Shirley Mueller, a US neuroscientist and collector, has written in today’s ATG “Collecting gives meaning to life [sorry kids] and gives life a spark, in contrast to the day to day drudgery of life. It encapsulates the thrill of the chase and is overall a very pleasant experience. I believe collectors are lucky. We have a passion that drives us”. Never a truer word said.
Whilst trawling through the British Newspaper Archives (as you do on a dull day over Christmas), I found an unlikely letter in the London Evening Standard written by the one and only Archibald Knox, whilst still in the Isle of Man, dating to 1893. The letter concerns Knox’s regret, even anger, at the demise of the main Peel Cathedral, a theme that was a constant throughout his life. Whilst it is hard to square Knox’s modernist design brilliance with his traditional faith, he clearly found no contradiction whatsoever in the two, an area worthy of more research.
If you were ever in doubt that Christopher Dresser was a “rock-star” of the decorative arts, see this link for further details on Christies’ recent sale of a plated teapot by Dresser for nearly $400,000. I am delighted to list an entire tea set by Dresser, and in sterling silver, at a fraction of that price. A bargain!
The purchase of a lovely sterling silver teapot marked for N&E Spittle ((Norman and Ernest) set me on the trail of this relatively obscure partnership, mostly known for their copper and bronze lighting and metalwork. It seems their important history has been in part obscured by the early death of Norman and subsequent company name changes. They nevertheless were highly influential on Gustav Stickley’s metalwork in the US, and produced fittings for some of Britain’s most modern buildings in the period 1900-14.
It’s been an unusual and rewarding two days. First, the Collection’s Milon Andreewitch plaque has been acquired by family descendants wishing to obtain a great example of their ancestor’s brilliant but limited works. And then today the Collection’s lovely Bertha Inglis spoons have been bought by a family member, also wanting to celebrate and remember their ancestor. To reunite pieces sold c 100 years ago is really very touching – and great testimony to the power of the internet too.
I have about twelve buckles for sale in the Collection (excluding those sold) and have just added two absolutely excellent ones by Liberty and Anton Michelsen. It is fair to say they are not terribly practical objects, although I know a very elegant lady who frequently sports an Oliver Baker buckle to great effect. They are however perfect examples of the era, usually encapsulating some of the best, most creative designs of the period and often mixing silver with stones and enamel. If you want to create a vibrant, small, and relatively affordable collection of arts and crafts silverware, I commend them to you.
As a footnote I am delighted to have recently assisted in the sale of a very rare and valuable Georg Jensen dragonfly buckle, more information here
I have just listed several new items by Charles Ashbee, bought privately and with direct provenance back to the Guild of Handicraft in 1900. Despite my ambivalence towards silver plate, I am particularly taken by a really beautiful pair of vegetable dishes listed here
The pieces have direct provenance to Arthur Currer Briggs who acquired the pieces in c. 1900. Briggs was an outstanding patron of the arts and crafts and besides purchasing items from Ashbee and supporting the major Leeds Arts and Crafts Exhibitions, he commissioned one of Voysey’s most important houses Broad Leys on Lake Windermere.
I have finally researched successfully Alfred Edward Bonner, the silversmith and enameller with makers mark AEB. He was born in Norfolk in 1862 to a farming family. In the 1891 census, at the age of 29, Bonner was living at home with no occupation given. By the 1901 census (and after his father’s death in 1898) he is boarding in London and gives his occupation as an “artist painter” By the 1911 census he is in Kensington and listed as an “Artist metalworker”. In 1912, at the age of 50, he married Mary Wright, a minor aristocrat. Based on the absence of hallmarked Bonner pieces after c 1918 it is assumed he retired from metalwork at that time. He died in Scotland in 1943, having lived for much of his later years in Limpley Stoke, Wiltshire. He was childless.
Bonner was one of those small group of arts and crafts silversmiths who flourished prior to 1914. He was described by the Studio in 1904 as a “designer of and worker in silver and jewellery” based in Kensington. He was clearly also a skilled enameller and wrote an article on enamelling for “Arts & Crafts” Journal vol 2, 1905, from which I have reproduced what I believe is a previously unknown photo of Bonner see link
Just in time for Christmas I have added a fantastic collection of Gaskin and other arts and crafts jewellery to the site. Acquired privately, the collection was put together over the past twenty years.