NOT all the market resides in a state of stagnation.
It gives some idea of the acceleration in the prices of Troika
ceramics that the publishers of a book, which some people credit
with putting the Cornish studio under the spotlight again, have
just printed a supplement price list.
One year down the line, its price guidelines are seemingly
already out of date.
According to author George Perrott, since March 2003 when
Troika Ceramics of Cornwall was first published,
prices have increased on average by more than 30 per cent, and in
some cases have doubled.
One of the sales to which George Perrott referred when opting to
reprint was Burstow & Hewett's March 17 event on the Sussex
coast, a general antiques sale incorporating a 150-strong
collection of Troika pieced together by the local vendor over the
past six or seven years.
Last year, for example, David Lay of Penzance claimed a record
for the form when he sold one of the studio's more iconic
productions from the Newlyn period, aCycladicmask vase in blue, for
£1200. Prices of around £800- 1200 became the norm, but, more
recently, one of these scarce (but hardly rare) double-sided masks
appeared on eBay and sold for over £2000.
Prices were hoisted upward again at the sales held by Abbey
Auction Galleries in Battle when a private collector bid £2700
(estimate £700-1000) to secure one of two examples from the
collection offered by Burstow & Hewett. The 10in (25cm) high
mask, typically modelled with a stylisedAztecdesign to one side and
aCycladicmask to the other, was decorated in blue and browns by
Simone Kilburn and was in mint condition.
A similar mask executed by the same decorator realised £1700
(estimate £500-600) despite some minor restorations to the
A pottery wall plaque by Benny Sirota c.1964, was one of several
lots purchased by the vendor quite recently on eBay, where a lot of
trading in collectable ceramics now takes place.
This seemingly rare piece, made by one of the three factory
founders just a year after the purchase of the Powell and Wells
Pottery in St Ives, had cost £1300 on the online marketplace last
year. Measuring 151/2 x 5in (39 x 13cm), the abstract textured
decoration in blues and browns also included Sirota's fingerprints
on either end. It had been illustrated in Carol Cashmore'sTroika
Pottery, the book that brought the factory to a wider public when
published in 1994, even though the edition of 1000 failed to sell
At Burstow & Hewett, against an estimate of £800-1000, it
sold at £2900. That could well be an auction high for Troika,
although surely one of the real aces - perhaps one of the
exhibition pieces made for Heal's of London in 1968, of which only
25 per cent sold - would make more. Dealer-collector Paul
Longthorne sold such a piece last year for £3500 by private
The New Generation
According to Mr Longthorne, it is the computer-literate 30 and
40-somethings - so elusive in many of the more traditional
collecting areas - who are sending prices skyward for Troika This,
alongside Baxter Whitefriars and Terry Frost, is the stuff of retro
loft apartment living and minimalist style.
One of the most eagerly awaited lots was another of the early St
This was a rectangular-form, shallow dish c.1963-64 decorated to
a mottled blue ground with a central panel of stylised
hieroglyphics and measuring 113/4 x 73/4in (29 x 19cm). It sold at
£1400 (estimate £250-350).
Other early works to command a premium included a striking
rectangular wall plaque measuring just 73/4in x 51/4in (19 x 13cm),
with a raised textured abstract design in purple, blue and green
glazes posted £1100 (estimate £400-500).
Good colours, a strong design, and a good decorator are what
Troika collectors are looking for regardless of period.
Alongside theCycladicmasks, the most eagerly-contested pieces
from the Newlyn period (1970-83) were two 83/4in (22cm) high anvil
vases, both with a textured green ground and embossed domino and
geometric disc designs to either side. Offered first, the example
by Avril Bennett sold at £1100 (estimate £400-600), and was
followed by another with domino and mask designs by Louise Jinks,
which was competed to £1400 (estimate £400-600).
Also decorated by Jinks, a rectangular pocket vase embossed with
geometric stylised designs in greens and browns, 8in x 61/4in
(15.5cm), sold at £650 (estimate £160-180), while another of the
iconic forms of this period, a large 163/4in (43cm) high double
base lamp with mottled brown ground and embossed stylisedAztecand
disc designs decorated by Anne Lewis, sold at £800 (estimate
Prices such as this, while indicating something of a return to
the 1990s boom market for Troika, can also have something of a
destabilising influence on the collectors and dealers who have
helped to create it.
The difficult questions now as the Troika bubble expands: At
what price to buy? At what price to sell?
Burstow & Hewett, Battle, March 17
Number of lots offered:150
Number of lots sold:150
Buyer's premium:10 per cent