Tuesday March 22, 2016 | Comments
Going to run a quick roundup before I head out to look for more goodies. Over the last couple years, thrifting for inventory has taking a nosedive - so I've been supplementing it with some other methods, both online and off. You can still find amazing things at thrift stores, but it's just a lot more work. I still like it better than the estate sale grind (although I should probably step up my game on those).
I wasn't really familiar with ceramics by John Novy but was delighted to find this unusual candle holder at the thrift. Fully marked on the bottom, so I can only imagine it had just been put out. From what I've read, Novy was a ceramicist in San Diego, although he was born in Austria. He was also a member of the San Diego Potters Guild and part of that legendary Allied Craftsmen group in the 1960s-70s.
We've had this Win Ng enamel dish for quite a few years, along with another larger shallow bowl. You probably know Win Ng from the Taylor and Ng brand and store, but he also did a lot of studio work in ceramics and enamel. We originally knew of him through the "naughty" animal series of mugs that we used to find all of the time - I think we had a very early blog post on those mugs. It's still possible to find these enamels unidentified every so often, along with pieces by Jade Snow Wong, because the sig on the back is often very hard to read if you don't know what you're looking at.
I'd thought this piece might be more modern on first glance, but it turned out to be a Rookwood Pottery vase from 1924! It has a simple shape which almost made me pass it by, I thought it might be German or Japanese from the 1980s even. But it's fully marked on bottom with the Rookwood stamp and "586C".
It's still always a shock to find very old art pottery like this in a thrift. Over the last 10 years, we've found a number of rather amazing pieces that are either unmarked or just not identified. Granted, a year or two might go by where we don't thrift a single piece, but it's still crazy what slips through.
These Alvino Bagni for Raymor primitive style cylinder vases were a pick up from an estate that I went to very late. At the time, I didn't know what they were since they didn't have any marks at all - apparently, the other pickers didn't know either because they were still there. But the price was right, and after some lucky googling I figured out that they were Bagni.
Saved the most interesting find for last - I'd heard of these alleged Edith Heath studio vases when we first started collecting California pottery. It was actually from reading Jack Chipman's Scrapbook that I was aware of these curious items with pink or blue speckles and darker brown glaze on top that were incised "Heath" on the bottom. Several years ago, our friends Bit of Butter had come across one in real life, and it seemed like the consensus was that it was indeed done by Edith Heath. So when I saw this one, I had to pick it up even though the price was a bit high.
Chipman's book states that he's uncertain they are indeed by Edith Heath / Heath Ceramics. They came in several different shapes (all vases and bowls as far as I know), and all seem to have the mysterious incised Heath name on bottom. I haven't tried to contact Heath yet to confirm, but it seems like most people are saying that it is indeed by them. I have to say - after handling it in person, I would have had some doubts if so many other people hadn't already said it was by Heath. The ceramic is actually white, which is different than the usual brown clay you see on Heath.
The brown accent glaze does seem to be correct for Heath. But it is very lightweight for a studio piece, and I don't think I could feel any "finger rings" on the inside which would indicate it was made on something like a potter's wheel. There are also a number of other California potteries that made production pieces with this type of speckled glaze. I actually was combing over the piece trying to see if there was a "cast" line which might indicate it was production and not studio ware. I didn't find one so far. I had this theory at one point that maybe these were Heath Ceramic pieces, but they were hand finished cast pieces that never went into full production. I sort of doubt this is the case any more, but who knows.
In any case, we're still thrilled to have one of these pieces. I'd be curious if anyone has any concrete proof it was by Heath - the best would be if someone had some magical literature that showed them.
Monday February 29, 2016 | Comments
Well, I figured I should get a post in before February comes to an end. I was supposed to start blogging on a regular basis after our site re-code, but it's quickly devolved into a chore. I kept putting it off every week until today.
With the other aspects of the "business" taking up time (including taxes this month), I'm running into that same trap of trying to justify making posts. So I'm just going to show some pretty pics we already posted on instagram. But this discontent will be revisited soon.
I've started taking more product photos that include interior shots of our home. When we started A La Modern in 2010, this was the way we took almost all our product photos. A few years later, we switched to almost all empty white/blue backgrounds. We did it mostly because "everyone else was doing it". The thought was that you'd get included in more treasuries, features and press articles. Well - I've begun switching back to including some non-plain backgrounds, because I realized it helps the shop stand out a bit. Increasingly, I feel like being different helps more than hurts in vintage selling. (Ahem, also hence this blog)
Of course, the majority of product shots are still taken against a white background. I looks cleaner, I know - but I'm going to be including both types for listings. Having a non-white background also seems to help with the overall lighting in some shots, and we've switched back to using our old Nikon DLSR for many product photos. By the way, the weedpot above is marked "Cohn" on the bottom - I thought that was Abe Cohn at first, but the sig didn't match up with any that I've seen.
Picked up this large studio pottery David Stewart owl/bird vase at an auction. The frog is also a studio piece that has been in our collection. We've been keeping a lot of our DS Lion's Valley, especially if it's the studio stuff. But I've been considering liquidating a lot of it at some point.
This is a small tile plaque by Greek artist Helen Michaelides that we were happy to pick up. I really like this one, it's a little different than some of the other stylized ones we've seen. Very close in feel to the Panos Valsamakis tile wall hanging we've had - and possibly she could be a contemporary or student of his. But there's very little info on the artist - we learned all of it from our friend Mid Mod Mom who figured out what that "Mixandidou" signature was awhile back. If anyone knows anything additional about the artist, please post a comment about it below.
Ending with a set of beautiful Murano sommerso glass swan figures, likely Flavio Poli pieces. Glass is a neverending learning experience for us - but we've gotten better over time. In this new super competitive world of picking and thrifting where knowledge is a Google away, it's really important to learn more about potentially valuable items that are unmarked.
P.S. it looks like our custom contact forms are working out, so we should be getting all our messages now.
Monday January 25, 2016 | Comments
OK - I have to admit, I'm a little surprised that we've been having some decent direct sales through our A La Modern main shop lately. I don't know whether the blog is actually helping out, or if it's just search engines chewing on our long tail search terms on the product pages, but it's encouraging either way.
I actually expected to get no sales at all for at least a half year, mainly because we just don't have the web traffic. And if I look at the stats, it's not like traffic has gone up that much recently. Funny, but a large portion of the inquiries on our items have come from afar - that is, from non-U.S. peeps. So I'm trying to figure out how everyone is finding us, but in the meantime - hello there!
I got a little excited when I stumbled across this interesting lucite cube paperweight at the thrift. I knew about the Vasa Mihich ones, and those are fairly valuable if you can find them. However, this one has some different characteristics - the lucite looks like it has flat planes of colored film(?) embedded in it instead of solid color sections. It also has a different signature that I couldn't make out - if you know who it is, let me know!
I spotted this Anri Form teak bowl at the flea market and knew what it was right away. The seller had a bunch of old dominoes in it, and when I decided to buy the bowl he said, "Well, where am I going to put the dominoes then?" I kind of started blankly at him and handed him the money. I have to admit I don't have the greatest people skills, which often results in sellers not giving me the "best" price at the flea market.
Interesting that this bowl only has one handle, I haven't figured out if it's more rare or not but it seems like it might be. Which means if I stick it on Ebay later on I better be sure to say RARE in the title...
Ok, ending with a bit of a detour - the well-regarded ceramics master Harrison McIntosh passed away last week. I'd originally found out about his work when we started to get into California Pottery in the mid 2000s.
We got to see quite a few of his pieces, including the 2009 exhibit called "A Timeless Legacy" at AMOCA in Pomona. These pictures were taken from that show.
We never got around to meeting him or owning one of his pieces, and I really wish we had. Actually, finding one of his pieces in the wild is definitely on my "thrift bucket list". I know it's not very likely, but you never know - weirdly enough, there was an estate this past week that had one of his pieces in it, but I decided not to go. I'm wondering who ended up getting it...
Well there's your abbreviated "thrift roundup" for this week. If you've found something interesting at the thrift this week, please leave a comment below. Or not. I'm guessing most visitors are lurkers, but that's OK with me since no one blogs any more, and the comments are third party and live offsite anyhow. Oh - so, speaking of how much I hate dealing with third party programs... our host has decided to drop the interface that was running all our contact forms. So, I've been writing my own code AGAIN. Therefore - the contact form(s) may be borked off and on, as I'm still figuring that part out.
Tuesday January 12, 2016 | Comments
So, I'm still throwing around ideas for what the A La Modern blog should focus on. In the meantime, I decided to continue doing short "thrift roundups" every so often. While they do take time, I realized that in addition to possibly driving readership they have the side benefit of strengthening the internal structure of our website. Remember, this blog has been rebuilt from scratch so all the little helpful goodies like categories, tags, top posts, archives don't really exist. (You will laugh but I'm writing this in notepad, and later editing it online in vi!)
Anyhow, I'll be focusing the thrifting posts around items that we're featuring on the main site, as opposed to our Etsy and Ebay stores. We do want people to buy things on our other venues, but I'm hoping to use blog posts to set up interior site links which will help mitigate the lack of things like built-in "tag" pages.
I picked up this interesting Asaina Adamee stone bird carving at a thrift store last month. It was fully signed, but I haven't found much info about the creator - fairly certain it's a modern Inuit soapstone carving. Interesting, the last name "Adamee" shows up as "Adamie" on some sites - was wondering if that was a family name or something. I'm not too familiar with Native American art and crafts, so will have to keep researching.
It might seem like we've been finding a lot of Bitossi pieces lately, but to be honest it's more that we've gotten used to paying for them. Loved this Bitossi Seta compote so I just had to get it - unusual color scheme on it with gold and light blue. This one might become a keeper if no one takes it soon (hey, it's like $500 on "Dibs").
In addition to thrifts and antiques, we often attempt to pick items online - with VERY mixed results. I came across an auction while I was waiting in the dentist's office, and got all excited because I thought it might be David Cressey. It wasn't that cheap and I probably should've waited and researched at home. So, it turns out that it's probably a lamp in the style of David Cressey. Still a nice piece, and if you look around online you'll see some people have sold it as David Cressey. I personally don't think it is - the top portion is actually glazed and not bisque stoneware (the clay itself is actually white as well). But from the cord and top fixture it does appear vintage at least. Well - you win some...
Last up is this great looking Bitossi Horse with an unusual color combination and decor on side. You might remember we also found a Bitossi ball vase with the same colorway. I've still got several Bitossi items left in the queue to list up.
I think three years ago I would've passed on most of these Bitossi pieces either because I thought the price was too high to get for resale, or because I didn't even know what they were. I'm a slow learner, but it's been making a difference now that we're focusing on bringing home higher quality items while accepting the need to pay a little bit more for inventory.
All right, so there's the first round up for this year - if you've found something interesting, please leave a comment below. Yes, comments finally work! We also have an RSS feed (first few lines summary only right now) if you use a reader. I don't know how many other people still do thrift roundups, but I'm also interested in exchanging links with other thrifting and design blogs - that is, as long as you're still writing posts.