Saturday, 23 January 2010

In the Gay S

The Petit Breton is probably the best known of Quimper designs; its birth is rather a mystery, it has never truly been decided which factory came up with the design, HB or Porquier, but it has been a best seller for a hundred years or more and is much imitated. It was particularly popular with tourists who came to Quimper after the railway arrived in town.

I have to say that I didn’t realise I had quite so many items in this décor; there are more than I thought! These days I am quite fussy about the painting of the figures, especially the faces which sometimes have quite sharp features…..
It seems to me that nearly every form made by the faienceries is available decorated with this motif.

My very first piece of Quimper was an ordinary little tumbler which at the time I thought was perhaps for a toothbrush in the bathroom, my ‘treasure’ was found on the table of a French dealer at the Benson fair (already mentioned in a previous post).

You can tell I was a complete novice – I paid too much and didn’t even notice the hairline, later I realised that the piece is part of a cider set and probably came with a tray, a jug and other tumblers. It is marked HB, although that meant nothing to me at the time. I later added the little ramekin and a small dish with a handle from the same source… but this was over a period of months……
Some how I acquired this boat shaped piece, perhaps in a mixed lot at an auction, it’s a gravy separator.

We have several of these mainly because as you see one spout has an ‘M’ for Maigre which means ‘lean’ and the opposite side has a ‘G’ for Gras which means ‘fat’.

However, as G is my initial and M is my husband's this form holds a special place in our affections!

Acquiring the little teapot with the man on one side and woman on the other, gave me a unique opportunity. I used to occasionally go to an auction held in historic Littlecote House.

The auction house was given the task of selling a huge selection of miniature teapots, how or why this teapot was termed as ‘miniature’ I’m not sure however there it was.
There was a special opportunity to attend a talk about the pots, given by Henry Sandon a very well respected ceramics expert – it was a very informative humorous talk and hugely enjoyable.

On the day of the actual auction my heart sank when I spotted Valerie Howard (a renowned Quimper expert who owned an upscale shop in Kensington Church Street) in the room, luckily for me she didn’t have Quimper on her shopping list on that occasion, she had gathered her tiny teapots into her wicker basket and was on her way back to London before the Quimper teapot came up – sadly that was to be last time I saw her.

The glass plates were a gift from a Club friend.

We had met virtually via eBay, she in Virginia, me in the south of England, and later arranged to meet 'in real life', at an antique fair at Sandown Park race course, when her husband was in London for business.

I remember wearing an exceptionally bright yellow waterproof coat so that she could identify me!

Several years later she returned with her husband, and together with another Q Club member, we attended an exhibition of Art Deco style at the V&A and later went to Newark (the UK’s biggest fair).
This was when I was given the plates however, I’m not sure she would have been so generous if she had first been to the guest house I had chosen – it was freshly decorated and on a farm, it looked fine – but in fact the walls of my friends room were covered with insects and the other room which had two single beds, was tiny and the beds had been made up with new but unwashed bedding – anytime either of us turned over, it crackled!
It was very hot and we dare not open the window because of the insects. Never again!!
Luckily I’ve been forgiven and I’ve visited all these friends several times since….

PS. In the UK it is Burns night which means that those of Scottish descent often celebrate the life of Robert (Rabbi) Burns. This usually means 'enjoying' a supper of Haggis, neeps and tatties, followed by a wee dram - in other words the offal from a sheep minced and mixed and oatmeal and suet plus seasoning, then boiled in the sheeps stomach for three hours and served with swede or yellow turnip and potatoes.

I think I'll skip the main course and go straight to the 'wee dram' a glass of Scottish whisky !


  1. Gay, most ineteresting, as always. Though I bought a few pieces from Valerie, I never had the pleasure of meeting her.

  2. I like most everything there is to eat, and to try new things, but like you...I believe I would skip right to the whisky!
    Interesting article, Gay! Thank you!

  3. Interesting post, Gay. Sorry to be late. Just now catching up on things.