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Monday, January 31, 2011

Or could I interest you in a cocktail?

Meet the new teak tea cart that has become my bar. She's a three-tiered beauty that captured my heart the minute I saw her. The clear glass top has a 2" frosted band around the edge for added interest. The smaller teak cart that I've owned for years had been refinished by the previous owner, and the color was a tad too red to look good with my dining room furniture, but this one is just right. I've said my good-byes to the old cart and have moved it out to the workshop with all the other furniture that will be going into our soon-to-open store. (I'll be posting more about that in the coming days.)

The cart not only houses my wine, liquor and barware, but it also is home to my Kromex serving pieces, since my new china collection booted them out of the cabinet. My dining room has undergone a major rearrangement in the past week, but everything is settled in its new spot and looks rather lovely, if I do say so myself.

The search is on for vintage wine glasses and a cool ice bucket.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Brain picking time again

My SIL picked this up yesterday, but we haven't been able to identify it. The brass pulls very heavy, and the drawers are well-made, with good quality lining for silverware. Am I missing something obvious?

Anybody have any information?

Tea, anyone?

We recently lucked upon this mid-century English tea set by Midwinter in a pattern called Riverside, which was designed by John Russell. It is a full set, including the teapot with lid, sugar bowl and creamer, six trios (cup, saucer, small plate), six dinner plates, six breakfast bowls, biscuit canister, a large serving bowl and another larger pitcher. We had no idea what it was, but we knew it looked promising.

Some quick research revealed that the company, W. R. Midwinter Ltd., was started in 1910 in Staffordshire, England. After the lifting of wartime restrictions in 1952, the founder's son Roy Midwinter came to the United States and liked the designs he saw here. Upon his return to England, he made changes in the company that revolutionized English tableware. The production of the Fashion Shape of Stylecraft china, with its curvy shape that was a direct departure from the straight lines of Art Deco pieces, became in instant favorite in British homes.

We picked up the set at a very good price, and I found a smaller set online (without the canister, serving bowl and large pitcher) for £325. It certainly may not fetch that kind of price in Texas, but I'm sure we won't have any problem selling it for considerably more than we paid for it.

Isn't it amazing what you run into when you're out mid-century hunting?

Full set of Midwinter Riverside
Close-up of teapot design
Close-up of cup style
Plates, cups, teapot, serving bowl and sugar bowl
Close-up of Riverside pattern

Saturday, January 29, 2011

I don't understand...

Why...if you admire vintage pieces enough to sell them...would you be careless with them? 

A couple of days ago, I found Harvest Time salt and pepper shakers, listed by a seller in a city a few hours away. In case you're new to the blog, I started collecting the pattern recently, so I was excited about getting another piece. However, when I opened the package yesterday, the salt shaker was broken.  And the seller was clearly to blame.

First of all, she tried to cut corners by using a box that was too small. A quick Internet search will turn up any number of sites that tell you to have at least 3" of packing material around fragile items, but she hadn't done that.

Furthermore, she had wrapped the shakers in scraps of paper that were so small they didn't provide any cushion at all.

Finally, she didn't put enough packing peanuts in the box. There was an inch or more of empty space above the top of the peanuts, leaving room for the china to be jostled during shipping.

As a result, a beautiful piece of china that has remained undamaged for over fifty years was destroyed by her few moments of halfhearted packing.

What I felt was more than disappointment. I was angry, and I didn't want a refund. I wanted that piece of history back.

50 years of beauty destroyed unnecessarily

Excuse the rant, but I had to express my opinion about thoughtless sellers. This wasn't my main post for the day, so don't miss the previous one on the gorgeous pottery created by Gertrud and Otto Natzler.

Gertrud and Otto Natzler

Otto (1908-2007) and Gertrud Natzler ( 1908-1971) were a married couple well known for their work with ceramics.  The Austrian-born couple came to the United States after the German annexation of their country, settling in Los Angeles.  Natzlers worked together until Gertrud’s death in 1971.

Gertrud made the vases and bowls, while Otto created the glazes and worked the kiln. Gertrud is known for her simple, elegant designs. Otto perfected over 2,000 glazes, which gave each piece a unique color and texture. Some were smooth, while others were pocked and cratered.

After Gertrud’s death, Otto continued to work with clay into the 1990s. He died at age 99. The Natzler’s pottery is highly collectible and quite valuable.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Glimmer of hope...all but extinguished

A few days ago, I was talking to my friend Linda who conducted the huge estate sale for "the hoarders with money" back in October. Somewhat offhandedly, I mentioned to her that I'd give anything if the glass tops hadn't been missing from those two Adrian Pearsall tables my daughter bought, since it was going to cost us a fortune to have odd-shaped pieces cut.

She said, "I wondered who bought those tables and left the glass behind." I was speechless for a few seconds. Finally I said, "You mean the glass was there all along?" She told me that the last time she took a look around the larger of the two back yard sheds, the glass was propped against the wall.

For a minute, I allowed my hopes to rise. I asked her who we could contact to see about getting into the shed. She couldn't find the number of the woman who had the key and couldn't remember her name, so that was a dead end.

She told me that the last time she drove by the house not long ago, it was still vacant, so she suggested that I stop by the house, tell the neighbor next door what the situation was, so at least one of the neighbors would know what was up if the police were called because I was poking around in the back yard.

I drove by the house late that night, to see if it still looked vacant. Everything was dark, but there were two cars in the carport. I told myself it might just be neighbors parking there to make would-be burglars think it was occupied...or so I hoped.

When I went to the house the next day, no one was home, but I could see plants in the front window and a dog in the back yard. Not good. No one was home at the neighbor's house either. Darn! I left a long note to the current occupant, explaining my plight and coming dangerously close to begging for the glass, although I did manage to salvage a little pride by saying I'd make them an offer if they didn't want to just hand it over...hoping that made me sound like such a nice person they'd call and say, "Why, sure...come right over and get it. It's rightfully yours."

I was prepared to pay $50...oh, hell, $100...for the glass, because I know it would cost much more than that to have some cut, and having the original is so much better anyway, not to mention how much nicer it would be to have only my daughter's original $8 invested in the whole deal.

This is what the tables would look like if they had glass. See why we don't want to have to get it cut?
(Too bad about the grainy 50s photo on the Pearsall site, but you get the idea.
This is the only picture of the table I've ever run across in all my searching.)
My son-in-law stopped by later that afternoon, and a disheveled 40-something guy came to the door. He complained that my SIL woke him up, said he'd found my note and that he'd look in the shed if he got around to it and call us if he felt like it. Then he said he was tired and was going back to bed and slammed the door. Does the phrase "slim and none" sound like it might describe our chances of getting the glass?

Several days have passed since my SIL's encounter with Mr. Charming, and we still haven't heard from him. Maybe our lucky streak just ended.

Still, it couldn't hurt for all of you to cross your fingers and send out some positive vibes. Maybe the guy will miraculously have a change of heart...or sober up and realize I offered to pay him for the glass.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Mark Rothko

Mark Rothko (1903-1970) was born in what is now Latvia but emigrated with his parents to Portland, Oregon, in 1913. He entered Yale University in 1921, intending to become a labor leader, but dropped out after two years and wandered about the U.S. In 1925 he settled in New York City and took up painting. Although he studied briefly under the painter Max Weber, he was essentially self-taught.

Rothko first worked in a realistic style. By 1948, however, he had arrived at a highly personal form of Abstract Expressionism. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Rothko did not employ techniques such as violent brushstrokes or the dripping and splattering of paint. Instead, his paintings achieved their effects by juxtaposing large areas of vivid colors that seemingly float parallel to the picture plane.

By the early 1960s, Rothko was selling paintings to the likes of the Rockefellers, and in 1961 he had a retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art. But by then the art world was moving away from Abstract Expressionism and toward the Pop Art of artists like Andy Warhol. 

Rothko's color palette grew progressively darker, as seen in the paintings he did for Houston's Rothko Chapel and a series in brown, black, and gray. In 1970, Rothko took his own life in his New York studio. 

Recently, there was a flurry of interest in the Rothko image that was used on the set of Mad Men. Fans wanted to know if it was a real Rothko painting. Set decorator Amy Wells said, “After all the legal issues and the clearances, you get the image online and you reprint it. With their permission, obviously. That's how we got the Rothko. Of course, we have to destroy it after the season. It can't be circulated, because it's a direct copy."

From and

Rothko in the office of Bert Cooper in Mad Men

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Fiberglass shades

Most of us mid-century lovers seem to have an affinity for lamps, and nothing seems to turn that feeling into a full-fledged love affair like a great fiberglass shade.

During the late 1940s and early 50s, fiberglass was being molded into furniture and pressed paper thin for lampshades. It was generally wrapped around metal frames and held in place with lacing. The fiberglass was most often left white, but it was not unusual to see it in tan, off-white, pink, turquoise and pale green. The surface was often decorated with popular motifs such as leaves, atomic shapes, stars and abstract designs, usually in gold or black.

In the 1950s science was influenceing every facet of life. Household objects began to take on space age characteristics. Thickly molded fiberglass, similar to that used in furniture, was molded into cones and used as shades. Flat shades covered some, echoing the shape of a flying saucer. Metal arms held the shades at odd angles. The fiberglass could be pressed flat or left "furry" for texture.

During the 1960s plastic shades began to replace fiberglass, which was more widely used for insulation. Many of the old shades are still with us, however, because fiberglass does not break down or wear out easily.

This lamp appears to have a fabric shade
 with a fiberglass cone uplight around the bulb.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Ben Seibel and his work for Iroquois

Ben Seibel (1918-1985) was born in Newark, New Jersey. He started his education at Columbia University, studying painting and sculpture. He then became interested in industrial design and attended Pratt Institute. World War II interrupted his studies, and he spent almost four years in the Air Force. After the war, he worked briefly on the design staffs at Raymond Spilman and Morris Sanders. In 1947, he started his own design firm, which he operated until his death in 1985.

Early in his career, he was asked by the financially ailing Roseville Pottery to design a line for them that would revive sales. His design was popular, but it was not able to save the company. However, it did make a name for him in the design world.

He produced an extremely large body of work, designing for American Can, Brueton Furniture, Cherokee Nation Pottery, Cosmos Products, Duncan and Miller, Fostoria, Gilley, Haeger, Henry & Miller, Jaxton, Kasuga, Krischer Metal, Laurel, Levco Mfg., M. & L. Manufacturing Company, Mikasa, Morgantown, Carl Lendinara Furniture Company, Oneida, Oxford Hall Silversmiths, Park Techniques Design, Pfaltzgraff, Raymor, RLR, Roseville, Stand-Built Upholstery Corp., Steubenville, SFC Associates, Vermont Pacific, Westwood and Wilton.

His designs included fine china, stoneware, pottery, flatware, cutlery, cookware, ashtrays, glassware, wood accessories, metal accessories, furniture, clocks, electric food warmers, lamps, textiles, tea kettles, and even plastic cutlery for Dixie Cup and children’s tableware for Campbell’s Soup.

As I mentioned yesterday, I have decided to collect his Harvest Time china, so this post will focus on his work for Iroquois. I'm becoming so fascinated with his designs, however, that I'm sure I'll touch on other aspects of his work from time to time. You'll get an idea from the following list just how extensive his list of designs really is, since this represents work for only one of the thirty-one companies listed above.

Seibel designed four lines of tableware for Iroquois: Impromptu in 1956, Informal in 1958, Inheritance in 1959 and Intaglio in 1964. (There is possibly a fifth line called Interplay, but most authors on the subject have found no pictures and have very little information other than the name.)  Each line had its own uniquely shaped pieces. Within each line, there were sets employing numerous decal patterns, as well as accent pieces in solid white or white undersides with a color on the top, which are referred to simply as Accent. Because he was so prolific, even the most knowledgeable collectors find it difficult to catalog all his work with complete certainty.

The Impromptu line included the following decal pattern sets:
  • Autumn Harmony
  • Aztec
  • Beige Rose
  • Blue Doves
  • Bridal White
  • Colonial Pink
  • Colonial Blue
  • Cosmos
  • Country Garden (sometimes called Country Time)
  • Dutch Treat (sometimes called Blue Delft)
  • El Camino
  • Fjord
  • Frolic
  • Garland
  • Grapes
  • House of Flowers
  • Jarninieres
  • Knollwood
  • Lexington
  • Luau
  • Parasols
  • Pins and Beads
  • Pompon
  • Pyramids
  • Spring Flowers
  • Stellar
  • Tiara
  • Vision
  • Wild Rose
  • Wild Violet

Impromptu Pyramids

Impromptu El Camino

Impromptu Stellar

Danton China

There is a starburst decal pattern set marked "Danton China" that is shaped like Impromptu, but even expert collectors are stymied about it, because its mark is unlike that of the Impromptu line.

The Informal line included:
  • Blue Diamonds
  • Blue Vineyard
  • Bombay Blue
  • Bombay Green
  • Georgetown
  • Harvest Time
  • Hearts of Gold
  • Knollwood
  • Lazy Daisy
  • Madrid
  • Old Orchard
  • Rosemary
  • Sleepy Hollow
  • Teuton
  • Thane

Informal Blue Diamonds

Informal Accent in blue
Informal Harvest Time

My note: Since I found and bought the samovar so quickly, I have to find the Harvest Time lazy susan now. It must be mine! :)

The Inheritance line included:
  • Baroque
  • Beige Rose
  • Cotillion
  • Dynasty
  • Grecian Gold
  • Knollwood
  • Medallion
  • Pompon
  • Su-Shi
  • Sheer White
  • Gold Band
  • Platinum Band
  • Teuton
  • Thane
Some of his previous decal patterns were repeated in this style.

Inheritance Su-Shi

Inheritance Grecian Gold
Inheritance Medallion

The Intaglio line included:
  • Dahlia (Blue)
  • Dahlia (Golden)
  • Ivy (?)
  • Old English Blue
  • Old English Pink
  • Painted Daisy (Blue)
  • Painted Daisy (Pink)
  • Rosette (Jade)
  • Rosette (Sun)
  • Diamond White
  • Woodale

Intaglio Dahlia

Intaglio Painted Daisy
Intaglio Rosette in the color "Sun"
From; portrait of Ben Seibel (copyrighted to Michael Kaplan) via