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About Nic Saintey
Nic Saintey is a director and a specialist in ceramics. His effervescent nature and wide experience has seen him regularly appear as an expert on the BBC's Bargain Hunt and Flog It programmes
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The material published in this web log is for general purposes only. It does not constitute nor is it intended to represent professional advice. You should always seek specific professional advice in relation to particular issues. The information in this web log is provided "as is" with no warranties and confers no rights. The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions.

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Review Entries for Day Tuesday, March 31, 2009

It was the start of British Summer Time yesterday, now there’s an oxymoron, so of course I woke up this morning and it was three degrees below – there was ice on my car. If one wasn’t British one would consider that cold weather and the summer just don’t go together – just like Bloor Derby and the Nantgarw works in Swansea, snowballs and the Mediterranean or Claude Lorrain and Naples harbour. Only a mad dog or an Englishman could link these disparate features together – so perhaps I’ll try.

I recently came across a copy of the Antique Collector magazine for June 1984, nearly an antique in its own right and found an article entitled ‘The Ongley Service lost for a Century’. Kind of strange I thought that the singularly most expensive service that the Derby porcelain works produced in the 1820’s went and got forgotten - The Derby Mercury of 1825 wrote that ‘Admirers of the fine arts … will be highly gratified (with) a most magnificent service of china which has been completed by … Mr Bloor, for the express use of a nobleman in a distant part of England’. If Muncaster Castle in Cumbria seemed a great distance then the designs on the Ongley service were a world away.

 

                        a bloor derby plate after claude lorrain                                    a bloor derby 'snowballing' plate after a nantgraw prototype

 

One plate depicts a view of Naples Harbour that very obviously is derived form a Claude Lorrain sketch of 1636. Nothing strange in a Grand Tour image on a nobleman’s service is there? Another is derived from a source much closer to home that was originally painted by James Plant for the Nantgarw works in Swansea and subsequently repeated for Bloor Derby by William Corden it depicts a charming snowballing scene something far more appropriate whatever the season it seems.
 
If the mixture of Nantgarw, Swansea and Bloor Derby seems something of an acquired (all be it an expensive) taste one might be unsurprised to learn that other subject matter in this service included scenes of juvenile affection and a view of Moscow. A sophisticated and wise purchase from a man with money or something of a crème de menthe cocktail with a glace cherry and an umbrella in it, ask me on July 1st when I have sold the above plates?
 
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Tuesday, March 31, 2009 2:48:52 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
Comments [0] Early Porcelain | Trackback

Review Entries for Day Friday, March 20, 2009

How many times have you heard the response ‘Huh, a monkey could have done that’? Generally from experience usually the words fall dismissively from the lips of someone faced with a material piece of human endeavour (the wider word calls ‘art’) that they just can’t understand. Perhaps the next step up from this forthright type of criticism is ‘My three year old could have done that’.

Whilst children occur regularly as the subject of art it is perhaps unsurprising from a Western European perspective that monkeys don’t! Aside from King Kong and Tarzan and Disney’s version of Jungle Book I can’t think of many instances of the ape as subject matter. When one does appear it is in a subservient or unflattering role.
 royal doulton character ape hn.960

However recently I bumped into two apes that have made me reconsider. Firstly I sold a Royal Doulton Character Ape, a humorous figure which shows the seated individual with a book in its lap something which suggests a sideswipe to Darwinism. Although relatively mass produced it is the tongue in cheek face of art from a Western standpoint.

In my second encounter I came across a Nigerian, Yoruba carved figure of a monkey. This one was different, but equally engaging, unlike the Royal Doulton Character Ape which was one of an identical number, this was completely bespoke. I am familiar with Royal Doulton, but understandably am less so with ethnic carving, let alone the products of Yoruba.

 yoruba, nigeria, a carved wooden figure of a monkey

Rather than a purely decorative object it was obviously intended to have some function – though I have no idea what. Frankly it has a disproportionately large head and teeth and seems pretty unfriendly, but then I do realise it wasn’t made for me. I suspect, even though this is not my field of expertise, it had some ritualistic, religious or social function and I guess it was no fertility symbol (work it out for yourself) he looks pretty aggressive and strong and doesn’t seem to be wholly ape, just like the Doulton Character Ape, there is an anthropomorphic aspect to him, but why is he holding a cup?
 
Is it now art - well why ever not? I liked the Yoruba monkey so he is now nakedly presiding over my kitchen, my wife has made no comment, but then our terrier also roams nakedly around our kitchen, but I can assure you he is definitely no work of art!
 
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Friday, March 20, 2009 12:13:07 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
Comments [0] Modern Ceramics | Trackback

Review Entries for Day Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Now here's a few questions, are animals in aspic Art and is Damien Hurst avant garde or just recycling an old idea?

In a few words I cannot possibly approach a definition of the concept of 'Art', but I can comment on the work of Edwin Beer Fishley because; one as a professional antiques valuer I genuinely admire his work; two because I was actually brought up in Bideford (a stones throw from Fremington): and three because I am about to sell a collection of North Devon Art Pottery that belonged to the late Audrey Edgeler.

Edwin Beer Fishley came from a dynasty of Fishley potters based in North Devon who in turn absorbed their influence from their landscape and a long traditional of artisan potters typical to the area.

'To Mother Earth I owe my birth, then formed a jug by man' - so reads the caption on many Fishley pottery pieces any bunny hugger, son of the soil or potter cannot fail to be moved by the sentiment and not understand the emotive connection between art and nature.

edwin beer fishley pottery frog

So what of Damien Hurst and North Devon, where am I going with this? Well one of the more unusual pieces of the Edgeler collection is a pottery frog, the late owner's son wonders whether it was formed using a real one. I hope not, but can't help admiring anything of a seemingly everyday nature, meticulously observed, created with intent for its own sake and above all formed from the sod itself. Was it not a medieval superstition that believed the frogs were physical born out of mud itself?

I don't know whether the pictured Edwin Beer Fishley object is a paperweight, a Victorian art pottery tile or whether it is a sculpture in its own right, does it matter? I am drawn to it, it speaks to me in so many ways, unobtrusively beautiful, it reminds me of my home and my job, but above all it's a beautifully rendered dead frog and I think it's Art with a capital 'A'.

Saatchi eat your heart out and Damien, you were beaten by a century, keep up!

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Wednesday, March 04, 2009 12:09:21 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
Comments [0] Art Pottery | Trackback

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