It’s big, it’s bold, it’s brown, it’s totally unique – and it might just take your breath away when you hear what this magnificent piece of studio pottery is worth, writes Charles Hanson.
Would £20,000 to £30,000 surprise you? This striking 20th century find, discovered on top of a Victorian sideboard in a Victorian house, is by sought-after makers whose work soars to incredible heights at auction.
The pot is from the stable of Lucie Rie and Hans Coper, eminent 20th Century potters. Lucie emigrated to Britain from Vienna in 1938 and Coper fled to the UK from Germany in 1939, aged 19.
Together, they made creative waves. Their functional studio pottery was ahead of its time. Rie’s stoneware or porcelain pots were very different. She didn’t follow the usual potter’s procedure of bisque-firing the object, applying glaze and re-firing it. Instead she painted her glazes directly onto the unfired body, firing the piece once. She experimented with glazes, colour and textures. Decoration was abstract and discreet.
Barry Jones with the Rie/Coper pot.
Coper’s work was even less conventional. He used a limited range of glazes, relying on white, buff, brown and black. He experimented with textures, scouring the clay or layering glazes and abrading them with scouring pads.
Unique forms characterise his work which was why that Rie/Coper pot caught my eye amidst a host of Victoriana. Thanks to its sweeping curves, it stood out from the crowd.
In 2015, a collection of 21 pieces of Rie/Coper pottery, found during a house clearance in Leeds, made just under £1 million at auction with buyer’s premium. Then, last year, a Rie pot bought for £250 in the 1970s made £381,000 at auction, the highest price ever paid for a piece of modern, contemporary pottery. Who knows how high our pot will fly when the gavel falls this month.
Our resident expert in the field of both studio pottery and general ceramics is Derby man Barry Jones. He’s been a collector of 20th century pottery for 30 years. As well as Rie/Coper, he admires the work of Bernard Leach, who trained in Japan. He also owns pieces by Leach’s wife, Janet. Arts & Crafts, Art Deco and Art Nouveau objects also appeal to his modernist tastes but, when it comes to ceramics, he can assess anything and everything.
Every month we hold a ceramics sale as part of our general Antiques and Collectors auctions, the next one being on July 19, and every month our saleroom fills up with Royal Crown Derby, Doulton, Royal Worcester, Crown Devon Pottery, Beswick animals and more.
These colourful pieces add vibrancy to our shelves and appeal to an army of dedicated collectors. Chances are, you have something at home buyers would love to own.
Ornamental wares are part of our British heritage and culture and, over the years, we all gather objects that we love. Many of us inherit items, too.
Our parents, grandparents and great grandparents gathered items that are now highly sought after – like Troika art pottery, perhaps, from the 1960s or 70s, some beautiful Beswick animals or a Royal Crown Derby ornament. And, by the way, a Troika vase in our July sale has a guide price of £150-£200.
If you need to clear some space, do check values with us. We all know worthy objects unwittingly end up at car boot sales or, worse still, on the tip. And that’s such a shame if they could earn you some money and bring pleasure to others.
This is where our valuers’ knowledge comes to the fore. For example, as soon as Barry arrived at Hansons he plucked a glass bottle from a box of house clearance ornaments knowing it to be Lalique.
Lalique is a French glassmaker, founded by renowned glassmaker and jeweller René Lalique in 1888, and renowned for their glass art. That small glass bottle went on to sell for more than £100.
The message from Barry is simple – if you have something unusual, quirky, some studio pottery or items from makers like Royal Crown Derby, Doulton or Beswick, bring them in for evaluation. They may be worth more than you think.
For example, right now in the saleroom we have a Royal Worcester white snake (below left) valued at £400-£500. That’s because the firm is better known for its tableware – not animal ornaments. As always, rarity is key.
But collectors create a market that mean some objects will always be in demand. We often welcome Royal Doulton Bunnykins wares into our saleroom. They’re cute and desirable, as are our Beswick animal figures, which gain guide prices ranging from £30-£200.
Even a couple of cups and saucers could earn you a small windfall.In our July sale, we have some vibrant Carlton ware cups and saucers, estimate £30-£50 each. Then there’s the two sweet blue and white Doulton posy vases, £40-£60 estimate for the pair, and a beautiful large Crown Devon blue vase which has a low guide price of £50.
The fact is, both ornamental and functional ceramics are in strong demand. So, dust down your ceramics, glassware or studio pottery and pop down to see Barry.
He offers free valuations at Hansons, Heage Lane, Etwall, every Wednesday and Friday, 10am-4pm, or make an appointment by calling 01283 733988.
Plus, we offer free antiques valuations every Wednesday, 5-7pm, every Friday, 10am-4pm, and every Saturday, 9am-noon, with jewellery specialists on hand on Tuesdays and Fridays, 9.30am-4.30pm.