Monday, 30 November 2009

First Auction of the Winter Season ... jd

30 November – And it's the year-end auction season, kicking off tomorrow with an auction in Brest at Thierry-Lannon & Associés ... let's visit the exhibit before the auction starts!

First, the important pieces. There are three vitrines of Quimper pottery, including a series of Sévellec plates, a number of figures, some platters, and a splendid collection of Porquier Beau botanicals, featuring several different birds.

During the visit, the exhibit hall looks very much like an elegant library in an old stately manor, with interesting paintings, old furniture, vases and sculptures, even old leather-bound books - of course, everything is for sale.

The sale starts at 14h00, and at 11h00, everyone has to leave so that the room can be rearranged for business. Everything in the forefront of this photo gets moved, and rows of folding chairs are set up. The counter in the back of the photo, with three vases and a sculpture, becomes the nerve center of the auction. The two auctioneers are on the right, and on the left, the staff records winning bids and prints out invoices (in my time, this has always been done with computers – I can just imagine how it was in the pre-electronic days). There is a red curtain behind the bookcase in the above photo; behind that curtain, pieces are stored after the gavel comes down. When you are finished buying, you go up front, you get your invoice, and then you go around to the back of the curtain to pick up your purchases. All of this has to be done without interfering with other people's bidding, which is sometimes tricky!

In this auction, I rather like this vase that was done for Macy's – not your usual Quimper.
And there is a piece in the second vitrine that would fit quite nicely in my personal collection – if I get it, I'll let you know!

There are two more auctions in the coming week ... stay tuned.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

A very special Cerelle.

The first time I saw Philippe Lalys was in 2001 when the QCI meeting was held in Quimper, Brittany, France. He was the star guest at the HB-Henriot reception, and was introducing his gorgeous platter reminiscent of one that Porquier would have made, but bordered with his fabulous purple blue thistles.

I don't know what impressed me more, this outstanding work of art or this handsome and quiet young man! I suppose I had almost a crush...but in any case, it was fun standing back and watching how the group admired his work, and how shy he was about receiving their adulation. You could tell he was pleased, but a bit overwhelmed, too.

Who was this SO talented man?

I have since learned that he received his training as a decorator of porcelain, but in 1976, after a visit to HB-Henriot while on a vacation, he asked for a job there. He was hired to paint in the atelier fantaisie where the artists did re editions of the old styles and décors which were finely detailed and quite elaborate. Amazing, as at the time he was only eighteen.

In 1983, he did the reprise of the violin originally painted by Guiheneuc and won the 1st prize af the Salon Bigorca in Paris. (Here the photo shows the original, click here for more information).

He took time off for his military service, then continued there, working up to be director of this division, then eventually foreman of the HB atelier.

After the manufacture was bought by Paul Janssens, Philippe became directeur artistique until he left in 1991 to open his own atelier as an artiste libre. He still works with HB-Henriot from time to time, working on collaborative and commissioned pieces.
(To read more details about him and his background, read the article by Judy Datesman in the Quimper Club Journal in Vol.7, No.2, December 2005 which assisted me with this blog.)

In researching details of his life, I find that he has been active in the political life of Quimper having participated in the last mayoral election in Quimper on a candidate's list. Perhaps luckily for the faïence community, his candidate did not win. However important community life may be, an artist like Philippe is not found every day! He is also an expert petanque player, as is his wife Sylvie.

He is a dog lover, and has not only a dog of his own, but also enjoys doing commissions of other people's pets on faïence.

I have been especially lucky as I now have three beautiful pieces by Philippe. One is the charming and romantic platter showing a young Bretonne with a male admirer as she demurely casts bread to the swan, which is seen reflected in the water.
In the distance are the spires of St. Corentin Cathedral, and in the mid ground there is a mill, which until I bought this platter, I had not known had existed. It had been a color mill, and it was there, I was told, that the minerals were ground which became the colors painted on the early Quimper faïence pieces.

Another is a re edition of a Porquier beauty featuring a Chinese pheasant and a second colorful bird surrounded with lush foliage and an intricately painted border.
The colors are stunning and it still gives me goose bumps when I look at it.
It is amazing that Philippe can do this precise reproduction with tiny details so delicately painted, and then do the dreamy almost impressionist scene of the other.

The third platter was one that Philippe chose to do. I had asked him to do what he felt inspired to do and this, he said, was something he had been wanting to do.

It is a huge round platter, featuring a scene of Breton people resting after a pardon. They are seen by the sacred spring at Tronoën, where is located the oldest calvary in Bretagne which Bill and I visited in 1984. Some people are sitting, some drinking from the spring and there are children and others of all ages. In the background is seen the chapel, and beyond that the sea.

The border is an amazing pattern of gothic carvings like stonework in a cathedral.
This platter reminds me of one of my favorite books on Breton life. If you have read The Horse of Pride you will see how it seems to be telling the events of a day in this book.

Happily for me, I have been lucky enough to meet this special artist thanks to Judy Datesman who represents his work on line.

He was kind enough to receive Nina and Judy and me in his home and show us his studio and his current works. It was a delightful visit, and I was as impressed as when I saw him at that first reception.
Click here to visit his website.

What a gentle man and an extraordinary artist of this wonderful media of faience he is!

(The thistle platter in Diane R.'s collection.)

Wednesday, 25 November 2009


We are thankful for our family now, and for family heritage which has made our lives whole

For country and the blessings of freedom which we are duty bound to uphold for those who come after

We are thankful for the capacity to improve our circumstances through education and hard work

We are thankful for access to good food and clean water and power to keep our homes warm or cool

We are thankful for all these daily things which we tend to take for granted yet so many do not have

As Quimper Clubs member we are thankful for Lucy and Katie whose friendship and foresight formed our club

We are thankful for all the presidents and officers who over the years have given many hours of their time and skills, directing, organizing, writing, editing the Journal, collecting dues and filing our tax reports, writing the minutes, running the website, sending out updates, and creating the blog, and all the many duties that running our club requires

We are thankful to so many dedicated and talented people who share their expertise freely

And all the generous members who have organized our meetings and planned the events which we look forward to and enjoy

And to those who have opened their lovely homes and welcomed us to share in their beautiful collections

We are thankful to the many authors who researched and wrote books which help us with our searching

And to the experts who have presented programs at our meetings and have helped educate as well as entertain us

We are thankful for the friendships we have formed through our affection for our faïence and our gatherings of common purpose



Saturday, 21 November 2009


...Collection, That Cerelle

I don't know what it is, but one collection seems to lead into another. Sometimes one sees something quite different from your avowed collection but it just calls to you, perhaps because it would look so nice with what you do collect.

I think of the frames we saw at Twila and Ted's house which showcased special pieces of their Quimper faience. Now there is a collection to continue.

Perhaps the item has a similar theme or motif, and one just cannot resist adding it to display together. Another collection I have, small by necessity, is terre verniseé. I have only a few pieces, but they are large ones and that has to keep me limited. These grand pots with the fabulous runs of glaze just give me goose bumps, and they are so very French, so I had to have a few.

Then there is the possibility that you are a Francophile, and like to include other items which add to the ambiance of France in your home. I felt this influence in the homes we visited in Dallas recently. Each had its own distinct personality, but each one felt French in many ways, and I would feel at home in any one of them.

This is not to say that I am French, or even can testify to what constitutes French decor, but I know what I like, and much of it includes French furniture and fabrics, and French faience of course. LOTS of French faïence.

I have several accidental collections. One which I have found has the advantage of being small and easily stored is hand fans.

A friend who lives in the Medieval town of Cordes-sur-Ciel in the region of the Tarn, showed me her collection of fans, and told me about the different styles and shapes and the dates they were made.. She told me about the materials used, and how to care for them.

These beautiful fans and their history intrigued me, and then when I returned to Arizona, I discovered that a couple of my friends here collected them too. So it was easy enough to join the club, and now I belong not only to the Quimper Club International, but FANA (Fan Association of North America) and our local division, the Southwest Connection.

I have also accumulated what can only be called a collection of Santons. This collection just sort of grew and before I knew it there was a huge extended family of little French folks in nineteenth century dress living in my display cabinets. I prefer ones made by particular santon makers, and the earlier ones by Simone Jouglas are my favorites. The two Arlesiennes in the story of the Camargue are by her and they are rather dear to me, as I saw them as my mother and me, (though she looked much better than that even at almost 102).

Soon many of them will make their annual pilgrimage to gather around the crêche under the Christmas tree representing all the vocations of the townsfolk as they pay homage to the Baby Jesus.

Santons, if well made, fit the criteria of my collections. Beauty or character, history, fine hand craftsmanship, and something of French culture.

I have thought about why I collect fans,
and it seems not so different.
I like them for their beauty, their place in time, their craftsmanship,
the hand painting or hand carved mother-of-pearl or ivory,
the handmade lace.

Why do I love faience? I love it for the beauty, the history, the fascinating stories they tell,and especially for the hand painting...about which I am very particular. So, I suppose, the reasons are really much the same.

There are many reasons to collect, but primary for me is the admiration of hand craftsmanship and individual artistry. In this era of mass production, and some of it pretty poor, it is a joy to see an item where the finest efforts have resulted in such beauty.

I feel ownership is a privilege, but also a stewardship. It is my pleasure to enjoy them in my lifetime, but also my responsibility to protect these one of a kind items for future generations. I look at them and wonder, who was the person who painted this? What was life like for them? I so much wish we knew the names of these artists. Some, we can know, but so many are just unknown.
I see that much of what I collect from French furniture to the collections listed bring to mind the 19th or even the 18th centuries.. Life was not better then, and in many ways was much harder..but I sometimes think that I may have been there...or at least, that is what my friends declare.

"You must have been French in a former life" they say. Oh, of course not, but still....

Some interesting web sites you might like to visit for more info on fans and santons:

Wednesday, 18 November 2009


* obsessive, enamored, addicted, fixated?

After so many years with so few finds, a couple of things happened that helped my collection to grow.

My friend across the street kept telling me I needed to get a computer.

I resisted.

I didn't want to be secretary for clubs to which I belonged, and having a computer would make me "eligible."

But one day she said, "I want to show you something."
She went to her computer, brought up eBay, and put in the search word, Quimper.
Suddenly, up came hundreds of entries. Right there were more Quimper pieces than I had seen in decades of looking!! OMG!! WELL! THAT was THAT!

Soon I had my first computer, and with help from my friend and mentor, Annie, I had it up and searching ... and getting me into trouble.

One day not long after, as I was browsing the world's offering of faience, I saw an interesting note at the bottom of an auction. It said something like,

"If you are interested in joining a club for Quimper collectors, write to me."

OH BOY! I typed in my response as fast as my fingers would move..
and that is how I met Lucy!

(Queen Lucy later in Dallas at the 2002 meeting)

Only a few weeks later there was the first meeting in Santa Monica...just next door in California. Bill and I happily drove over to attend.

We talked with Lucy and bought a nice piece of Desvres faïence from her.

(Is that Adela?)

I had all of my Quimper books signed by the authors.
But I pretty much went around in a daze.

(Co Queen Katie at the first meeting in Santa Monica 1999)

All these beautiful pieces of faïence! WHERE had they been all of my life?

I look at my photos rather guiltily now, as there is hardly one of my friends in them except by accident, but then, I did not yet know them.

I had my dazed eyes and the camera lens focused on the fabulous faïence, much of which I had never seen before.

Now I see that, yes, there is Joan, and there in another photo is Katie, but there are people in the photos with their heads lopped off. Oh dear...Well, I hope I did better in Dallas this year!

(still, I have to admit..I take LOTS of photos of the faïence)

So this is how my collection grew...

...the Quimper Club with their wonderful sales and exciting meetings,
and the capability to browse auctions on the Internet.

Now our little house "runneth over" and still I browse compulsively for there is always something I have never before seen.

* and yes, I have served as secretary in a club or two...drat!