Thursday, 30 July 2009

A Few of My Favorite Things ... judy datesman

July 29 – This is my last entry as guest blogger for the Q Club, and so I'm taking advantage of the moment to share with you a few of my favorite pieces from our personal collection! Our collection tends to the eclectic – many pieces found us, rather than the other way around – and we have a reasonable tolerance for each other's preferences. At the moment, for space reasons, most pieces that are not Quimper have been packed away, so no photos of Desvres or Malicorne until the next time the Club asks me to blog!

I bought this octagonal sugar bowl at a flea market in Quimper several years ago, and just after I paid for it, I ran into one of Quimper's faïenciers, who confirmed that it was an apprentice piece, used for practicing cross-hatching. He told me that if he'd seen it first, he would have bought it ...

This matched pair of ducks is about 100 years old and was a gift to Marcel from someone in his extended family; it came from the estate of a painter in the Fouillen manufacture. I have a mini-collection of ducks in my office, but this pair has a place of honor on our mantel.

Several years ago, the Club did an article about Guy Trévoux; there was a photo of the PR brochure for a series of pieces with costume motifs that Trévoux designed to re-launch the American market. I realized that I had once seen a piece from that collection at Alain Le Berre's antiques shop in Douarnenez – it was a big oval tureen with its own platter, with a Bretonne and a border in green and pink, and it had the store mark of Lord & Taylor's. At the time, I didn't know about that series, but I was able to buy this plate not long after the article came out. I would like to find more of these, but I suspect that for once it's not an advantage to be in Quimper – there are probably many more on the other side of the Atlantic!

I also continue to look for Laget pieces with flowers from the Savoie. I have a number of pieces with the edelweiss and the cyclamen; this plate with the gentian came from a dessert service, of which each of the 12 dessert plates had a different flower, so I know there are other flowers out there.

I've already mentioned my lid collection – I'm sorry that the blog layout does not permit a wider photo. These lids represent a number of different decors, and in the back row, sort of in the middle, there is a good little rooster plate, which is the first piece of Quimper pottery I ever owned. My mother gave it to me 30 years ago; at the time, I thought, "well, that's nice", and that was about it. You never know where life is going to take you, do you!

I am a fan of a lot of the post-WWII productions, including Keraluc pottery (Marcel prefers the stoneware!). I bought this piece because the colors and style reminded me of Czech pottery, which I used to collect in a major way. Several years ago, I had a visit from Pol Lucas, whose father Victor Lucas founded Keraluc; he told me that his father painted this piece! As I have always admired the geometric aspects of many of Victor Lucas' designs, I was delighted to learn that I owned one. (And a funny note about that visit: Pol Lucas was the one who launched the Keraluc stoneware, and I was taking him into the garage to show him the pieces that we had in armoire out there. As we were going through the kitchen, he noticed that the cat's dishes on the floor were Keraluc ... oops – that could have been embarrassing! But he laughed and said, "Pas mal, ça!" – "Not bad!")

This piece came from auction several years ago, and I was quite taken with the colors and the portrayal of the figure; however, there was no provenance given when I bought it. I was delighted to see this month at an auction this identical decor on a piece that was attributed to Nicolas Eloury in the mid-19th century.

Henriot did child's services in a number of patterns, and the decors are generally designed with fast brush strokes without a great deal of detail – after all, the life span of pieces given to children to play with was expected to be fairly limited. But this miniature service by HB is painted in great detail! The cups are about the size of a nickel in diameter, so you can see how little it all is. I'm missing a saucer, and I wonder if there was ever a tray – this service lives on a little Quimper dish in my house, mostly so that I don't lose a piece of it.

At some point in the early days of this blog, people talked about pieces they lived with, and I mentioned this one. The photo does not show how beat up it is – it's a piece I bought by photo and it arrived in worse condition than I expected, certainly not in shape for resale without a lot of restoration. But I really liked the form and the pattern, and I was happy to keep it! I don't put hot things on it, but sometimes it's a great piece to put a vase on in the middle of the table!

It's been fun blogging with you. When the Q Club next meets in Quimper (in 2011, I hope), it will be a pleasure to share many of these things with you in person!! a+ ... judy

Monday, 27 July 2009

Last Quimper Auction of the Season ... judy datesman

July 27 – Some highlights from Saturday's auction ...

This platter by Robert Abraham Barjou (1907-1938) clearly shows the influence of the Ar Seiz Breur movement on artists of the period. I like many of the creations from this Breton art renaissance movement, but some of them are so rigorously geometric that I find them cold. The platter is a rare piece, depicting the carrier of the banner in a Breton pardon procession, and the gavel price was 1450 euros.

FANCH, as François Marie Caujan was known, produced many small figures and groups of figures, including marriage processions (one of 9 such groups sold at this sale for 720 euros). A larger figure by Fanch is rare, and this young girl from Plougastel, almost 12" high, brought 650 euros.

It is my opinion that the snuff bottle market is the Quimper market that has fluctuated the most in the last 15 years; it goes up and down like a yo-yo. Right now, it's on an upswing!

It is possible that this extremely rare snuff depicts Jacques Cartier – the inscription says "au tadac du Kanada" (spelling was not always the strong point of the painters). Aesthetically speaking, I don't find it sensational, but it is indeed quite unusual, and it brought 3500 euros.

This snuff is not nearly as rare – in fact, one of these shows up at most auctions – but its glaze was particularly well done. It sold for a surprising 600 euros.

I can appreciate the Odetta designs and especially the intricacies of this stoneware production, so different from painting on faïence. Sometimes the glazes can be spectacular, like the brilliant charcoal and cobalt colors. Nonetheless, it's not something that I hanker to own, but this vase by Alphonse Chanteau, with hydrangeas, clematis, roses, and passionflowers, could change my mind. Gavel price 3600 euros.

And I learned more about my Camembert holder. A good Camembert runs when it has been cut, and this style of holder will keep it from running; I guess other people shared my feelings about its utility, because it did not sell ...

Thanks to Philippe Jamault for the photos!

Friday, 24 July 2009

Videos! ... judy datesman

July 24 – The auction house in Quimper plans their summer sale to coincide with the height of the tourist season (and this week being the Festival de Cornouaille in Quimper, it's about tourist as it gets!), rather than focusing on collectors, as the other auction houses tend to do by scheduling their sales together at the beginning of the month. (Not that collectors don't make themselves known – if there is something interesting for sale, they know!) This group of Quimper faïence represents an ample assortment of pieces from just about every era and style. I always enjoy seeing something I've never seen before ... and this time, it was this:

At first glimpse, I thought it was a pair of wine coasters in a stand, but it turned out to be a Camembert serving piece! The Camembert fits in the round box, which is then placed in the stand, and the whole thing is put on the table. (And here I am back to the one-piece oil and vinegars – is this practical?? To serve, you would have to take hold of the box vertically tightly enough so that neither the top nor the bottom falls as you lift it out of its holder; then you would have to put it on the table and take the top off, without any kind of little feet, handle, knob, or other protrusions to help you manage it. Well, it's imaginative if not the most useful cheese server Quimper ever created, and maybe that's why there aren't too many of them ... )

The other important part of this sale is an extensive collection of costumes and costume accessories; the collection is part of the estate of a well-known figure in the world of Breton culture and Celtic folklore groups. Club member Philippe Jamault, who is the expert for the auction house, did a video interview this week about the costumes with Le Télégramme, one of our local newspapers, and you can see it here:

For those of you who don't speak French, two major points that he makes are these:
1. old costumes still serve as references for collectors and those who wish to recreate the costumes today, which makes them valuable, even in worn condition. They are a necessary complement to the artwork and reference books about Breton costumes.
2. the very economical Bretons did not throw away a costume just because it was worn or had moth holes (the old costumes are mostly wool) – they took it apart and reused what was still good, particularly embroidered sections, which took so much time to make and which could be appliquéd to other costumes.

And while I'm on the subject of videos, this week the Institute National de l'Audiovisuel (ina) announced that it was making public a vast part of its archives from the 20th century. This site is a bonanza for Francophiles, and if you type Quimper into the search box, it comes up with 72 videos, with everything from Charles de Gaulle (and other French presidents) making speeches in Quimper to cultural visits to catastrophes – these are all clips that were filmed for television. They seem to be in random order, so you have to poke around - I was enchanted to visit the faïencerie in 1967!

Monday, 20 July 2009

Just for fun ... judy datesman

July 20 – The auction season is not quite over yet! The latest one, this past Saturday, did not bill itself as a Quimper pottery auction, although it included about 75 lots of faïence. There were several PB plates, some Sévellec, a number of figurals old and new, and this wonderful Maillard piece, which I had never seen before.

It's a variation on the Jolly Cook form (this is the summer of the Jolly Cook!) – the two Breton ladies are facing each other, each with a small bowl in her hands. But these two are not pitchers – they are oil and vinegar cruets, and their heads are the stoppers!! Imagining the logistics of pouring oil and vinegar from them does give me pause (I have never really been able to figure out how it should work for any of the one-piece oil and vinegars), but the piece is so much fun that who cares!

There was a period when Quimper tile frescoes, particularly those designed to fit in wrought-iron table frames, were quite the thing. Bel Delecourt is very famous for hers, and there are also a number of them in the Guy Trevoux style (in fact, I have one myself – a black background with red and yellow flowers). This fresco, framed for a wall, was done by a contemporary artist, Youen. It features a still life, with the day's hunting catch – the choice of theme is what makes it unusual ...

And finally, I very much like posters as an art form, and the old train travel posters are especially charming, even when they show signs of age and wear, as this one does. Dated 1914, it was created by artist Georges Meunier. Here we see the Aven River at high tide, and the Bretonne from Pont Aven is giving a taste of milk to her little one, both wearing the coiffes of the town. Luckily I don't have wall space for posters – that's another realm of collecting!

By the way, the last auction of this month is coming up next Saturday. You can check it out on line.

Friday, 17 July 2009

Stripes in every color ... judy datesman

July 17 – In my first years living in Quimper, I ran a shop in centre ville: the Boutique Le Minor. It's a third-generation family business based in Pont L'Abbé that today features its own printed and embroidered table linens with Breton motifs, as well as embroidered costumes and banners. Grandmother Le Minor, the founder of the business (and a good friend of Mathurin Méheut), was also very involved in the development of clothing inspired by and for fishermen, including the felted duffle coats called kabigs, the heavy wool fisherman's sweaters, and the striped fisherman's jerseys. The clothing end of the business was sold around 1980 (a moment of crisis generally for the clothing industry in France), but the label is still Le Minor, and the boutique in Pont L'Abbé still sells it.

When I first started at the boutique, the fisherman's jerseys were generally navy blue and white or cream, with occasionally dark red for a change of pace. Then colors like dark green, yellow, lighter blue, even pink, striped with white or cream became popular. Today, the jerseys look like color explosions!

When I was in Pont L'Abbé for the parade last Sunday, of course I had to pay a visit to the Boutique Le Minor. It is always fun to see what's new! (Le Minor has the same challenges that businesses like HB-Henriot face – their name is associated with a certain tradition, and they need to maintain that tradition while they keep up with the times, not an easy task!)

Well, first I found myself in front of this window (my apologies for the reflections in the photo). On the bottom row are the traditional jerseys, but what's above them is purely contemporary – look at all those colors!

Then I saw the new Le Minor sign, appliquéd with swatches of striped jersey fabrics ...

When I went inside, at the window overlooking the river, there were these curtains in natural linen with more appliqués of striped patches.

And finally, there were these two jerseys, in a custom-made patchwork of different jersey colors. The price tag on the adult size was 175 euros (it wouldn't fit me anyway)!

I love a mix of colors, and so I was delighted to hear from Gildas Le Minor, the current patron and my former boss, that there is a printed tablecloth fabric on the way that is the printed version of the curtains ... I can see what will be showing up on my table one of these days!

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

The Parade Continues ... judy datesman

July 15 – Still watching the parade at the Fête des Brodeuses! After 25 years of being an enthusiastic spectator at these festivals, I am particularly struck by a couple of things. First, I'm always impressed by how many young people participate as musicians and dancers. They invest their time and energy in their group and the traditions that their group represents, and I think that is a splendid experience for them at the same time that it ensures that these traditions will not be lost. And second, the level of interest and appreciation on the part of the festival organizers, participants, and spectators transcends geography. Of course there is pride in the local color! But there are almost always folk groups from other parts of France and indeed other countries, and there seems to be a global understanding that although the traditions may differ, the reasons for maintaining and sharing them are universal.

And so let us wander a bit farther afield ...

This group came from the region of Berry, south of Orléans towards the center of France.

I'm having a senior moment about these dancers ... they are charming children in rather a different style of costume. (Anyone who recalls where they are from should feel free to post a comment!)

This is a Breton folk group which has created a dance program that is certainly original – using cardboard boxes as dance accessories!

Lisbon, Portugal was represented by this group ...

And this group I had to look up on Google: the Kanaks de Célénod. They are from New Caledonia in the South Pacific, and as is often the case with groups that come from afar, they appear in other festivals and will be performing in the area for two months.

It was a super parade all the way around! And I had a chance to stroll a bit down a memory side-lane, which I will share with you in my next blog ...

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Parade from the Fête des Brodeuses .. judy datesman

July 14 – The Fête des Brodeuses in Pont L'Abbé, which celebrates the talents of the local embroiderers, is one of my favorite summer folk festivals. It has color, music, costumes, ambiance, and crêpes on a scale that is quite manageable for a day's outing. The best day, of course, is Sunday, when the big parade starts at the top of the town and heads down to the park along the river. No need for me to make a lot of comments – this is one case when a picture is worth 1000 words and more – enjoy the parade!

Of course, music is a central theme ...

The costumes are amazing! Luckily, it was a gray and almost chilly day – it's much more comfortable for the parade participants, whose costumes are often made of wool! The folk groups are accompanied by "den mothers", who carry, among other things, large umbrellas, just in case gray becomes wet.

Children are a big hit, and this photo is my favorite one from this year's parade, in large part because we're having a hydrangea year this year (mine are huge and fabulous!).

In the "it's a small world" mode, I spotted Adela and Mark Meadows heading up the street in Pont L'Abbé; as Mark was carrying a very professional-looking camera, I would assume that they were in search of a good angle for their wonderful photos ... and one of my former students was there – Eileen is from Ohio, and she met her future Breton husband when she was in Africa with the Peace Corps; they live near Lorient, and their older child was playing the bagpipes with the Cercle Celtique from their town. Cross-cultural communication at its finest!

My nephew was my photographer for this event, and tomorrow I will share with you some of the more unusual participants of Sunday's parade!