The Many Sides of a Pleasurable and Profitable Hobby
THE collecting of old china makes a many-sided appeal. To begin with, we all love beauty. We love to make our homes beautiful; we would, every one of us, if wo could, so decorate our homes that at evory turn and in every way they should appeal to our sense of beauty. Well, old china gives us beauty of form, of line, of colour and of texture. No matter what our tasto may be, there is some variety of china which will satisfy it.
Do we love bold, rich colouring? We can have it. Or do we prefer simple, stately design, classical in its restraint? That too wo oan obtain. Or perhaps our fancy runs to the naiive beauty of the quaintly picturesquo productions of the peasant mind ? That also is waiting for us.
Even if our idea of beauty runs to what most people call grotesque or even ugly, wo need not despair; the old china factories turned out many a queer piece that should satisfy us. A blind man could collect china for the sheor pleusure of the touch of the rich, smooth surfaces.
In decorating our homes, there is nothing we desire mere than a sense of completeness. We like to feel that everything matches. There is nothing winch adds this feeling to a period room like old cluna. Have we a bureau, a cabinet, a chest of drawers of some bygone day? Two or three pieces of china or earthenware of the same period set the seal upon it as nothing else can. And china fits into every home, from the wealthiest to the humblest, because chinaware of every description is essentially domestic – that is, belonging to the house.
Then in collecting old china we touch upon another passionate love of British people, the love of the antique. This love is known the world over. The Egyptian boy at the baso of the pyramid knows it by heart; the moment he sees an Englishman approach he hails him with the magic words, Genuine antique, sair! Though he is not ignorant of the fact that the scarab, the green beetle, he holds out to the tourist was made yesterday by his father. It is all the same to him; he does not know that antique means old, but he does know that no Englishman will over pass an antique.
Old china is antique; not nearly so antique as the genuine scarab, nor so old as many people fondly imagine their treasured teapot or plato on the sideboard to be, but antique nevertheless. What is reckoned under that name was made between, roughly, 1750 and 1820, the great period of English pottery, when scientific knowledge and skill combined with artistic genius and loving craftsmanship to produce the loveliest examples of English ceramic The story of earthenware goes back much further, dating in this country even from mediasval days. Stolen Secrets
Closely allied with our love of the antique is our love of a story, and particularly of a true story. There is many a story of dratnatic interest, of thrilling biography, of adventure and romance hidden away behind the cups and saucers, plates, baskets, vases and bowls and figures that one sees in dealers windows.
Was not the very making of porcelain in the eighteenth century termed a mystery ? Did not men hide themselves in woods and mountains, conceal the secrets of their mixtures and their processes from even their own kith and kin, that no one might copy their precious wares? Were not those secrets stolen from them by other men who ran away with them, hid themselves in barrels, disguised themselves, sent spies into rivals works ? There is abundant material for a thousand exciting yarns in the story of English pottery. Old China Still Obtainable
But perhaps we want to make our hobby pay? The true collector, the collector who is born with the itch to collect, who starts as a child with pretty stones or shells, or marbles, and progresses through cigarette cards to foreign stamps on to Chippendale furniture or Wedgwood ware or first editions – he of course never sells; he would sooner starve.
But there are many of us – and quite good, honest collectors, too – who do not mind keeping an eye on the main chance, who like to think we are acquiring specimens that will rise in value, who love the bargain hunt and experience a thrill of delight in snapping up for next to nothing, pieces of value. Such will get all the excitements of the chase.
It is a long chase usually nowadays, and a stern chase, for old china has been rummaged for now in every conceivable corner by hosts of eager collectors for many a year; but it is a chase that can still be crowned with success. Extensiveness of the Field
All the old china has not yet been ferreted out. And the steady, industrious collector who prefers the soberer charm of acquiring piece by piece a collection which will slowly rise in value as the years go by, has every chance, provided he keeps his head and gains a mastery of his subject.