JOURNAL — Vases RSS



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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