The society florist Constance Spry (1886-1960) is today considered the 20th century’s most influential floral decorator. Her approach to the art of flower arranging – seasonal, natural, unconventional – has seen a resurgence in recent years, one celebrated last summer at the Garden Museum in London.
Among the exhibits at the show Constance Spry and the Fashion for Flowers was a large array of the pottery vases made for Spry by the Fulham Pottery. The exhibition noted: “Spry tasked her art assistant Florence Standfast to develop wide-mouthed bowls to allow for an abundance of blooms and foliage.”
By 1935, the Fulham Pottery was engaged to create the range for sale, producing Standfast’s outsized classically inspired designs in a Devonshire earthenware.
Typically, they were only biscuit fired (Spry liked the plaster-like finish that could be painted if desired) with a glaze only applied internally to make the vessels watertight. Bearing an impressed facsimile signature, they were retailed by Flower Decorations Ltd and remained in production into the mid 1950s.
Return to form
In commercial terms, these vessels have had a remarkable return to form in the past decade. Keenly sought after by decorators and Spry devotees, most of the large boat-shaped vases are now priced in the low three figures with others, seemingly made in small numbers, bringing rather more.
Back in February 2020, Norfolk auction house TW Gaze took £2600 for a 19in (43cm) wall pocket, modelled as a swag of fabric.
However, that price was made to look modest in comparison with the reception given to a similarly sized two-handled vase offered by Shropshire firm Brettells (19% buyer’s premium) on February 22. Estimated at £200-400, it sold to an online buyer via thesaleroom.com at £8500.
Just six years ago a vase of this size and model sold for a hammer price of just £100 at Halls of Shrewsbury, while until recently another was listed on the 1stDibs website priced at just over £2000.
The other unexpected ceramics highlight at Brettells was provided by a Paragon porcelain part teaset.
Comprising five cups, six saucers and six side plates, these were each of the desirable ‘flower handle’ type and decorated with different Art Deco-style floral designs.
There is a vibrant online trade in single Paragon cups and saucers of this type (those with butterfly handles are equally sought) and prices of £300-400 each are not unheard of for the most coveted designs.
This near set took £2200 (estimate £100-200), also to an online buyer.