Archive for General

Ceremonial Sugar Hammer

hammer 4sml Hammer head Face On

Although sugar cane is believed to have originated in New Guinea the first commercial sugar plantations were in India Circa 350.

The Indian’s had managed to produce it in a crystallized form which made it an internationally trade-able commodity which came to be known as a ‘fine spice’ and in the 15th century was set in enormous earthenware moulds and turned out as ‘sugar loaves.’ These loaves were known to be 3 feet in height & 14 inches in diameter. This necessitated sugar hammers and axes to break it down into manageable sizes so it could then be nipped into smaller usable lumps.

Sugar hammers and axes were generally made of steel, consequently I believe our brass example to be more ceremonial than practical and that it’s elaborate design & ostentatious decoration is more a mark of it’s owner than its purpose, though having said that it does exhibit a serious amount of wear.

It would no doubt have been a special commission and the feathered parrot that is engraved upon it’s fluke would be an emblem of the family that owned it themselves most likely plantation owners.

These hammers are ceremonial because the ‘breaking of sugar’ took place in the presence of a retinue of invited guests.

British Folk Art

lhs-blog English-Hand-Puppets rhs-blog

Folk art by definition is the quintessence of the vernacular.  The dimensional soul of a native culture. It is the unpretentious product of a folk who looked to their hearts for artistic inspiration at a time when the practicalities of life got in the way of education.

It is an ethnic expression of working men and women who’s product has not been blighted by intellectuals. So it has been saved from fancy otherworldly muses which it never needed because fundamentally it is instinctive and comes from the gut not the Heavens.

The expression ‘There is nothing new under the sun’ is also true of folk art. It may only have been understood under the term folk art in the last 150 years or so, but it’s apprentices were working up a sweat centuries before that. It was emotionally conceived within reverberations of the primal-screem, its earliest manifestations emerging from a dark and impoverished time. Ironically primal-folk-art is often viewed in an incredulous or optimistic way and objects which to our highly superstitious ancestors may have had serious votive or magical properties, we now frequently see as quaint, hopeful or amusing. One may also perceive in the evolution of folk art a natural backlash, the antithesis of classism and the culture of guilds, but because of an intrinsic humility it has operated hitherto in a kind of undercurrent to the more punchy and avant-garde arts.

The spokes in the wheels of folk art are so disparate and the demography of its practioners so wide that like a bicycle with out a rider there was never a hope of any movement.  It is not only a wholehearted expression of a stratum of humanity it is also naive, disorganised, alternative, romantic and frequently annonymous and as a consquence presents itself as an enigma within the arts.

This cohesive reflection we see from these disjointed elements make it collectively the intriguing and unconventional body of work that we know and love and if British folk art is now becoming less endangered than perhaps it once was, I suspect that perhaps part of the reason is that people see it as an escape from the present to the past, away from the over-manufactured, technological and multinational world we live in. So when it’s green credentials, it’s organic roots, merge with our dreamy concept of a rustic workshop set in a rural idyll, then these criterea provoke a sentimentality that becomes an antidote to our modern times

Folk art is the embodiment the sentiments the aspirations and the musings of an underclass and we are the fortunate benefactors of an inheritance, which brings nothing but joy to us. At its most expressive and pursuasive it can be a harbinger of love, piercing our hearts with its eccentricitys, emblems and tokens, with it’s naive charm, humour, invention and honesty.

I implore you to stay in touch with this expansive heritage of ours known as folk art –  to help save your souls and invigorate your spirits don’t go a day without it.

Copyright: P.Cooper


 Overheard in a Museum

“Quite colloquial and nearly charming

It’s perspectives all awry”

“Peasant Higledy – pigledy seascapes

where figurheads score the sky”

Folk art is not these whispering dilettants

always seeking the sublime;

But the brightly painted drummer boy

Who beats the whirligig of time:

British Folk Art

Steam & Sail: two warships by  W.Smith.
Illustrated in James Ayres Book
English Naive Art  1700 – 1900

Our online Exhibition of British Folk Art begins 12th June. It is scheduled to coincide with Tate Britain’s retrospective on the subject which is now less than a month away.

I believe that Tate Britain’s exhibition is possibly more encompassing in it’s scope than perhaps that of the average Antique dealer who specializes in the subject, but of course the museum have the liberty to exhibit things of any period.

I understand they will be exhibiting embroidery by Mary Linwood plus work by the esteemed Cornish naive artist Alfred Wallis and a thatched figure of King Alfred by the wonderfully named Jesse Maycock. There will also be maritime embroidery by the fisherman John Craske and a patchwork quilt by Jane Williams.

While on the subject I am hoping to see Elizabeth Allen’s collage of various materials entitled ‘Population Explosion’ which shows a mother in a maternity ward in a long bed with her seven newly borns lined up down the side of the bed. To all intense and purposes this is a highly amusing masterpiece although in reality alas tells a very sad tale of a woman who had taken a fertility drug.

Interestingly the artist Elizabeth Allen was the daughter of a tailor who busied herself collected various off cuts and scraps to make her art work. There is also an early nineteenth century echo of this behaviour in the work of George Smart the tailor of Frant who also didn’t like to see good materials go to waste and produced some absolutely timeless collage images including most famously ‘The Goose Woman’ who often found herself in the company of ‘Old Bright The Postman.’ His other most famous offering was ‘The Earth Stopper’ depicting the story of a man who had been commissioned to fill up fox-holes and late one evening had a scary encounter with what he believed was the devil!

Additionally to what I have mentioned already Tate Britain’s Exhibition will also include Ship’s Figureheads and painted trade signs which were not only costly but obligatory in London in the 18th century. Toby Jugs will also be on display along with an intricate sculpture of a Cockerel made out of mutton bones during the Napoleonic wars by french prisoners of war.

FOLK ART MAKERSWeekend at Tate Britain

This particular weekend is designed for youngsters who want to take the hands on approach it will include an embroidery workshop : Message on a hanky : A knife carving workshop : Make a spatula : A collage workshop : Make a Home Sweet Home sampler : And finally there is to be sign painting workshop :

Folk Art in British museums  –   basically is dispersed.

Having said that I never go into provincial museum however small without finding something interesting [ that would  fit into the folk art genre ] so it is always worth finding the time to have a look.

Here follows a list of museums that have permanant collections

Compton Verney (Warwickshire)

The Beamish Museum (Newcastle-Upon-Tyne)

Welsh Folk Museum (Cardiff)

Kettle’s Yard (Cambridge)

Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery (Treen Collection)

William Kendall in the ninth year of his age


The image illustrated is one of a pair of a brother and sister, William and Sarah Kendall. They are full length portraits set in English country landscapes and although not signed by the artist they were painted in 1791. They have not been relined and they retain their original frames.

Her portrait in which she holds a green bird in her hand appears completely original, while he in his portrait is holding a prayer book and standing beneath a sky that has been over-painted. This is something that could be quite easily corrected but as they are such charming things I have decided to overlook this imperfection.

Folk-Art Exhibitions


Approaching fast is our on-line exhibition of ‘British Folk Art’ reserved for this event in fact enfolded within our treasury of goods is a naive Irish Walking Stick embellished with rural scenes which are carved upon its barrel. Also set aside is an imposing collection of Antique treen. Though currently the most difficult goods to source are antique country furniture items. In this particular genre ‘Antique oak and country furniture’  the very best quality articles are proving extremely elusive. Consequently I have hunting trips planed in Scotland and Wales for April and May where I am anticipating bagging some trophies.

Our on-line exhibition:  BRITISH FOLK ART – a celebration. Begins on the 12th June and will include folk art, antique country furniture, antique treen, naive paintings and antique pottery. All items will be of museum quality and all will be for sale.

This exhibition is scheduled to coincide with the British Folk Art exhibition of ‘ Tate Britain [London,UK] gallery in 2014’

Antique Treen

Antique Treen
This picture is testament to the alluring charm and beauty of antique treen. It also illustrates how the passage of time treats each piece in an individual way so leaving that piece uniquely imprinted by time. To the rear of the picture there are two items of turned treen which are now a faded, mellow, mellifluent colour. The Peaseware jar was varnished when it was made, a coating that has now partially degraded leaving a random pattern to its surface, and in in so doing simply adding to its charm.

The knitting Sheath in the foreground which is dated 1768 appears as if it has been a venerated object, for it looks as if it has never been used, as if it has been swaddled and tucked away in a draw regarded as a very precious item since the day it was made. It is beautifully carved and its cagged balls are very smooth – the sign of a loving hand – but never a faint heart.

The other sheath which is fruitwood is a complete contrast giving the impression it has had a busy but unrevered life, though its industry has help it develop its fabulous colour and patination. Having been at the sharp end of commerce and exposed to the elements for hundreds of years its chipped areas have turned black with age, a colour that one associates with a smoky atmosphere, so leaving a lovely contrast with the rest of its surface. Lamentfully in comparison to the other sheath its single caged ball is very crudely carved – reminding me of that famous maxim ‘Fair lady was never won by rough balls’

One of the great things about chip carving is you don’t have to be Grinnling Gibbons to do it [geometry aside] all you need is a pair of sharp tools and a pair of sharp eyes.

The Stay-busk also chip carved is one of the very rarest types having a sliding panel to its reverse side so as to accommodate some keepsake or other, may be a love letter, or a lock of hair. It is ‘touching’ to learn that when such a busk was worn, this secret compartment would be pressed close to the wearer’s heart, and as if to draw attention to this point on our busk’s exterior side, at its head on the side that is convex there is a carved heart with two arrows piercing it. It was decorated by a young sailor and presented as a love token to a maid called Betsy Farewell before he finally set off to sea.

His parting couplet is inscribed upon the busk :-

‘Without regret you heard my last adieu
Nor felt for him who more than dies for you’

In sympathy its chipped areas have turned a silvery grey colour having filled with dust over the years.

These wondrous items of treen I find strangely intoxicating, never failing to stir my emotions especially in terms of how tactile they are. I can be restfully meditating at home when I find their naked form beckoning me to some shadowy sultry corner of our cottage and succumbing to their inanimate titillation I raise my arms and lift them from their solitary confinement, fondling, caressing and stroking them, the oils and perspiration of my skin only adding to their broody seductiveness – and of course the really marvelous thing about this relationship with bits of wood is – you know it’s not going to end up in the divorce courts!

There was a time when throughout the British Isles knitting was a way of life – a daily event and never more so than in the Yorkshire Dales where there was a fervent industry and where after dusk folk would gather together and have knitting parties. Here I quote from an article by W. Ruskin Butterfield from the Connoisseur January 1919.

“As soon as it becomes dark, and the usual business of the day is over, and the young children put to bed, they rake or put out the fire, take their cloaks and lanterns, and set out with their knitting, to the house of a neighbour where the ‘sitting’ falls in rotation, for it is a regularly circulating assembly from house to house through the neighbourhood.

The whole troup of neighbours being collected, they sit and knit, sing knitting songs, and tell knitting stories. Here all the old stories and traditions of the dale come up, and they often get so excited that they say: ‘Neighbours, we’ll not part tonight’ – that is – till after 12 o’clock. All the time their knitting goes on with unremitting speed. They sit rocking to and fro like so many weird wizards. They burn no candle, but knit by the light of a peat fire, and this rocking motion is connected with a mode of knitting peculiar to the place, called ‘swarving’.

Football and Folk-Art

Rose Villa Shadow Box

Come June when the world goes flaming made for football, in fact on the very day the World Cup begins, we will be following in the footsteps of Tate Britain by holding an exhibition of British Folk art. Our own cache of treasures will be entitled:-

British Folk Art – a celebration:
Commencing 12th June our online exhibition will include selected folk art, antique country furniture and antique pottery. All items will be of museum quality and will have been sourced throughout the British Isles and all will be for sale.

There will be some exceptional antique treen –  some historically important antique bead-work – some curious and unusual country furniture – and some exceedingly rare English pottery:

In the meantime we will continuing updating our website with the best antique oak and country furniture we can find and replenishing our pottery gallery with the antique slipware and Sussex pottery we are so fond of.

Pottery Aspirations


Although we have only recently instituted our ‘Pottery Gallery’ it is our desire this year to progress forward by augmenting our collection of antique English pottery. Being January the antique Slipware and Sussex pottery we so love is a bit thin on the ground, but we shall be searching high and low in the next few months to purchase pots interesting in design, colour and form.
Though we are currently fortunate possessing a number of special pieces of Antique English Slipware we are just as keen to buy items in the lower price range – as our Kingdom still appears overcast with economic malaise and it remains a fact of life [although times are gradually improving]  it is still easier to sell something under £1000.00 than over it!


Antique Oak and Country Furniture

‘Have been lucky this week with some Oak and Country Furniture having purchased a Walnut fret mirror with untouched surface and original plate. Also purchased were two stools a Charles I Oak Joined Stool and a rare Charles II circular stool which needs re-upholstering, consequently it will be a while before it is exhibited on the web site.

BRITISH FOLK ART – A Celebration

Beginning 12th June 2014 our on-line exhibition will include selected Folk Art, Furniture & Pottery items of museum quality from throughout the British Isles which will be for sale.