JOURNAL — Vases RSS



Summer's Coastal Terraces

Summer is drawing to a close and—if you're planning on going to the seaside—you'd better do it soon!  Luckily, I have a handful of special items which immediately take-me-back, at least in my mind, to pleasant summers in favorite holiday locales.  And, in the months to come, as the snow piles up under my windows, a quick glance at one of these beauties will whisk me to the turquoise waters of a remote Greek island, the tiled Gaudi masterpieces of Barcelona, or the gently-arid Tuscan or French countrysides.

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"That Ol' Sturgeon Moon..."

This morning, at 8:02 am (Eastern), the August full moon reached its peak size and illumination. Full moons during August are traditionally called a "Sturgeon Moon" because—during this mid-summer month—fishermen on the Great Lakes found the sturgeon easiest to catch.   Sturgeon are a remarkable creature, and, sadly, increasingly rare today due to overfishing since the Nineteenth Century.  Fossil records of sturgeons can be found from 136 million years ago (showing the fish largely unchanged through today) and the fish can live to be 150 years old!  Females reach sexual maturity at 20 and reproduce every four years.  They can grow to six feet in length and weigh over 200 pounds.  Because the creatures grow and reproduce so slowly, their populations have great difficulty surviving overfishing.  Their...

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The Waning Days of Summer - IV

If the lazy days of summer carry your imagination to the French or Italian countryside, well, let's go!  The handcrafted simplicity of a country village—the fences, signs, streets, buildings—can be a delicious respite from the high-tech, go-go world back home.  And that celebration of handcraft manifests itself in the useful objects of everyday life.  In a modern world which demands a constant technical scramble—and planned obsolescence is no longer challenged—isn't it nice to handle and use something that will never change?  An object which will work exactly as designed, and work just as well, a hundred years from now? When I look at the vase above, I cannot help but think of the French countryside.  The deep mustard, eggplant and moss...

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The Waning Days of Summer - I

If you're dreaming of turquoise waters—entering them, not just thinking about them—the time is now to take that dip.  Before long, the waters will have chilled and beach days will be behind us.  Of course, this handsome English Art Deco vase will bring you a remembrance of beaches past—all year long.  Made by Pilkington Royal Lancastrian in the 1920's or 1930's, it is finished with a luxurious jade-specked turquoise glaze—reminiscent of Persian Turquoise.  The bas relief diamond under-pattern adds energy and structure to the form.

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Sunny Days

"Summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me these have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language." -Henry James (1843-1916)   What a beautiful summer we're having, at least here in my new home of Pittsburgh. Sunny, dry, and topping-out around 78º.  Nights in the mid-Sixties are heavenly, indeed! When Henry James penned these insightful words, there was no air conditioning and "beachwear" was only worn at the beach (and it was still woolen).  Yet, he captured the relaxed (and lazy) feeling just right—at least for those who could afford to relax on a summer afternoon. The vase above, glazed in a cheery, sunny yellow glaze, is sure to bring a spot of summer sunshine into your home—whatever the...

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Something for the Smart Set - Part II

Yesterday we discussed the pioneering glaze developments of Clément Massier, céremiste extraordinaire and icon of the Art Nouveau movement.  Along with talented teammates, Massier invented new glazing techniques which were inspired by Iberian, Islamic, Chinese and Ancient ceramics works from Egypt, Greece and Rome.  His signature was metallic lustre glazes—iridescent finishes using copper, silver and gold. These pieces were first glazed and fired at the normal (high) temperature (twice).  Next, a solution of copper- (or silver- or gold-) oxide (and other metallic chemicals) was applied and the piece endured a third (low temperature) firing in a low-oxygen kiln.  After firing, the pieces might be inscribed with an "over pattern" or embellished with a cold-paint design.  Such "organic" glazing techniques produced unpredictable, unrepeatable...

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Something for the Smart Set - Part I

Clément Massier (1845-1917), born into a family of French potters, was destined to be a ceramicist.  But it was he himself—while tapping the skills of a handful of brilliant colleagues—that redefined ceramics-making in the period before and after the Turn-of-the-Century.  He is considered one of the pioneering artists who developed lustrous metallic glazes and his impact on the Art Nouveau movement is profound.  His work is found in the collections of the world's most important museums, like the Musée d'Orsay and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  His legacy also includes contributions to iconic Art Nouveau spaces like Maxim's de Paris. Massier's family had been producing ceramics in Vallauris, in the South of France, since the early 1700's.  Like most clay works, the...

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Welcome, July.

July is here—with its summer weather, its beach vacations and (on the 23rd) its leonine sunsign.  July also brings its birthstone, the ruby.  Rubies are amongst the "cardinal" gemstones, the most precious, important, and expensive: diamonds, sapphires, emeralds and rubies. This West German footed vase, made in the 1960's or 1970's, is not made of rubies.  But its deep, regal red glaze is reminiscent of the July birthstone.  It was made in the rather small ceramics workshop, Hoy Hey.  The dark brown stoneware clay provides a rich juxtaposition to the sensuous, dripping red glaze.

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Separation Blues - III

Here's the final piece—one of the trio of pieces I'm offering for sale from my private collection of this West German pattern.  It was made by Fridegart Glatzle for Karlsruher Majolica in the 1970's.  The form of the vessel is inspired by a classical shape, though it is energized with a Modernist "slightly-inflated" tension.  But it's the glaze which I love best: an organic, dripping glaze, reminiscent of works from the earlier Jugendstil period.  For several years, I have been collecting this line of works, mostly in Europe, occasionally in the States.  But my grouping has grown large enough that I can "deaccession" the duplicate pieces, like the one shown here.

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Separation Blues - II

Here's another piece made by Fridegart Glatzle for Karlsruher Majolica in the 1970's.  Though the shape is one of a classic ceramics vessel, it features a Modernist energy with its artful "tension"—like one might see with a slightly-overinflated balloon. The glaze, however, "leans back" into an earlier period—with the dripping glazes of the Jugendstil period.  This is one of a trio of similar pieces which I am offering from my Private Collection—a deaccessioning of duplicate pieces in my collection of this West German pattern.

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Separation Blues - I

As an antiques dealer, I'm traveling all the time, on the hunt for new acquisitions for the shop.  While on-the-prowl, I cannot help but unearth the occasional tempting object (or collection) which I decide to purchase myself (rather than buy for the shop).  Truthfully, I need to rein-in such indulgences—keep it in moderation.  But, over the years, I've collected a number of "extra-curricular enticements"—my "Private Collection"—which is not usually offered for sale. The piece above was made in the 1970's by ceramicist Fridegart Glatzle for Karlsruher Majoilika.  She was one of the lead artists for the German ceramics workshop, starting in the 1950's, after World War Two.  She designed many "lines" of ceramics for the company including the piece shown above (from the...

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Summer's Begun

Very late last night—at 11:32 pm New York Time—the North Pole was at its closest annual tilt toward the Sun; yesterday, the Sun encircled the Earth along its most-northern track  for the year (along the imaginary line called the Tropic of Cancer).  Thus, in the Northern Hemisphere, yesterday was the longest day of the year—and Summer began at 11:32 pm.  If you were at the North Pole, the sun would not have set at all.  On the other hand, if you were in the Southern Hemisphere, it would have been the shortest day of the year for you—and the South Pole may have had no sunrise at all. Life on Earth is dependent upon the Sun.  But we need a...

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A Clash of Concepts

Art will sometimes present interesting contradictions.  Sometimes the viewer catches the inconsistencies and sometimes the viewer just enjoys the piece for its aesthetic pleasance. This Art Deco rosebowl, made by Roseville in the 1930's, juxtaposes two opposing forces: hard structure and organic spontaneity.  The ceramic structure of the bowl itself is a crisp and intentional form—precise, architectural, disciplined.  One could almost imagine the bas relief shoulder design inspiring the utilitarian venting within the vast inner shaft of the Star Wars Death Star.  On top of this "hard" form, however, is a random and impromptu and very soft glazing effect—mottled glazing (in a warm, gentle color) applied in an irregular (and seemingly unplanned) way.  The juxtaposition of hard vs. soft, deliberate vs. random, gives the...

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More Turquoise

Here's another English Art Deco vase made by Pilkington Royal Lancastrian in the 1920's or 1930's.  It has an incised, scrolling design across the body and is glazed with a handsome turquoise glaze—freckled with jade green confetti.  Click on the photo above to learn more about it.

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Egyptian Revival

Ancient Egypt has long been a source of fascination for the West.  Western artists, architects and designers have been appropriating Egyptian design motifs since the Renaissance—as Europeans looked to ancient civilizations for beauty, culture and enlightenment.  When Napoleon conquered Egypt, he instructed teams of artists to thoroughly record the art, architecture and aesthetics of Egypt, both ancient and modern.  These engraved plates were published in installments called Description de l'Égypte from 1809 to 1826 which were wildly popular and had a tremendous influence on early 19th Century taste and design—paintings, architecture, furniture, graphics, jewelry, ceramics, metalware, lighting and other decorative arts.

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Classical Fresh

Classical Antiquity has provided so many timeless design ideas, many of which still look perfect nearly 2000 years later.  This vase, for example, made in Roseville, Ohio during the Art Deco 1930's, was inspired by a Classical Greek urn.  The two handles, certainly a part of the original Classical aesthetic, have been updated with slight Art Nouveau "whiplash" energy—making the vase as fresh and attractive as ever.  Of course, the clean satin white glazing also contributes to a crisp, modern aesthetic.  Click on the photo above to learn more about it.   Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).  We also can be...

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Chasing China

    Traditionally, red glazes have always been the most "temperamental" for potters to control. Small changes in the glaze mixture, kiln temperature or firing time could alter the final coloration of a piece.  For centuries, the Chinese had been creating beautiful "oxblood" ceramics, despite very primitive technology.  Their kilns were essentially earthen mounds, fired with wood, with windows and vents which could be opened or closed to control the temperature.  Despite these hard-to-control conditions, the Chinese had been been able to produce red glazes from the 1400's (and possibly the 900's).  Early oxblood ceramic vessels were used for religious purposes and have sometimes been called "sacrificial ware." In the 1700's, when trade with Europe was well underway, there was...

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Here Comes the Sun

Though Old Man Winter is well behind us, the Spring, thus far, has been unpredictable indeed.  Days in the mid-70's are followed by nights in the 20's (and dustings of snow).  My wardrobe—not to mention my spring bulbs—are confused by the inconsistency.  But the Earth's axis continues its progressive tilt, bringing us closer to the Sun with every passing day. This Art Deco vase, made by Stangl in the 1930's, reminds me of that fiery, life-giving ball in the sky.  Though it cannot provide warmth, alas, it will provide a feeling of sunshine—just what we need right now.

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Spring Suggestions - VIII

Let's end our procession of Spring Suggestions with this particularly sunny offering: an Art Deco vase glazed in a rich yellow glaze.  It was made by Martin Stangl in Trenton, New Jersey in the 1930's. The two "lop eared" handles, atop the urn, seem an Art Deco botanical reference to some earlier, classical time.  The glaze is particularly vibrant. If this vase can't bring with it a ray of Spring sunshine, can anything?

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Welcome, Spring!

Is there any season more invigorating—more hopeful—than Spring?  Early green shoots begin to emerge from their bulbs, long forgotten below.  Trees acquire a haze of yellow or light green as buds begin to form along their twigs. And a frisson of delight passes through the body when one realizes "Perhaps I don't have to wear a jacket today..."  Despite nighttime temperatures in the 20's, Spring is here—having arrived today, 20 March, at 5:37 am Eastern Time.

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Trusting One's Taste

As I've become a more experienced collector, I feel more confident venturing-beyond my previously trod territory.  When I find something that I like, yet cannot identify—or I suspect it might even be recently-made—I will give the piece an extra turn or two in-the-hand, asking myself, "Why not?".  If the quality is high (and handmade), the design is tasteful, and the piece is priced well, I may add it to the collection despite my uncertainty as to its age or maker. The piece shown here was discovered at an estate sale last week.  I was hunting for furniture and came across this in the meantime.  It wasn't a lot of money—and something told me that it was good (if not "important").  To learn more...

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More Sun!

Here's a little more sun—in this case, sun flowers. I must admit, this vase is a bit of a mystery to me.  In my thirty years in the antiques trade, I have only seen two of them (both of which I acquired).  I do not know who made it, in what country, or when.  The piece exhibits a European sensibility—which may help explain why I have seen it so rarely in America.  On the other hand, I bought both of my pieces in the States, an inconclusive suggestion that it might have been made here.  My educated guess is that it was made in Europe in the 1910's or 1920's—or in the United States in the 1920's or 1930's. I bought my first...

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Here Comes the Sun! (Again)

I long for the sunrise, a new dawn of civility, propriety and a presidential behavior which sets the right example for our citizens and the rest of the world.  I despise disruption, criminality and the financial exploitation of one's elected position.  I fear that fanatical discontents have found their emperor—who's been described as "their Robert E. Lee"—who is all too willing to play the tyrant (and keep the cashflow a-flowin').  How has America gotten to this point?  Or, more pointedly, how has this ideology simmered beneath society's surface without wider acknowledgment, analysis and counter-action? Alas, we are far, as a country, from "pulling together" in a snuggly, affectionate round of Kumbaya.  Some of the outgoing president's supporters have threatened a...

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Une Nouvelle Année

In a sometimes fractured world, the New Year is something we all share. Every year I marvel at how the new year sweeps around the globe—completing its circuit in one smooth 24 hour pass.  We see fireworks in New Zealand, followed by celebrations in Australia, Eastern Russia, Japan, Hong Kong, South Africa, Eastern Europe, Western Europe, England & Ireland, Brazil, the United States, and, finally, American Samoa (followed by a handful of islands an hour later). The desire to mark the New Year seems universal (or, at least, global).  And, for one 24 hour day, we all share the same focus. In France, one says Bonne Année!  This French Art Nouveau vase once welcomed a new period in the decorative arts.  Perhaps it can signify...

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Here Comes the Sun!

2021 is here . . . can you feel things getting better?  The days are getting longer. A Covid vaccine is ready for injection (if only it would be distributed).  And new leadership is making plans to move our country in a new and better direction.  It's as though the sun has emerged—after four years of darkness and bitter cold. This vase, made in England in the 1920's or 1930's, boasts a "molten" glaze of oranges and yellows—seemingly boiling on the vertically-ribbed walls of this gourd-form vase.  It reminds me of the surface of the Sun, where swirls of molten magma radiate their energy to the Earth below.  While the Sun holds the power to sustain life or kill it,...

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No Reason for Envy

Jealousy supposedly leaves its victim "green with envy." A clever image and turn-of-phrase, yes, but this green vase has no reason to be envious. Two glazes—a spring green and an aqueous blue—are dappled over the sculpted form of this English Art Deco vase, made in the 1930's. Incised "fiddleheads" sway and curl along the shoulders of the piece, lending just a touch of Art Nouveau embellishment.  To my eye, the wonderful and complex glazing captures that ephemeral moment when the seasons straddle both spring and summer. The tender yellow is gone, but the hearty green has not yet taken its place. Click on the photo above to learn more about this interesting and handsome English vase.   Though our Greenwich Village...

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It's Almost Here!

One more day!  Hanukkah begins tomorrow night! Blue, silver and white, the classic colors of Hanukkah.  I have always loved this color combination. It's clean. It's wintery. And it's a sophisticated alternative to the classic red and green which is associated with Christmas. For me, it's become a "holiday palette cleanser," so to speak. So from where (and when) do the Hanukkah colors derive?

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Summer's Remembrance

Evocative of the flaming ball of fire in the summer's sky, the swirling "molten" orange and yellow glazes on this English Art Deco vase seemingly throb with heat. Sculpted "fiddleheads" (or are they solar flares?) encircle the shoulders of the vase, adding additional movement to the piece. It was made by Pilkington Royal Lancastrian in the Thirties—though it does seem to reflect both the Arts & Crafts and the Art Deco aesthetics.  Click on the photo above to learn more about it.

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December Frost

Although winter is still three weeks away, one wouldn't know that by looking outside my door!  I was greeted this morning with four inches of snow and a 28º chill.  Neither the cold nor the snow stopped all day long. Already I'm asking myself, "How am I going to make it through the winter (once it comes)?" Today is the First of December—a month whose birthstone is the turquoise.  Turquoise has been prized for thousands of years—first by the Egyptians, then the Chinese and the Persians, later the Aztecs, and eventually the Native Americans of the Southwest United States.  The name derives from the French word for "Turks"—for it was through Turkey that the first turquoise came to Europe from...

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Thanksgiving Wishes

Wishing you a bountiful harvest and hoping you have much to be thankful for. Despite the challenges of "these times," I am grateful for numerous blessings—large and small—which grace my life: my home, my family, friends and customers. Thank you for being a part of my many blessings!

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Now We Return to Previously-Scheduled Programming...

After months of campaigning (65 months, by my count), what could be more refreshing—more palette cleansing—than a nice fresh, green piece of Arts & Crafts pottery?  And here it is.  Made by Weller in the early Twentieth Century, it boasts that classic American Arts & Crafts matte green glaze—natural, calming, restorative. What could be more delightful right now?  Think of it as a nice crisp salad after two weeks of buffets and dessert tables.  Click on the photo above to learn more about it.

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Hand-Raised Copper - part VIII

Let's end our parade of copper vessels with this modest option, a hand-hammered "club-form" vase.  It would look great holding a small number of stems—as it looks good standing empty and alone. Click on the photo above to learn more about it.   Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).  We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques (www.mahlaantiques.com) or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (www.antiquecenterofstrabane.com). Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only).  917-446-4248

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Hand-Raised Copper - part VII

Western artists, designers and craftsmen have often tapped classic Asian design for its artistic inspiration. During the late Nineteenth Century (and at many other times in history), Westerners were enchanted by "The Exotic East." Sometimes these penchants became embarrassing and demeaning fetishes. But, at other times, such an appropriation was simply the recognition that classic Asian designers did beautiful work—and imitation is recognized as the sincerest form of flattery. The piece above takes the form of a classic "ginger jar"—the Chinese covered vessel originally intended to hold spices, oils and other valuable foodstuffs. Many centuries ago, Western merchants began to ship them back home to a hungry European population which used such ginger jars in their collecting and home decorating....

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Hand-Raised Copper - part VI

The "freeform" hand-hammering of these vessels, each from a single ingot of copper, requires a great deal of patience, precision and skill. The tools are minimal: an anvil, tongs and a small assortment of hammers (depending on the type of hammering needed at any particular point). Not only must the artisan get the shape right (and evenly balanced) but he must keep the walls of uniform thickness. He also wants to leave a pleasant hammering effect. On this piece, shown above, the craftsman has the additional task of applying a surface treatment—in this case evenly-spaced ribbing. Learn more about this vase by clicking on the photo above.   More hand-hammered copper items in the days to come.    Though our Greenwich...

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Hand-Raised Copper - part V

Compressed, sensual, pendulous. These are three words which help to describe this hand-raised copper vase, shown above. It is a squat gourd-form vessel with a narrow-ish neck—which will gather your flower stems to a controlled point. Click on the photo above to learn more about it. Shown below is a highly sculptural offering. It's perfect for a low setting—upon a table or sideboard—where one may see it from above and appreciate the closed top of the vase (rather than look down into an open vessel). Click upon either photo to learn more about either vase.    More hand-hammered copper items in the days to come.    Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and...

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Hand-Raised Copper - part IV

Master architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, was known for his handsome, unusual and avant-garde buildings. And his work was not confined to the design of building structures alone. Indeed, he often designed his projects right down to the interior furnishings—rugs, furniture, decorative objets. One of his favorite vase forms was called a "weed holder"—and is the inspiration for the piece shown above. It stands just under 12 inches tall and will hold a large handful of dried grasses, rushes or twigs. It would also look great with long-stemmed fresh flowers, like gladiolas, irises or lilies. Click on the photo above to learn more about it.   More hand-hammered copper items in the days to come.    Though our Greenwich Village store...

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Hand-Raised Copper - part II

This vase is very heavy—with thick, hand-raised walls. It must have taken great muscle to hold it at the end of a tongs and to hammer it into shape. The form is a "soft square" which can be best understood when looking down upon the piece. At over 12 inches tall, it can hold relatively long flowering branches or a sizable arrangement of flowers. One could also make a nice lamp out of it. Click on the photo above to learn more about it. Shown below, a more refined—and not as heavy—vase, also nearly a foot tall. It, too, would make  nice lamp or home for a handsome flower arrangement. In either case, I would pour a bag of heavy...

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Hand-Raised Copper - part I

When we were closing our Greenwich Village shop—three years ago this month—it was a very hectic time. The entire store was marked-down and business was more than brisk (in fact, it was our biggest single month in company history!). We were also simultaneously packing-up unsold merchandise plus 23 years worth of accumulated fixturing, backstock, and those pesky "pending repair projects." During that crazy month, we packed four 16 foot Penske "box trucks" and drove them eight hours west through the mountains of Pennsylvania. Though we attempted a high level of organization, alas, some things were packed-up too quickly and added to the pile of boxes on the truck. One of the unexpected benefits of that tumult is the delayed "un-earthing" of...

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