Clews Blues - VI


English Art Deco "Chameleonware" Vase with Hand-Painted Floral Glazing by George Clews (LEO Design)


This week we are sharing pieces from our collection of George Clews "Blue Chameleonware" Art Deco ceramics made in England in the Twenties and Thirties.

From the time that Europeans and Asians first began crossing-paths—traveling the world and trading this for that—all parties along the trade routes had things that others wanted to buy and saw things that they wanted for themselves.  To the Far East, Westerners supplied manufactured goods, steel objects, woolens, furs, cattle, honey, lots of gold & silver (not to mention slaves, opium and disease).  In return, Europeans purchased silken textiles, tea, certain spices and lots (and lots) of porcelain and ceramics.  Not only did the "Oriental Style" ceramics intrigue the Europeans, but the technical proficiency of their pottery-making was a compelling mystery to the Westerners (especially considering the rather primitive kilns and technology that was available in the East at the time).  Westerners tried to "crack the code"—to copy the Asian ceramicists back in Europe, to varying degrees of success.  Over time, Western artists figured-out how to duplicate many of the forms and glazes from the East.  But real, authentic Chinese pottery still remained the gold standard amongst collectors in Europe—and it remained expensive.  Wealthy European collectors took great pride in flaunting their amassed assortment of Asian ceramics.

But not all Europeans could afford authentic, imported porcelain.  In fact, the overwhelming majority of Europeans could not.  Enterprising English and European ceramicists began designing and producing domestic pottery "in the Oriental manner."  These designs were rarely (if ever) authentic in style. On the contrary, the designs were unapologetically adapted to Western tastes and conformed to Western production methods.  I don't view such attempts as "evil cultural appropriation."  People have been copying other people since Adam took his bite of the forbidden fruit.  Instead, I view these adaptations as wholly new creations—a translation of one person's great idea for use in a new and different place and time.  And such aesthetic adaptation goes both ways; I've seen many a young Japanese hipster sporting an "American" baseball jacket embellished with nonsense English place names and phrases.  Who's being hurt?

Europeans also traded and interacted with the Middle East.  The Persians, today called Iranians, had a distinct and wonderful aesthetic culture of ceramics-making and tilework.  This Persian design greatly influenced India and the West.  The English Art Deco tapering trumpet-form vase, shown above, was made by George Clews in the Twenties or Thirties It is embellished with a flamboyant (yet beautiful) Persian-inspired floral design in shades of brown and blue (popular in Iznik ceramics and tilework).  Click on the photo above to learn more about this piece.  Or click here to see an assortment of Chameleonware pieces currently on-offer in the LEO Design on-line store.

More Chameleonware pottery tomorrow and in the days to come.


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 (

We also can be found in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (

Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only).  917-446-4248