The Blue Chip Specialists
By Mary Willan Mason
Antique & Collectibles Showcase
A chance acquisition of some plates made in England, blue and white views of the United States and Canada, semi-started a collection and eventually a business.
Joe Clement and John Hogan were both teachers in Montreal when they happened on the plates. For Joe Clement, history teacher and history buff, it started him on an intensive study of the history shown on the plates. For John Hogan, it brought back memories of his childhood. After a year's intensive study, research and perusal of every book that they could find on the chinaware of the period, the pair opened a specialty antique shop. They called it Tendres Souvenances Antiquities; souvenance being a 17th century Parisian word for remembrances. That was back on Aug.15, 1984.
By the end of May 1992, the two decided to pull up stakes, leave Montreal and head for Toronto, and locate to booth E.12 at the Harbour Front Antique Market, where I discovered them.
America was a prime outlet for the newly fashionable transfer wares; that is chinaware with a design made by transferring typographical views, scenery, and floral from a copper plate to an inked transfer which was rolled by hand, usually by young girls, onto the biscuit before another firing, and then a glaze finished the piece. Dark blue was favoured in the United States while medium to pale blue was the choice in Britain.
John Hogan remembers each summer when his aunt, Reverend Mother Superior, Sister Constance, came home for her vacation to his cottage in St. John's Newfoundland; and how dinner table conversation centred upon the views depicted by the blue and white china. He remembers being taken to the convent; the strictness and dignity of his aunt surrounded by antiques, many of which were pieces of blue and white china.
That chance discovery of these blue and white plates touched off memories of dignity and the elegance of formal dining.
Both are passionate history buffs, Joe learning about chinaware from John, and John delving more into history with Joe's leadership makes them a great team.
Their rich store of information and their infectious love of the subject has them both talking at once. It's dazzling!
The whole blue and white craze started about 1790 and carried well into the 1840's when the "picturesque" was high-fashion; and Bartlett's views of Canada in forms of prints made it possible for those of modest means to hang pictures on their walls. The ownership of a dinner service of blue and white pottery was a must. The transferring of the inked paper from the copper plate to the biscuit was a tricky procedure. If small hands made a slip it could not be rectified. Many a piece was smudged. But rather than ditch them, the canny pottery bosses offered them as flow blues, almost rejects or seconds. The flow blue eventually was sought after just as much the clear transfer printed pieces. Many designs, created in England, were intended entirely for export, targeting the United States, Canada, Australia and other parts of the World; The British Empire Rule dominated in those years a quarter of the Earth's surface.
Peripatetic Methodist ministers helped to spread the urge to collect in Canada. Joseph Clementson, one of the most successful of the itinerant ministers, whose father had been a pupil of the famous potters John and William Ridgway, preached in Canada in the 1840's and 1850's. After a visit with many a sermon, he would donate a dinner service to his hosts, or sometimes he sold them from the family business. One minister from a pottery family turned businessman was Francis Morley who settled in St. John, New Brunswick on Dock Street and specialized in romantic, somewhat realistic scenes. Canadians prize these pieces particularly. Everybody loves the commemorative transfers made from popular etchings of such subjects as the first Atlantic crossing of a steamship, the Canadian views by Bartlett, George Washington crossing the Delaware, battles and buildings, etc. These subjects were virtually unknown in Britain and were wholesaled in New York. Spode made two series of exotics, Turkey and India. Many Americans have been in the know and have been avid collectors of these subjects for many decades; Canadians have only recently been in the know for the past several decades and now too are avid collectors of such subject content.
The potteries did their bit and more for the war effort in both World Wars. Porcelain nozzles were needed to trigger the explosion in bombs. So the Luftwaffe targeted Staffordshire and the Allies bombed Dresden and Meissen for the same reason.