Chintz
Susan Scott

Stacking teapot - Lord Nelson - Sweet Pea Although chintz dates back to the seventeenth century with the importation into England of fantastical fabrics from India, it is the twentieth century industrially produced chintzware which has caused such a collecting frenzy, not only in North America, but around the world. The earlier chintzes emulated the fabrics and tended to be loose patterns with large flowers and richly plumed exotic birds. The development of transfer printing allowed the production of chintz to be cheap enough to reach a mass market. By the 1820s there were a number of Staffordshire factories producing chintz meant for everyday use.

Gradually chintz patterns changed and both A.G. Richardson and Leonard Grimwade began to produce much tighter chintzes by about 1920. A. G. Richardson (Trade Mark Crown Ducal) was very successful throughout the 1920s and Ducal patterns like Festival, Blue Chintz and Florida were exported to the United States in great quantities. Patterns like Blue Chintz and Florida with their rich color and mythical birds were produced first in teaware and later -- at the request of the American importer -- in complete dinner services. It is interesting that these patterns which were so popular along the eastern seaboard in the 1920s and 1930s are again most eagerly sought by the collectors from this same area.

In 1928 Grimwade’s "Royal Winton" created their first modern chintz pattern, Marguerite -- hugely successful at the time and, ironically, one of the least desired of the Winton patterns today. Earthenware was subject to fashion and impulse buying and it was important for the factories to come up with new patterns every spring at the British Industries Fair to attract the buyers from around the world. Over the course of almost fifty years Grimwade’s produced over 65 chintz or ‘all-over’ patterns. In 1952 in an attempt to revive the factory after wartime shortages they came up with fifteen new chintz patterns in a single year. Patterns like Anemone, Floral Feast, Victorian Rose, Delphinium Chintz, Sweet Pea conjure up an English garden in full bloom. Stratford, Beeston, Nantwich, Evesham, Richmond -- driving around England leads you to the inspiration for other chintz patterns. Other patterns came from typical English girls’ names --Julia, Joyce-Lynn, Esther, Florence, Winifred. In fact, one of the patterns -- Marion -- was named after the daughter of one of the major Canadian importers of chintz.

Art Deco Shape Jug - James Kent - HarmonyIn order to come up with new patterns every year, colorways were reversed and the yellow background Royalty became the black background Majestic; Welbeck with its yellow background was transformed into the black background Hazel and the white background Spring. Grimwade’s were very skilled at creating a sense of novelty using the same pattern in a different way. In the late 1930s patterns like Tartans and Quilt (which look exactly like their names) were produced to attract the non-chintz buyers and today these patterns always seem to appeal more to the male collector. Summertime and Old Cottage Chintz were the two patterns which were produced in complete dinner services from early in the 1930s until well into the 1960s. To capture the 1950s market, Grimwade’s designed a series of chintzes which had a more modern look with large flowers further apart and with rich dark blue, burgundy and black backgrounds -- patterns like Peony, Morning Glory, and May and June Festival. These patterns have tended to be less appealing to the collector than the more traditional tightly grouped florals of the 1930s. Interestingly, several of the patterns designed in the 1950s like Evesham, Florence and Stratford are modern/traditional and they are among the group of most sought after and highly priced patterns today.

Most of the Staffordshire factories were fighting for survival throughout the 1930s and everyone copied anything which seemed to be selling. James Kent, Ltd. produced a whole series of chintzes -- Du Barry, Rosalynde and Apple Blossom sold widely in North America. The quality of the pottery is inferior to Grimwade’s and prices are somewhat lower as a result. The most popular Kent pattern seems to be Hydrangea with the white background -- the black ground is not as successful.

Another major chintz producer was Elijah Cotton ‘Lord Nelson Ware’. The pottery tended to be utilitarian and they were big producers of kitchen and hospital plain white ware. The earthenware was chunky in shape and the pieces are often found with the pattern poorly applied. The handles and spouts of the teapots, coffee pots and jugs are usually left undecorated -- this required a level of skill lacking in the factory. Black Beauty is the most sought-after of the Lord Nelson patterns with Green Tulip a close second. Green Tulip is quite common in Australia and New Zealand but seems to have been less exported to North America and consequently much harder to find today. Most North American collectors seem to want the Lord Nelson stacking teapots (especially those rare versions which have the spouts and handles covered) and the large range of jugs which were a specialty of the Cotton factory.chintz3.jpg (18595 bytes)

Although numerous other companies had one or two chintz patterns in their product line, these four factories accounted for most of the chintz produced. Some factories produced bone china chintz but this has never been very popular with chintz collectors. The Shelley factory was well known for fine bone china but several of their chintz patterns such as Melody and Maytime were used on both bone china and earthenware. Collectors are starting to look at all the chintz bone china as the prices of the semi porcelain chintz continue to rise. Collectors are also starting to look for the Japanese copies of Royal Winton patterns such as Beeston, Welbeck and Spring since the prices are much lower. These copies are available in this country but much more easily found in Australia and New Zealand where there are, in fact, collectors for this so-called "Manto" ware.

Although any number of companies besides Royal Winton produced one or two chintz patterns after the second world war and great quantities were sold, the patterns had a slightly old fashioned look and the buying public were looking for something new. Ruth Kent, Collie Shorter, Roy Midwinter -- many of the English factory owners came to North America in search of inspiration. Roy Midwinter ended up in California looking at the work of Eva Zeisal and Robert Loewy. Although the chintz-producing factories were able to continue to appeal to the traditional market with the kind of nostalgia advertising so popular today, it was clear that the young post-war bride wanted Scandinavian modern furniture and dishes to match. By the end of the decade chintz had more or less died out. Sasha Brastoff, the well known American ceramics designer, was quoted in 1951, "In dinnerware, we are trying to give women the same excitement they find in clothes, something to derive pleasure from and have fun with. Too many smartly dressed women today are using dinnerware that might have served their grandmother’s." These days it is the daughters of those smartly dressed 1950s women who are desperately trying to buy back their grandmothers’ dishes and seem to be willing to pay anything to do so.

Prices

American female collectors aged 20-60 seemed to be creating the frenzied prices a couple of years ago but chintz collectors around the world are catching up with the American collectors. As a result prices in England, Australia, New Zealand and chintz4.jpg (24444 bytes)South Africa have risen dramatically. In September 1996 Christie’s South Kensington in London held one of their British Decorative Arts auctions and lot 232 was listed as a large collection of Royal Winton, Shelley, Grimwades and Empire Chintz tableware and the estimate for the more than forty pieces was _200-300. When the bidding went over _4000 longtime chintz dealers in the room looked at each other in amazement. The final bid was from America for _4800 ($9000 including buyer’s premium!). In August of 1997 Christie’s added a chintz section to their summer auction and prices were generally within estimate with a Royal Winton Breakfast Set in Richmond going for _1035 ($1575). Chintz seems to appeal to people who wouldn’t normally collect anything and who are prepared to pay high prices to get the pieces they want. Both dealers and collectors are always asking about prices -- which is one of the reasons we wrote the Charlton price guide. It is, however, very difficult to establish prices which have any meaning at all. Chintz collecting is very new; a teapot a New York City collector is willing to pay $1200 might turn up at a flea market in Iowa for $25.

For more information take a look at:

Busby, Eileen Royal Winton Porcelain, The Glass Press, Ohio 1998
Heller/Feljoy, Chintz by Design, Chintz International, New Jersey, 1997
Miller, Muriel M., Collecting Royal Winton Chintz, Francis Joseph Publications, London, England 1996
Moran, Kelly, Shelley Chintz, Thaxted Cottage Publishers, Maryland, 2000
Scott, Susan, The Charlton Standard Catalogue of Chintz, Third Edition, Charlton Press, Toronto, Ontario 1999(fourth edition due out 2002)
Welch, JoAnne, Chintz Ceramics, Schiffer Books Second Edition 1998
Chintz Collectors Handbook, Francis Joseph Publications, London, England, 1999

Many of these books are available in our bookstore.

Tips for New Collectors

  • Lookchintz5.jpg (17599 bytes) at a number of patterns and shapes and makers before you buy. You will find that you like some patterns and some shapes more than others. Some people decide to concentrate on one pattern. An Oregon collector looks only for Royal Winton Old Cottage Chintz and she has an amazing collection of rare and unusual shapes. Another collector collects bud vases and has managed to get over thirty vases in various patterns and shapes. If you like the look of chintz and don’t have an unlimited budget, buy different shapes and patterns which go well together and create a small chintz vignette.
  • Royal Winton Julia, Welbeck, Stratford and Evesham and Lord Nelson Black Beauty and Green Tulip and James Kent Hydrangea and Crown Ducal Florida are probably the most sought after patterns in the United States. If you see an inexpensive piece in one of these patterns, you should probably buy it.
  • Teapots and coffee pots are priced according to pattern, shape and size. Rarer shapes like Royal Winton ‘Perth’ and James Kent ‘Melrose’ command a higher dollar. A general rule is ‘the bigger the pot, the bigger the price’. Sometimes the teapot ordered over the telephone turns out to be smaller than expected. A four-cup teapot may mean four six-ounce cups of tea or it may mean four eight-ounce measuring cups. If you are unsure ask the dealer to get a cup measure and fill the pot to determine the exact size.
  • Chintz buying is now an international business with collectors buying on the telephone and the internet from as far away as South Africa and Australia. Always be sure that you know what you are buying especially if you are paying a large shipping bill since you may not find it worthwhile to return a disappointing piece.
  • Buy a tape measure and keep it with you. Jugs and vases can be as tiny as 3" or as big as 12" and it may be difficult to be sure without measuring. Plates range in size from 3" to 12" and come in a variety of shapes. Different shapes of cups usually have an appropriate saucer. Try to make sure that you are not buying a mismatched pair.
  • If you are offered a divided dish, make sure that it is truly a divided dish and not a tray with indentations from a breakfast set or an egg cup set which is missing the pieces.
  • If you are buying something like a breakfast set make sure that all the pieces are correct and that they really do match. I bought an egg cup and salt and pepper on a tray last spring and when I got it home the salt and pepper were Summertime and the egg cups and tray were Kinver. I had a call from someone who was offered a complete breakfast set and discovered that in place of the cream and sugar, there was a salt and pepper.
  • If you are buying a stacking teapot sight unseen, do ask if the pieces fit together properly when they are stacked. chintz6.jpg (21167 bytes)Because people don’t always realize how the stackers are assembled, the cream and sugar are sometimes sold separately and more and more ‘married’ sets have appeared over the past couple of years and some do not fit.
  • If you are trying to assemble a set of Summertime or Old Cottage Chintz it is very important to know roughly when it was made. Both patterns were produced from the early 1930s into the 1960s and the color variations can be very striking especially the pinks and the blues.
  • Sometimes pieces have been put in the dishwasher or in bleach and the colors have dimmed so it is always a good idea to ask about the color. Sweet Pea and Julia are patterns where the color is sometimes deep and rich and sometimes pale and faded if the pieces didn’t fire properly, so it is worthwhile asking how strong the colors are if this matters to you.
  • Blue is the most fragile of the colors and if a relish dish or a fruit bowl was used for something acidic like pickles or pineapple, the color went quickly. I often see pieces where the bottom of the bowl has completely lost the blue. If you intend to use your pieces, it would be wise to remember how easily the color can be lost.
  • Collectors often ask about crazing. Chintz was usually applied to earthenware or semi porcelain and over the years many of the pieces have developed crazing. Unless there is a hairline crack this should not be too much of a concern. Because of the crazing, however, it is often difficult to spot small hairlines. If possible place the piece on the palm of your hand and give the edge a flick with your finger. Usually hairlined pieces will have a dull thud kind of sound rather than ringing.
  • As the price continues to go up for chintz, more and more pieces are coming on to the market whichintz7.jpg (17583 bytes)ch have been expertly repaired. Look very carefully at the spouts on coffee and tea pots since these often chipped and are probably the most frequently repaired. Look to see if finials have been reattached. If there is a spot on the bottom of a piece where the crazing suddenly stops and it is smooth, look at this area very closely. If possible take the piece out into direct sunlight since repairs are much more visible in strong light. Even if the piece is restored, if it is rare, you want it, and the price reflects the condition, buy it by all means.
  • Do remember that this china was cheap and cheerful when it was produced. In 1951 a chintz stacking teapot was advertised for sale in Canada for $2.50. Today the same ‘stacker’ might sell for anywhere up to $2000. You cannot expect the piece to be made with the same care as a fine piece of Royal Crown Derby or Meissen.

 

For more information on chintz please also see:
Chintz Images
The Chintz Section

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