The 1999 Collecting the 20th Century Event

 

A slide from the Clarice Cliff Lecture

    More than 200 people arrived at the Royal Ontario Museum on March 27th for the second annual "Collecting the 20th Century". Donald Davidoff, a clinical psychologist, and a longtime collector of Arts & Crafts, came from Boston, and gave a lecture on the Stickley family and their design legacy. His combination of family history and the chronology of Stickley companies and designs made for a fascinating look at the early twentieth century Arts & Crafts movement. Len Griffin, has lectured on Clarice Cliff dozens of times but this was his first lecture in North America. He had wonderful slides of brilliant early Clarice designs as well as slides of the very young women and men who worked in the Newport Pottery. Clarice Cliff’s story is a fascinating one in both personal and design terms, and Len was able to illustrate both aspects of her life. The 1996 slide of a group of elderly women sitting in the roadster which Clarice had owned in the 1930s – the same group of women the audience had seen sitting at benches painting as young girls – was one of the highlights of this remarkable talk. Ginger Moro, actress and former cabaret singer, owner of a shop in Paris for many years and now living in Los Angeles, was the final speaker on costume jewellery. She combined slides of fantastic European designer pieces with anecdotes about life in Paris in the 1940s and 1950s.

    Following the lectures, participants went upstairs to the Eaton Court for a reception and an opportunity to talk to the three speakers. There were a number of showcases set up filled with twentieth century objects from the collection of Bill and Pauline Hogan, St. Catharines, Ontario. The ROM provided a case of Arts and Crafts silver, Ginger Moro brought some stunning examples of costume jewellery, Bill Brethour, of Yours, Mine & Ours Antiques, contributed a case of Shreiner costume jewellery and Wedgwood, Canada showed recent Susie Cooper and Clarice Cliff reproductions from the Barlaston factory. Bill Hogan also shared his collection of Keith Murray ceramics to give people a foretaste of Len Griffin’s lecture on Keith Murray on the Sunday. Door prizes were provided by a number of the sponsors and two people went home with sets of the Wedgwood Millenium cups and saucers.

    Ginger Moro gave a workshop on American versus European plastic jewellery which was so popular that it sold out quickly and a second workshop was scheduled for later the same day. The audience combined dealers and collectors and many brought pieces of jewellery to show and discuss with the other participants. A number of Lea Stein reproductions have appeared in the market place recently. Ginger had met with Lea Stein and her husband in Paris and was able to clarify the situation; she called the new pieces re-strikes rather than ‘repros’ since they are copies of 1950s and 1960s pieces being done by Lea Stein herself in the 1990s. Ginger ended her talk with a slide of the famous bakelite Philadelphia bracelet, a recent example of which had sold for $12,000US at auction in Chicago.

    Dr. Donald Davidoff's Arts and Crafts workshop attracted a sold-out audience that ranged from advanced collectors to those with an interest in finding out more about the topic. Nearly everyone brought objects for show and tell or identification. Highlights included a large unmarked matte green poppy vase by Wheatly and an attractively glazed Fulper pot. Dr. Davidoff gave brief histories of the two potteries and discussed why collectors covet these wares. He elaborated on the reasons for identifying the unmarked vase as a circa 1910 Wheatly piece and the factors that make it worth $2,000 in today's market, while a similar vase by Rookwood would be worth $10,000 or more. Dr. Davidoff gave a very useful summary of the history of Arts and Crafts collecting that began with a 1972 exhibition at the Princeton Art Museum. He discussed the major auction houses involved in the Arts and Crafts market and listed the important reference books that all collectors should read. Dr. Davidoff demonstrated his extensive knowledge of the Arts and Crafts period and shared a great amount of information with an appreciative crowd.

    Len Griffin’s talk on Keith Murray combined the personal story with the design legacy. Collector and antique dealer Bill Hogan, St. Catharines, Ontario, sponsored this talk in order to learn more about Keith Murray since little has been written about Keith Murray to date. Collectors were surprised to find that he trained as an architect and once he found work in architecture following World War II, he left the field of industrial design and did not return. Len showed many examples of the Wedgwood Keith Murray shapes and Norman Wilson glazes. He shared with the audience his sense that Norman Wilson pottery would be a good thing to collect in the next few years.

A slide from the jewellery lecture

A slide from the stickley lecture

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