For a firm that by the 1880s was making 20 million tiles per year, a series of vases by Arts & Crafts guru Walter Crane (1845-1915) represented something of a departure.
Crane, who had designed tile patterns for Maw’s Benthall Works from 1874, was commissioned to create seven vases in c.1889 that were shown together the following year at the Arts & Crafts Exhibition Society’s third exhibition in 1890.
Each decorated with the distinctive iridescent ruby glaze that had been developed for tile painting, together they demonstrate Crane’s interest in a wide range of historical forms and decoration, from classical antiquity to the Islamic world.
In the Art Journal, 1898, he recalled: “I designed a set of vases for lustre ware, giving the sections to the thrower and painting on the biscuit the designs, which were copied on duplicate vases in lustre.”
Few collectors own the complete array of Crane’s Maw & Co vases, although the seven can be seen together at Rode Hall in Cheshire (where Crane often stayed as a young man). The set was completed in 2006 with the purchase of a square-handled Four Seasons vase at Lawrences of Bletchingley at £7600.
The record for the factory still stands at the £42,000 bid for a 12½in (31cm) high vase decorated with four classical maidens when Law Fine Art sold the Andrew Keith collection in 2005. It is another of these that comes for sale at Adam Partridge in Macclesfield on October 12-14 as part of a north-west private collection. The guide is £1000-1500.
Maw & Co was among the first firms to produce lustre wares using industrial processes.
Another fine example of the output comes up at Tennants’ sale of 20th Century Design in Leyburn on October 15. This charger, measuring 22in (55cm), is decorated with a leaping stag in foliage within a border of running hounds. To the base is a neatly observed image of a seated Bactrian camel and the monogram MJ. The guide is £1500-2000.
The Design sale at Woolley & Wallis in Salisbury on October 19-20 includes a small collection of items from the descendants of the industrial designer and educator Lewis Foreman Day (1845-1910).
Day, who counted Crane among his friends (the two men published Moot Points, a dialogue on un-business-like Arts & Crafts attitudes), created designs for ceramics, textiles, furniture and metalware.
The sale includes two lustre vases, one designed for Maw & Co, the other an unknown factory, each estimated at £200-300.