My dear wife Frances has for several decades been accustomed to seeing me returning home from a visit to the local charity shops or salerooms bearing a huge shapeless package and announcing, in as insouciant a manner as possible: “I seem to have made a small purchase”. Mostly, such purchases are of the ceramic persuasion, and very often, they are not small at all. I don’t know why it is, but I like big pots, and among my collection there are some real biggies.
Unusually, however, some recent acquisitions have been genuinely small purchases, because I also like small pots. Last week, for example, I found an object in a charity shop which was totally unlike any other that I’ve seen – a miniature model of a Georgian bureau-bookcase, beautifully made from thickly-rolled sheets of grey stoneware. It has some nice incised detail to the front, and is covered with a transparent semi-matt glaze. For the two shelves in the upper section, there are seven tiny stoneware books and three tiny stoneware vases. The whole thing is just ten inches tall. There’s no maker’s mark, so I haven’t a clue who made it, but it’s too well-made to be an amateur or hobbyist effort.
I showed a photo to the very knowledgeable people on the excellent Facebook British Studio Pottery Mystery Pots forum which you’ll find at https://www.facebook.com/groups/230104693676065/, and a few of the experts suggested that my little piece of furniture might be by a well-known potter who made similar miniatures early on in his career. So I emailed him to ask but no reply. I rather doubt that it is by him and don’t think I’ll ever find out. But it’s a simple and charming and I’m going to have some real difficulty in choosing which grandchild to give it to.
The miniature bookcase isn’t the only small addition to our collection in recent weeks. Frances and I paid one of our regular visits to the Scottish Gallery in Edinburgh, which is by far the best place to see and buy contemporary studio ceramics in Scotland (https://scottish-gallery.co.uk/). There we saw an exhibition of a couple of hundred tiny and exquisite porcelain vases made by the young London-based Japanese potter Yuta Segawa (https://www.yutasegawa.com/). Naturally we fell in love with them – all of them – and just for fun, we decided to buy one. But of course it’s no good trying to display one of anything that’s just an inch or two tall. You just have to have a bunch of them, don’t you? So in the end we bought five, and they look just lovely on the mantelpiece in our living room. The tiniest is just 35mm tall.
Yes, I do know that there are seven vases in the picture. The two brown (tea-dust) ones in the back row aren’t by Yuta Segawa. They are Chinese, not Japanese/British, and probably date from the Qing dynasty, and came from a local auction a couple of years ago. Which proves that there’s nothing new about miniatures, and also proves that there’s nothing new about me buying miniatures.
Looking around the house, I came upon a few more: three miniature bone china cups and saucers belonging to Frances (Spode, Crown Derby, Hammersley), a charming little Chinese blanc de chine horse, and a whole small-size bookcase filled with small-size books.
Now I come to think about it, there’s probably a lot more small stuff about the house. And then there’s the attic . . .