Czecholsovakian Pottery

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Collecting Remains on My Mind

Since I started collecting antique pottery over 30 years ago, I am often asked what and why do I collect. I will explain the "what" later. As to the "why" do I collect pottery? After being asked this question repeatedly I’ve decided to articulate it the best I can. As you will discover, some of the reasons are pretty universal. Why does anyone collect anything? Here are my top five reasons, in no particular order.

Beauty - Pottery is an art. Creating a pottery piece is labor intensive. A number of steps and devotion goes into its creation. I appreciate the skill and artistic vision required to produce an aesthetically pleasing piece of art.

Memories - As a kid I would often accompany my mother to antique stores, flea markets and garage sales. I had a happy times going to auctions and estate sales. Perhaps picking through these items takes me back to that time?

Imagination - When I find and buy a piece, of let’s say Czechoslovakian pottery, my imagination begins to travel back, through time. I dream of the time period in which it was created. Who specifically had there hands in its birth? Where may this piece have traveled since it was created? Who and how many people may have owned it. What was it used for? How long will this pottery item exist current form?

My Hunt- There is a certain rush of adrenaline associated with finding a piece of antique pottery for my collection on an antique store shelf. The excitement of picking it up and checking it's condition while glancing over the ridiculously low price is fun. A sense of personal satisfaction comes with purchasing a piece of pottery for a few dollars, while knowing that the item is valuable to collectors. Looking for antique pottery is fun. It takes me to different towns, cities even different countries and out of way places. While in the hunt there are many different things to see, new locations to explore and interesting people to meet.

Value - Antique pottery can be quite valuable. Hoarding a collection of worthy pieces is as good as having a savings account, although I hope I don't have to cash it.

Now for the "what" do I collect. I have many collections, Czech pottery, Elfinware, Crown Staffordshire are just a few. I am going to share with you some information on my Crown Staffordshire collection.

Crown Staffordshire porcelain acquired its name in 1897 as the successor name to what began in 1833 as Thomas Green bone china at Minerva China Works, Park Street, Fenton in England. Green's father also had been known as a maker of pottery as far back as 1790. Keeping the business in the family, Thomas Green the younger employed his wife and four sons at Minerva Works until his death in 1859.

His widow, Margaret, and four sons then ran the business for the ensuing 17 years. In 1897 the name Crown Staffordshire first appeared in the title of the firm and in 1903 it became a limited company under the name Crown Staffordshire Porcelain Co. Ltd. By the turn of the century, the company were producing a wide range of bone china products including dinner ware, tea and coffee ware, miniatures, vases, cutlery handles, door furniture and floral china baskets. In the late 1920s Crown Staffordshire pioneered the large scale production of china floral ornaments and china costume jewellery for which they became famous.

The Green family remained connected with Crown Staffordshire until the mid 1960's, when the company became part of Wedgwood. But this was not before the company had expanded internationally to The United States and Canada, supplying such diverse products as Pan yellow-glazed tableware, and even porcelain fighting badges for combatants in two world wars. The Crown Staffordshire mark ceased being used in 1985.

The Art Director at Crown Staffordshire for over thirty years was J T (Jack) Jones. Born in 1898 Jack Jones joined Crown Staffordshire at the age of thirteen and worked for the company for forty-seven years. At the time of his death he was described as one of the leading designers of bone china table ware, but today he is probably known best for the range of bird groups that he designed for Crown Staffordshire. These ranged from large cockatoo figures to tiny wrens.

If you are thinking of starting a collection, spend time developing relationships with antique dealers in the area where you live. Although it is certainly possible to find good deals online, eBay has becaome a favorite of mine.  For some it may be safer and more convenient to make your purchases from a local merchant so that you can actually see and handle the pieces before you buy them. If you explain to antique dealers what you are looking for, many will be willing to keep their eyes out for pieces that suit your needs.

I hope you enjoying seeing my collection.  I will show you more of my collections in the future.  If you have a collection to share let me know via email and I will post share other collections here.

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Monday, March 19, 2012

Do you collect?

Almost everybody collects something, and most of what we collect isn’t all that fancy. I have many small collections, what do you collect?

Collectibles can be anything, really, as long as the person who collects them believes they are worth collecting.

Since my space at home is not infinite, I still collect but I have become more discriminating about adding to my collections. Collecting is so ingrained in me that when I discovered an new app for my iPad, Pinterest, I was hooked. Luckily it is virtual collecting!

P (as in "pin") plus "interest". Pin your interests there! Pinterest encourages you to "Collect the things you love!"
Pinterest can be:
A virtual file cabinet.
A virtual showcase.
A virtual magazine.
A virtual bulletin board.
"Pinterest" calls itself "A virtual pinboard".

Currently I have 12 boards and 249 pins. If you are not currently on Pinterest, check it out.

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Saturday, March 17, 2012

My Expat life in Barcelona

I was very fortunate to be able to live in Barcelona as an expat for a little over two years. My husband, Richard worked for a multinational corporation which relocated us there for a while. My sons came over for extended visits, soaking up the culture. We all appreciated our time there.

One of the best parts of Barcelona is just walking around the city admiring the architecture. I loved the Catalan Modernism. I am woefully uneducated on this topic, but you can find plenty of information on the subject. The most well-known Modernist architecture in Barcelona is the handiwork of Antoni Gaudi (1852-1926), and after seeing his work in person, I’m convinced this man was a truly gifted and visionary architect. During my time in Barcelona, I repeatedly toured many of Gaudi’s works and also saw the works of some other gifted architects. I absolutely fell in love with the distinctive architecture of Barcelona.

Here are some examples of Catalan Modernism to be found in the city:
La Sagrada Familia
Located at Mallorca 401, or take Metro: Sagrada Familia. This is Antoni Gaudi’s masterpiece, although it still isn’t finished, long after his death. You can enjoy the exterior of the cathedral from the street for free, but I highly recommend the tour of the building. If you think the outside is impressive, wait until you get a look at the inside. It is the most beautiful and unique cathedral I’ve ever seen. The bus Turistic, hop-on, hop-off bus, is the best way to sight-see your way around Barcelona.

Parc Guell
Located at d’Olot, 3, or take Metro: Lesseps, but it is still a long walk from there. Admission is free. But take your time getting up the steep hill. On one of my first visits to Barcelona was during spring break before we moved there and we hiked up to Parc Guell, through a back way. The Parc is itself lovely, but also commands some great views of Barcelona. This is another work of Gaudi’s.

Parc Guell unfolds in levels. Every time I walked up another level, I thought I was at the top, but no, there was yet another level to climb. I never did make it to the top before giving up. There are lovely wildflowers and structures and views; there are living statues and flamenco dancers and people selling trinkets. I thought it was interesting that the restrooms and cafe kitchen were built into the side of the hill in caves. There is a patio here with tables and umbrellas overlooking a dirt plaza where you can enjoy a cold drink and a bite to eat while people-watching.
Casa Mila (a.k.a. La Pedrera)
Located at Passeig de Gracia #92 or take the Metro: Diagonal. This is one of two spectacular Gaudi buildings along the Passeig de Gracia. There are metro stops along this lovely avenue, but I walked it many times, and I would recommend that to anyone in reasonably good health if the weather is nice. I started at Placa Catalunya and walked up to La Pedrera and back. There is a gallery with free admission where you can see rotating art exhibits.

Casa Batllo
Located at Passeig de Gracia #43, or Metro: Passeig de Gracia. I expected to like La Pedrera more than Casa Batllo, but when I saw them in person, it was the other way around. This building is just endlessly fascinating.

The Palau de la Musica Catalunya
Located at Carrer Palau de la Musica 4-6, just off Via Laietana in the Barri Gotic section of Barcelona, or take Metro: Urquinaona. This masterpiece was designed by Domenech i Montaner and is a UNESCO world cultural heritage site.
The one absolute must for nightlife in Barcelona is a concert at the Palau de la Musica Catalana. Stop by the hall during the daytime to buy tickets at the box office and also to by tickets for a guided tour in English during the day. The acoustics of the hall are superb. We saw Jackson Brown with David Lindley there, and another concert featuring Anoushka Shankar.

Torre Agbar
Located at Avinguda Diagonal 209-211, or take Metro: Station Glories. This uniquely-shaped building is so prominent on the Barcelona skyline that you really can’t ignore it. By all reports, the architect was aiming to evoke the sense of a water fountain with this building, but every time I saw it, I thought “Oh yes, there’s the giant phallic symbol.” The building, which houses the Barcelona water company, is illuminated with color at night.

Besides architecture, the was the Beach and other areas
To photograph people enjoying the beach, start in Barceloneta, a complex of narrow streets and houses built for the working class. The district is surrounded by a yacht harbor on one side and a sandy beach on the other. There is a covered market in the main square. Barcelonans predict rapid gentrification of this district but in the meantime you can get some photos of old neighbors hanging out laundry and chatting.
We lived in Sant Marti and only had to walk over a bridge to get to the beach. It was wonderful in the summer, I especially liked going for drinks and tapas on the beach. Music would blare out from the beach huts, and it always looked like a party in the height of the summer. My sisters enjoyed going to the beach for an outdoor massage.

La Rambla
One of the most famous streets in Spain, La Rambla runs through the Old City right down to the harbor. The wide center strip is devoted to newsstands, flower merchants, performers, and hordes of pedestrians. On either side of this strip are busy lanes for cars and buses.

One day Michael and I traveled to the city center from the train station in Mataro,while we were living in the NH Hotel. We got off at the center of the city and I saw this square called Plaza Catalunya in front of my eyes, it was then when I realized that I was in for a true adventure. My dream of living in one of the jewels of Europe had come true. I was very excited and wanted to get to see everything.

We started walking down Las Ramblas which was so crowded… What struck me the most was the beauty of the place and the buildings on both sides of the famous avenue. On the right, the market of La Boqueria was inviting me to enter and see its stalls with the most colorful, fresh fruit and vegetables. At special times during the year, parades would travel down side streets of the Ramblas.

The buildings were not the only things on the Ramblas that caught my attention. There were loads of street performers, stallholders, peddlers and painters in this emblematic avenue of Barcelona. I could feel the lively ambiance in Las Ramblas, and noticed that having a walk along this street was one of the best things to do in Barcelona. The human statues were very impressive but they do want to be paid, especially if you take their photo.

One area off the Ramblas I love to walk through is the Placa Reial. I loved walking along the narrow streets in the Gothic quarter. Everyday was an adventure in Barcelona, I really miss my time there!

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Friday, March 16, 2012

Dubrovnik, the pearl of the Adriatic

Dubrovnik is the most famous coastal city of Croatia, its medieval old town will impress everyone that walks into the city’s great wallsI certainly enjoyed my visit there.

For centuries Dubrovnik was the biggest rival of Venetian republic in the Adriatic coast. Dubrovnik has always been big in trade due to its location near the sea, which contributed to most of its wealth. During the middle ages, the city of Dubrovnik became a competitor and a rival for Venice. The city had good numbers of skilled labor and money and as a result of which, saw enormous growth during the 15th and the 16th century. The city was also a home for notable poets, painters, politicians, play writers and scholars. In the late 18th century both Dubrovnik and Venice were met with the same ending – Napoleon.

Dubrovnik attracts thousands of tourists every day but fortunately it managed to keep its unique atmosphere and its local life.

Patrick on the Stradun nearS t Blaise 

My adventure into Dubrovnik was with my son, Patrick. We were there on a Mediterranean cruise. We enjoyed our stop to simply explore the city. The beauty is just extraordinary and only enhanced by the uniqueness of it all. Dubrovnik is unlike any other city in Europe. Reflecting back on it now the one element that comes to mind when I think if Dubrovnik is the cleanliness of the city.

Dubrovnik is famous for roaming destinations like Roland’s Column, the Bell Tower, the Sponza Place, War Photo Limited, Pile Gate, and some famous churches and museums.

Right in front of the Pile Gate entrance is the circular Onofrio Fountain built in the 15th century and sporting 16 carved masks. Unlike the rest of Dalmatia, Dubrovnik citizens were not relegated to capturing rainwater; the fountain was connected by aqueduct with a spring near the town. 

Patrick at Onofrio Fountain

The Church of St Blaise (Crkva Sv Vlaho) is Dubrovnik's most beloved church, partly because St Blaise is the patron saint of Dubrovnik. Most festivals in Dubrovnik begin or end or have something to do with this church, conveniently located at the eastern end of Stradun. A recent restoration left the facade gleaming and the stairs are a perfect resting place for bedraggled tourists.

Stylistically, the church is stately but with welcoming ornamentation that pleases the eye without overwhelming the surroundings. The Venetian architect Marino Gropelli oversaw the church's construction which was finished in 1715. It was built on the site of an earlier church that was destroyed in a fire several years earlier. The only surviving remnant of that church was a 15th-century statue of St Blaise who holds a model of medieval Dubrovnik in his hand.The statue is now incorporated into the main altar. Also saved were two stone figures of saints made by Nikola Lazanic from Brac at the end of the 16th century.

Watercolor of  St. Blaise purchased in Dubrovnik

The Stradun is the main street of Old Town. It runs from the Pile Gate on the west to Ploce Gate on the east. The paving stones were laid in 1468.

Dubrovnik's old city walls run over a mile around the city. Walking on the city walls is a popular tourist activity.

The city walls complete with turrets, towers and staircases were constructed in the 10th century and fortified in 1453. The walls are 4 to 6 meters thick (13 to 20 ft) on the landward side but are much thinner on the seaward side.

Old Town Dubrovnik is entirely pedestrian so walking is the only way to get around.

Many of the little streets north of the Stradun rise up in seemingly endless stairs.

Dubrovnik was heavily bombed during the Croatian War of Independence from 1991 to 1995. Almost all of the damage has been repaired; however, if you look closely around the old town, mortar damage in the cobblestone streets and bullet marks in the stone houses are visible.

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