  Inside was a metal tin wrapped in bubble wrap.  And inside this was my new baby feeder all wrapped in more bubble wrap.  Oh, and I forgot to say that this feeder was actually sent post free.  This parcel could have fallen out of the delivery truck and still have survived.  It was that well packed.

The cheese cloth outer wrapping, metal tin and baby feeder
(Address removed for security reasons)
The tin looks as though it was once an old biscuit tin that has been given a face lift by someone hand painting a picture of a motor scooter on it.  Probably an appropriate subject as I believe there are many motor scooters in India.  I have visions of some little old Indian person sitting in a small shop on the edge of a busy road in Jodhpur madly painting old tins to be used as post boxes while another is busily sewing up all the parcels.  Maybe this style of packaging is not how most post comes out of India but I am glad mine came this way.  I will have to buy something else now to check it out.  As I wanted to keep the packaging and the tin, I filled the cheese cloth wrapping with polystyrene blocks so it looks the same now as the day it arrived.

I. IWASAKI - MADE IN JAPAN baby feeder

The baby feeder almost took second place to the packaging but I was also very happy with it as well.  It is an early banjo shaped feeder that could date from the late 1800s to the early 1900s.  It has a stylised flower embossed into the front with the words I. IWASAKI - MADE IN JAPAN around it.  Being a Japanese made feeder it could be closer to the later date as I believe they were still using this design later in Japan.  It has a rather crudely made glass screw top stopper which would probably have had a rubber teat attached to it.  The earlier feeders had a rubber tube with a teat at the end which allowed the feeder to be placed at the side of the baby while feeding.  These tubes were very unhygienic and led to a lot of babies dying from bacterial infection.  Because of this, this type of baby feeing bottle became known as a 'murder bottle'.  This in itself is another story which I will do a blog about in the near future.

Huntley & Palmers Biscuit Tin

I found this biscuit tin on the weekend at the Sunshine Coast Antique & Collectables Show.  I don't usually buy tins but the shape of this tin intrigued me.  When I examined it I discovered it was a Huntley & Palmers tin which I knew was highly collectable.  I knew that Huntley & Palmers had produced biscuit tins in a wide variety of designs throughout the 19th and 20th centuries (the things you learn from "Bargain Hunt").  It was a good looking tin, the condition was quite good (not bad for a tin over 100 years old) and the price was right so I bought it.

Tin with closed lid showing small recessed pull tab

This English tin was produced in 1907 and was only available for export.  It was never sold in England which would explain why it has turned up in Australia.  It is an oval shaped tin with simulated 'Buhl' work, also known as 'Boulle work' -which is a form of marquetry using brass and tortoiseshell.  This was the first of a series of tins of this shape which included another collectable Huntley & Palmers tin known as the 'Locket'.   It has a hinged lid with a recessed pull tab to open it.

The inside of the tin showing the lid and small recessed pull tab in a raised position

Underside of the tin showing HUNTLEY & PALMERS BISCUITS, READING & LONDON

As I researched the tins origins I discovered that it was produced for Huntley & Palmer by a company known as Huntley, Boorne & Stevens.  Could the Stevens part of this company be a long lost relative?  Who knows?  Only further research will tell.  

The fascinating story of this biscuit company begins in 1822 with the founding of the company by Joseph Huntley.  He produced his first biscuits in the back room of his shop in London Street, Reading.  It was Huntley's younger son, also Joseph, who made the company's first tin biscuit boxes in his ironmonger's shop which stood opposite his father's London Street bakery.  George Palmer, a distant cousin of Huntley, became Huntley's partner in 1841.  Thus the firm of Huntley & Palmer was born.  The company grew from its humble beginnings in the early 1800s to employing more than 5,000 men and women by 1898.  By this time the business was housed in a huge factory that covered 24 acres on the River Kennet and was at the time the largest biscuit factory in the world.  From 1870 until the 1970s, Reading was known as ‘Biscuit Town’ because of the fame of Huntley & Palmers biscuits.  The Reading factory was also used as a location for the filming of the "Bugsy Malone" movie in 1975.

Much more about Huntley & Palmers history can be found on The Huntley & Palmers Collection website.  This website features many of the tins produced for Huntley & Palmer as well as many fascinating movie clips of the factory and audio clips of its past employees.

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