A textbook example was a massive 14in (36cm) pot decorated with a striking floral and geometric design in shades of yellow, black, green, blue and pink which came for sale at the Rogers Jones (18% buyer’s premium inc VAT) sale in Colwyn Bay on January 7 from a small farm in the Conwy Valley.
Marked with the pattern code DK, it was also signed with an H for Margaret Holder who worked at the Dorset factory from 1927-41. It took an unexpected £7000 (estimate £300-400). The buyer said he believed the vase was one of only eight the factory produced.
Prices for this category of Poole were at their peak in the early 1990s when Dorset auction house Cottees sold a 14in (36cm) pot by Holder for a record £17,000.
More recently in March 2019, Duke’s of Dorchester took £7800 for a massive 2ft (62cm) high Bush Velt pattern vase designed by John Adams and painted in polychrome with a lion attacking an antelope within geometric segments by Anne Hatchard.
Top Marks for Minton
The January 9 sale at Greenslade Taylor Hunt (19.5% buyer’s premium) in Taunton included a rare set of large-scale Minton tiles decorated on the theme of the Seven Ages of Man by Henry Stacy Marks (1829-98). While single 20 x 10in (51 x 25cm) tiles are occasionally sold piecemeal for prices of up to £2000 each, it was probably the first time a full set had been offered since another sold at Christie’s South Kensington in 2003 for £11,162.
Each tile, made c.1875, is printed and painted in the artist’s distinctive quasi-medieval style with a scene based on Shakespeare’s As You Like It and mounted in a period ebonised and gilt Aesthetic movement frame.
The two tiles shown here (one above, one top) depict the First Age (a young child being held by his grandmother while his mother and father look on under a blossoming tree) and the Fifth Age (a grown man in a dispute over a game of cards at a banqueting table). Offered as a set from a private vendor, all in good condition, they were estimated at £8000-12,000 and sold at £14,000.
Stacy Marks also created a set of 6in (15cm) tiles on the same theme for the Minton Art Pottery Studio. A set of these (one broken) set in a hexagonal brass and mahogany jardiniere also featured in the auction, selling at £480.
The new-year auction calendar had opened in the West Country as early as January 1 when Clarks (17.5% buyer’s premium) got through 1028 lots in Liskeard. These included a collection of 83 pieces of Troika pottery produced in St Ives and Newlyn from 1963-83.
This collection came back to Cornwall from a Huddersfield fan impressed by previous results at the Liskeard rooms. All bar five of the collection found private buyers from across the UK for a total of just over £11,000
Two double-base vases by Benny Sirota, one of the three founders of the pottery, went a shade over estimates at £540 and £460 but, predictably, the best-sellers were examples of Aztec masks.
Sometimes known as Cycladic masks, such pieces were at the forefront of the spike in Troika prices in 2003-04 when several examples sold for close to £2000 and a few even higher – such as the one which took £2700 at a now famous single-owner sale in Burstow & Hewett in East Sussex.
The market has settled back since then but here two free-standing masks went comfortably above estimates. A 10in (25cm) tall example signed by Louise Jinks who worked at Troika in Newlyn from 1976-81 took £820. A similarly sized and estimated version by Marilyn Pascoe, at St Ives from the late 1960s until 1974, sold at £760.
Farm animals and rural scenes produced by Border Fine Arts were offered at Tennants (17.5% buyer’s premium) in Leyburn on January 4.
Founded by John Hammond in Langholm, Scotland, in 1974, Border Fine Arts produced its ‘cold cast’ ceramic figures of a bygone era until 2016. Most were sold through tourist shops in the Borders and the Lake District with the farming and countryside community providing the core collecting base.
“Recent sales suggest they may be making a comeback since production ceased at Langholm,” said Jane Tennant after the January 4 auction.
“Certainly, there is no shortage of buyers. We have recently sold large private collections from across the country, including Devon, Gloucestershire and Aberdeenshire and consistently achieve a 95% plus sold rate.”
Among the better selling animals in January were boxed and certificated limited editions, many by Ray Ayres, a graduate from the Winchester School of Art, who sculpted more than 500 models for the factory.
His large-scale farming tableaux, often featuring anachronistic scenes of men and machinery, are among the most desirable of all Border Fine Art productions and here 20 Acres a Day (B0744), number 114 from an edition of 500, took a top-estimate £600 and The Threshing Mill (B0361), numbered 67/600, broke the four-figure barrier at £1000.
It outsold the top piece of Beswick: an example of the rare Beatrix Potter figurine known as Duchess with Flowers. Modelled by Graham Orwell and issued from 1955-67 it depicts the character (a Pomeranian) holding a bouquet. Only a few have survived and sums of over £1500 were not unusual at the height of the market 15-20 years ago.
As a general rule prices have slipped since then. This example (it has the gold back-stamps BP-2) carried an estimate of £700-900 and took £650.