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One year down the line, its price guidelines are seemingly already out of date.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 base.
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 out.
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 sale.
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 Ives productions.
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 £350-500).
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