Sunday, 5 April 2009

Two Fat Ladies! - Gay Smith

Sometimes it happens that enraptured with new treasures we rather forget our earlier finds, our eyes kind of skip past them; they become part of the status quo.

Take the petite Bretonne ladies for example: I guess nearly every collector has some and maybe we take them for granted a little, but if we look a little closer we will see they are not all quite the same. Some are fat, some are thin, some have mean, pinched profiles, others a softer, more generous look.

As I have always been …shall we say “generously” or “traditionally” built I personally favor the more buxom ladies and have two particular favorites in my collection:

The first of these ladies decorates an unmarked (but surely Quimper) ecuelle; her clothes are nicely painted and are in particularly attractive, soft colors. I have had this piece some years now: what seems like a lifetime ago I used to deal in antiques and collect-ables and regularly had a table at an Antiques fair in Oxfordshire.
These fairs are quite hard work – up at the crack of dawn whatever the weather, carry in the boxes, unpack, set up the table attractively and then just hope for customers. In the UK at least, the first hour or so is when most business is done, but the fairs are open perhaps until 4pm and dealers are not allowed to pack up and go home, no matter how quiet (or frankly, boring) it is.
During the day there is sometimes a chance to look around at other dealers wares and this was how I found this particular Breton lady: she was residing on the table of Helen Baker, who later became the first Quimper Club UK liaison.
I had a successful day and this piece was my reward……. (With this logic it is easy to see why I will never be wealthy!)

Over time quite a few fellow dealers got to know that I collected Quimper and would sometimes let me know when they spotted a piece. This is how I came to own my little coffee pot – a dealer took it into an Antique Centre (or group shop ) in Henley- on- Thames where I was a regular visitor, the Centre manageress, a friend of mine, put it aside for me.
I can still remember her taking it out of the cupboard and saying ‘You don’t HAVE to have it – it’s up to you’… but of course I did, I was charmed. We all know that “this piece is coming home with me” feeling……In addition, this piece came with an added extra …the Bretonnes mate, the Breton, decorates the other side of the pot……..

In the last Quimper Club Journal Don Batten and Janice Kania mentioned how each piece in their collection brought a different memory or story to mind – this is certainly true for me too, which brings me to something of a problem: we are planning some building work here and when it is completed there will be less room for my Quimper collection.
That will lead me to some hard choices – how can I choose? Setting aside some of those pieces aside will be like packing away bits of my life…….
Looking on the bright side, I guess every cloud has a silver lining – less dusting!!!

PS. In the UK ‘Two Fat Ladies" was the name of a BBC cookery program which featured two rather well built lady cooks going around Great Britain supposedly using a motor bike and side car to transport them. Sadly one half of the duo, Jennifer Patterson passed away, but Clarissa Dickson Wright is still going strong and has published her autobiography ‘Spilling the Beans’ : in my opinion she really does qualify as a true British eccentric, but she is also an extremely good cook!


  1. Gay, I enjoyed your posting on the Obamas' visit, but this one really made me smile. Like you, I have several pieces that are favorites because of the distinct personality of the little Breton or Bretonne that graces the pottery. At times I tend to think that the men are often more attractively painted than their women friends, though I always find the naive figures charming. As for the April 1st comments, I've been in Paris during April several times. Any time of year it is always a treat to gaze into the beautiful windows of the numerous chocolate shops as one walks along the sidewalks in Paris. The talent of the chocolatiers of that city is amazing! The chocolate creations in the shop windows often have a theme: from chocolate Eiffel Towers to African animals to figures that reflect the holiday season of the moment. But for April 1st the windows are often filled with the most amazing chocolate fish of distinct varieties and sizes! Have you seen these?

  2. Hello, it's hard to resist writing something as a fellow francophile currently in exile in NZ. I bought my first modern piece here in Auckland in 95 when it was still being imported to NZ. That was all I could afford at the time, although I was tempted of course by the mountains of dinner plates! I've never bought any new 'eating-off' plates. I went to Quimper specially to do just that in 06 and came away empty-handed. I just couldn't afford a set - very disappointing! Over the years and in many junk shops, I've found lots of small pieces in NZ to add to my enormous collection of 'cracked pots', as my husband calls it. I was in a smart antique shop in Christchurch in '03 and found a really old and beautiful small bowl with a breton in it @ $170 - a lot of money here. I abandoned all hope of indulging myself to that extent and drove home (6 hours to Nelson), opened the boot, and there it was! The aforementioned Warwick had sneaked back an told the woman it had to go with me to my good home for distressed pots! My biggest find was a hoard of pink Luneville crockery, including croissant plates in a junk shop at a ridiculously low price, so I had to have those! The 'pink Strasbourg' lot lives in my visitors' bedroom, so they're never bored by the books - lots on pottery, and hand-painted objects of faience.....
    Collecting this stuff has been a dream for me. I've found pieces in most countries in Europe, but I love being in France and ferreting around for it, don't you?? NZ is so far away..... All the best, Ros W