Frogs have been frequent subjects for bookends since early times, probably because they are grotesque and interesting creatures. These pottery frogs are not very remarkable, but they are big so we will call them bullfrogs.
Category Archives: Ceramic/Tile
Presentations of monks are associated with objects made in the Arts and Crafts style, including bookends. The monk is usually identified by his cowl. Here is a pair of ceramic bookends with each bookend showing a monk sprawling on a huge book. One apparently intoxicated monk is facing us with a silly look on his face. There is a chalice in his right hand with liquid draining from it. The liquid is presumably wine and the silly expression indicates the monk has had too much of the tipple. The other monk is leaning sideways with a distressed look on his face. His look suggests concern for his supply of wine.
During the middle ages thousands of monasteries in Europe produced wine from their own vineyards for ceremonies, consumption, and sale. Pairs of bookends showing monks like these, one facing forward and holding an empty cup and the other leaning to the side were popular early in the twentieth century. Such bookends were issued by leading California potteries, including the Catalina Clay Products Co. and the Malibu Potteries, plus independent potters. Click here to view the post and photo of the Malibu Potteries version from Oct. 7, 2013. All of these inebriated monk bookends are highly collectible today.
The pair shown here was issued by Gladding, McBean & Co in their “Semi-Porcelain” line and called “Monk Book Ends” in the 1932 company catalog. The spine of the book reads “Gladding McBean & Co., S.F. Cal”. A quick search did not yield information about an artist named Theo. Tracy, whose name is inscribed on the back of the bookends.
Whenever possible, we like to identify each pair of bookends as to the art style in which they were created. We do this in order to create the perception that bookends are objects of art, not simply collectibles. Of course, all bookends are art work, sculptures created by artists, so there is no doubt here. If the art world accepts bookends as an art form, they will keep their value into the future, and not slip into obscurity along with collectibles such as beanie babies, cookie jars, and telephone pole insulators.
Our 2012 book, BOOKENDS: Objects of Art and Fashion, is devoted to promoting bookends as an art form. Check out some of our favorite bookend works of art in this slideshow:
There are many pottery bookends available from famous artists or foundries, and these sell for high prices because of demand from pottery collectors. These bookends are generally in low or high relief or entirely figural. Instead of these common techniques, pottery bookends using tiles are sometimes prepared by cuenca or cuerda seca, terms which describe modifications of the surfaces to be glazed. Much less common are pottery bookends that are painted with glaze and then fired with no modifications of the flat pottery surface. These bookends present as paintings on smooth surfaces.
Here are bookends painted with glaze on a smooth tile surface by Benjamin Kimberly Prins (1902-1980), a listed artist and illustrator, According to the Saturday Evening Post website, Prins completed over 33 Cover and Inside illustrations for this magazine.
These pottery and wood bookends were issued by the Schering pharmaceutical company in about 1973, to promote Schering products. Each bookend holds a museum reproduction of a pottery piece from the Colima culture of Mexico. The original clay sculptures are about 1500 years old and show an individual scratching his skin disorders. Presumably, The Schering skin cream, Valisone, could have helped ease the medical condition, so the reproduction pieces were used to promote Valisone.
The original ceramic sculpture is pictured in the book, Precolumbian Dermatology & Cosmetology In Mexico, by Dominique D. Verut, M.D., Chanticleer Press. Inc., New York.1973. This interesting volume was also distributed as a promotional item by the Schering company. Dr Verut, a prominent dermatologist, wrote that the skin lesions could be from tuberculosis, deep mycosis,syphilis, or tumors.
The documentation of the sculpture as featured in this volume elevates the bookends from simple Schering promotional items to unique bookends featuring precolumbian ceramics, and increases their value to all collectors interested in this subject. According to the Medipro (Marketing Company) website, eight dermatological museum reproductions were produced as Valisone promotional items, another 8 reproductions promoted the mental-health drug Etrafon. As far as we know, none of these other reproductions were bookends.
This is a pair of bookends produced by the noted California artist and ceramicist Howard Pierce (1912 – 1994). Most of Pierce’s sculptures are familiar as brown and tan birds and mammals. His raccoons and quail are highly collected. These midcentury modern bookends show Pierce’s whimsical side which is usually seen only in private collections. An exotic human face colored dark chocolate is topped by a brown speckled tan asymmetric bobbed hair style.
Howard Pierce is remembered by the Joshua Tree, California community where he spent the last 25 years of his life. Click here to read an article from the Twenty-Nine Palms Historical Society on Howard Pierce.
Bookends by Horace E. Potter of Ohio with tile manufactured by Ernest A. Batchelder in California.
Each of this pair of bookends is a figure ceramic tile by Batchelder in a bronze frame by Potter.
Horace E. Potter (1873-1948) was a distinguished metal worker and jeweler, and is listed in Davenport’s and other listings for artists. Potter lived in Cleveland, Ohio, and his home became a center for artists and craftsmen in 1908. It was later called Potter Studio. He and his fellow craftsmen sometimes incorporated other craftspeople’s objects into their own work. Potter admired Batchelder’s tiles and made bookend sets utilizing Batchelder tiles. Potter fashioned spare but elegant close-fitting bronze frames for the Batchelder tiles, and the tiles are held in place by some sort of adhesive.The frames are marked Potter Studio with, in this case, a serial number.
Ernest A. Batchelder (1875-1957) is very well known as a pioneer in the American Arts and Crafts movement. He was a renowned maker of ceramic art tiles and teacher of the pottery craft. He began making tiles for sale from his backyard kiln in 1910 and by 1912 he moved to a business location in Pasadena California. These bookend tiles are handmade, fired pottery in the early Arts and Crafts style. The image is that of an an abstract oak tree bearing two (enlarged) acorns, with birds in the tree shown at each of the four corners. Acorns, oak trees, and oak leaves became familiar naturalistic images used by artists of this genre. This particular tile is pictured in the 1912 catalogue for the Batchelder Tile Company of Pasadena, and is identified only as number 67.
The above reprint of the 1912 Batchelder catalog of Plain and Figure Tiles can be obtained from Mr. Brian Kaiser at firstname.lastname@example.org.