Sunday, August 21, 2016


Early 19th century teapot with a center pattern depicting a child reading a book.  It is known as "The Reader."  I have been called that too. 

A close-up of the center pattern.

I should tell you that I read the the New York Times Book Review (paper copy) every week.  Every review.  I have been doing this since high school.  One of my greatest pleasures is reading, so I am always looking for something new to read.  So, you can imagine my pleasure when I discovered online book sites, which review (and sometimes sell for amazingly low prices) new and old books that have been digitized.  I signed up with my email address for book notices.  I didn't realize that an email would arrive every day!  Even Saturday and Sunday.   Bookbub, the first site I discovered, was followed by Bookish and BookperkShelfAwareness, NetGalley, and LiteraryHub soon followed.   I felt duty-bound by my love of books to read about every book.  I was tyrannized by book sites!  Deleting a site without reading it felt like book burning!  I shall add that my iPad overflows (or it would if it weren't a computer) with books waiting to be read.   (I have given you links to these sites.  Follow them at your peril!)

There aren't a lot of transferware patterns that show books and reading.  Most, as you may know, were used on mugs and plates that were gifts for children who were mastering the art of reading. I wish I owned one.

Child's 1.94 inch mug "For Loving A Book," ca. 1830.  What a charming gift for a child who loves to read.  Or anyone who loves to read.

"For Loving A Book" child's 2.38 inch high mug, ca. 1830.

One more thing.  Pottery and books go well together.  As you can see, pottery and books are cluttering up my shelves as much as eBook sites clutter up my in-box. 

Pottery and books go well together!

Tuesday, August 9, 2016


Darla Roberts Barclay (1940-2010)

August 7 is National Friendship Day, so I thought I'd write about Darla Barclay, who was my best friend.  I met her in June 1971 when I moved from Philadelphia next door to her in Palo Alto.  I knew no one.  She befriended me immediately, and showed me around town and Stanford University: the Co-Op Market (no non-union grapes),  Bing Nursery School at Stanford (my oldest son and her daughter were 3), and Foothills Park (Palo Altans only!).  She introduced me to many of the wonderful things the Bay Area had to offer (and still does): the Oakland Museum, the Oakland and San Francisco Zoos, the Stanford Art Museum (now the Cantor), and all of the art museums of San Francisco. We visited gardens and beaches, and we hiked in state parks.  Through the years, she helped me navigate a painful divorce, a new marriage, a difficult pregnancy, and the death of my young husband. She celebrated with me when I married yet again.  She loved my sons as if they were her own.  Our friendship lasted nearly forty years, until she died of esophageal cancer at the age of 69 in 2010.  Darla was an only child, which she said gave her the right to choose her siblings.  I became her sister.

One thing we didn't have in common was my love of 19th Century English pottery.  She  liked modern, simple things.  She loved me despite my passion for pottery.

There are a few transferware patterns that are about friendship. The sentiment on the plate below sums up my friendship with Darla.  She would have liked the concept, but would have hated the plate.

"Friendship without Interest and love without Deceit" child's plate or lover's gift, ca. 1820.

I once gave her a mug similar to the ones below.  She gave it back!

"More Friends And Lefs (Less) Need of them" 3 inch mug.  The saying is from an old drinking toast. 

"A Present from a Friend" 2 inch child's mug.

"A Token Of Friendship" 2.12 inch child's mug .

"A Present for a Friend" 2.25 inch child's mug.

A few more things.  Darla was smart and beautiful.  She had a terrific sense of humor.  She was an outstanding gardener, an interior designer (her vocation), and a loving mother, daughter, and friend.  I miss her every day.

Sunday, July 24, 2016


There is a National Rat Catcher Day!  Really.  It is celebrated on July 22,  and it commemorates the story of the Pied Piper of Hamelin (the rat catcher of Hamelin).  I found two transferware patterns that depict rat catchers.  I already showed you one pattern when I wrote a post about ferrets.  The rat catcher used ferrets to catch the rats. 

Enoch Wood & Sons (1818-1846) 11 inch ewer from the Sporting Series, where nearly each size and shape depicts a hunting or hunted animal.   The ferret is used by the rat catcher to catch rats.  The man's sash displays rats along with a crown.  He may be a royal rat catcher!  Remember to click on the photo to make it bigger.

Here is another pattern.  It is quite humorous. The woman is holding her nose as she hands over the rat to the rat catcher.

Jug printed with a rat catcher and his client, ca. 1830.  Notice that she is holding her nose.

Here is my own rat catcher.  The feline kind.  If she were hungry (she never is in my house), I know she would catch rats.

Charlotte, the rat catcher

I read on the National Calendar Day's website that July 22 is also a day to thank all exterminators.  As someone who has suffered with flea and termite infestations, I'll second that! 

Tuesday, July 12, 2016


Mintons (1872-1950) late 19th century 6 inch tile from the "Animals on the Farm" series designed by William Wise.

The last time I read "Animal Farm," I was about 14. I thought the story too babyish for me. Now I see it as a brilliant animal fable that skewers politics and people. The saying: "If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh," sums up the story. Do you remember the words "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others?" "Animal Farm" is a wonderful book to read in these political times (2016 Presidential Primary). Actually, any time.

This is the cover used on the copy of "Animal Farm" that I read a long time ago.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016


"Symptoms of Angling" 7 inch plate by an unknown maker, ca. 1830.  The pattern pokes fun at the new mechanization that was part of the Industrial Revolution.  Notice that the man is free to read while his machine does the fishing!
There are patterns on small plates, probably made for children, that poke fun of the 19th century's new industrial age.  The titles include the words "Symptoms of."  I was reminded of these patterns when I visited a show of old machines in Cayucos, California.  The juxtaposition of the two, plates and show, made me think that what would have been fantastical and humorous to an early 19th century person was just the beginning of what would become the Machine Age (1880-1945).  First powered by hand and steam, and later powered by electricity and gas.  Below is an early 20th century washing machine.

Early 20th century washing machine powered by electricity

And a  corn husking machine.

Corn husking machine powered by electricity.

And a tractor.

And a car.

And a mine hoist.

Here are a few more humorous "Symptoms of" early 19th century plates.  I particularly like the steam powered vehicle in the shape of a teapot below.

"Symptoms of Going in Style" 5.88 inch plate, ca. 1830.  The pattern shows a man driving a steam powered tea kettle!

"Symptoms of Wholesale Trade" 6 inch plate, ca. 1830.  Here, men are shaved jointly by a steam powered shaving machine!

The last plate is a bit ominous!  I hope the shaving machine doesn't cut anyone.

When I look at the machines around my house, I think about the progression of machines.  What early 19th century man or woman could imagine a washing machine controlled by electricity or a vehicle powered by gas.  What 20th century man or woman could imagine a machine, called a computer, that not only runs the washing machine, but all of the appliances in the house!  Actually, I am a bit amazed.

Friday, June 24, 2016


Wolf Spider found in my garden on June 20, 2016

While gardening the other day, I chanced upon a large spider, a female with an egg sack, in the pot I planned to use.  I had David move her to safety (and I moved away safely).  I then wondered if there were many spiders printed on transferware.  Here are a few.

Maker unknown 6.6 inch tile features a large spider and web, ca, 1880.
Minton Hollins & Co. (1868-1962) "Little Miss Muffit" 6.6 inch tile, ca. 1880. 

Baker, Bevans & Irwin (1814-1838) 10 inch plate "The Ladies of Llangollen."  The border appears to have spider webs as part of the design.  Perhaps I was just desperate to show you another spider pattern!

Maya climbing on a spider web

I didn't find many spider patterns.  Perhaps you have some to show me.  Please!  You might want to read about the wolf spider (see the link above).  It's rather interesting.  I have lived in California since 1971, and this is the first time I have seen one.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016


"The Commandments" 7 inch plate "Thou shalt do no murder" circa 1850

It is with great sadness that I write another post about murder.  Destructive behavior is part of being human, so I strongly want weapons designed for the military to be kept out of the hands of civilians.   I need not elaborate.  It's simple.


Paris: Friday 13, 2015

The Sixth Commandment on Transferware