Family Drama: The Havilands of America, France and Germany

In the 1800’s there was an American family named the Havilands who owned a china shop in New York City. The family was made up of four brothers David, Edmond, Daniel, and Robert all who participated in the dishware business in one way or another whether it was through trading, importing, exporting or physical operation of the William Street storefront.

A 19th-century view of William Street where the Haviland’s worked. Photo courtesy of the New York Public Library Digital Collection.

Selling dishes in New York City in the 19th century was a competitive business. China merchants were located all around town utilizing the bustling harbor to import dishes from faraway countries. The Haviland inventory came from England and France in the form of creamware…

Early 1800’s English creamware

that came off the Pearl Street docks just a few blocks from the Haviland’s shop. Constantly trying to improve their offerings and find lucrative ways to stay afloat while supplying the city with serving pieces, the Haviland’s also offered china repair services. Legend states that a broken teacup made of a beautiful white clay brought in by a customer, led one brother, David, to hunt down the source of this stunning bright, light material.

Portrait of David Haviland painted in 1848 by Fortin

The search for discovery led him all the way to Limoges, France where factories had been producing porcelain dishes made from local kaolin clay since the 1700’s. Beholding the beauty of this delicate but strong material the enterprising David picked up his wife and young son from America and moved to Limoges with plans of opening his own porcelain factory in order to send all of its creations back to America for sale.

David’s wife, Mary Miller Haviland

In France in the 1800’s, pottery manufacturing and pottery design were two separate businesses. First, the pottery was made in a factory then it was shipped to artisans who painted or applied decorative imagery to the blank pieces. David Haviland saw a faster, more efficient process. When he opened his china manufacturing plant in Limoges, he hired local artists to hand-paint colorful designs on his porcelain pieces in-factory, thus eliminating the extra steps of sending china blanks out to be finished.

David’s European business venture quickly set him apart from other local French potters. His faster production time allowed more shipments and greater volumes to be exported. Plus, his new oval shaped dishes, the artistic renderings of realistic-looking hand-painted flowers and the bright white glow of the porcelain material delighted American buyers. Quickly word spread and a prestigious reputation of fine china manufacturing followed. Havilland Limoges became the must-have item. Even U.S. presidents were smitten. An elegant, artistic brand bearing the Haviland name was established.

Haviland Limoges china circa 1870

Back in France, David’s two sons Charles and Theodore grew up in the family business. Both went on to make life-long careers of the industry, each adding their own unique style, design aesthetic and innovation to the Haviland brand. But even though the company enjoyed world-wide notoriety, staying at the top of their game was still a constant balancing act. Competition was fierce both inside the industry and inside the family.

Upon their dad’s death in 1879, Charles and Theodore couldn’t agree on similar ways to move the company forward so they broke it in two.  Both brothers, now operating at the helm of their own separate companies, incorporated the family name and waged a war against each other for top spot in the market.

Charles’s pottery mark on the left, Theodore’s pottery mark on the right, circa 1880’s/1890’s. Marks courtesy of Kovels.

The stable of original in-house French artists that their dad, David, had gathered and that had turned the Haviland dishes into beautiful works of art became pawns between the two son’s companies. There was in-fighting and backstabbing. The brothers competed with each other on all levels from design to pricing. When a set of Theodore Haviland China went on sale, Charles would reduce a similar set of his own even more. If Charles offered a 15 piece set of china for a certain price, Theodore would offer a 25 piece set for the same price. And so it went back and forth between the two.

Charles Haviland china plate on the left,. Theodore Haviland cup and saucer on the right.

Charles had a son named Jean, who was born in France and like his dad grew up in the china business. But unlike Charles’s childhood,  Jean didn’t grow up in the hard-work-pays-off environment experienced by his smart, industrious grandfather, David. Instead, Jean saw his dad, Charles, bear the exhausting burden of constantly competing in a business that relentlessly beat back. Brother warred against brother for ultimate superiority and control of the prestigious Haviland name.

Young Jean loved dishes just like his father and his grandfather but he didn’t see a place for himself amidst the family feuding. When Jean became of age, he moved to Germany, changed his name to John and opened up his own pottery factory in Bavaria under the name Johann Haviland.

Jean’s desire was to produce simple, affordable serving pieces and dish sets for everyday American households as well as strong, sturdy constant-use sets for hotels and restaurants. Even though his dishes bared the Haviland name, their simple designs and more economical price-point were seen as somehow inferior to the exquisite detail and artistic merit associated with David Haviland’s original dynasty.  Jean stayed in business only a few years before his company was bought by another pottery company. From there, the Johann Haviland brand changed ownership again and again until it was finally discontinued in the 1970’s.

Of the two warring brothers, Charles and Theodore,  and the fate of their warring companies, ultimate success was achieved by Theodore whose family line continued the Haviland tradition of fine quality craftsmanship and exquisite design that still continues today…

Jean Haviland’s pieces under the Johann Haviland brand might be snubbed today by serious Haviland collectors, but they still hold up in both form and function. The simple elegance of this Johann Haviland platter is effortless in design and ability. It matches everything, accommodates a plentiful array of food and contains the history of a man who dared to do things without the drama.

Perhaps there was a bitter taste in Jean’s mouth when he witnessed his family’s ultimate fight for prestige over passion.  Even though Jean who became John and then traded under the name Johann, knew all the formulas for success in order to produce high-quality dishware he did not succumb to the mercilessly competitive nature of his father and uncle, which seems like a character trait that would have made his grandfather David proud. Jean might not have put his personal mark on the china industry for as long as other family members but he did manage to break away from the feudal family climate and follow his own more peaceful rhythm.

Find the smartly stylish Johann Haviland platter listed in the shop here. It looks outstanding with every other dish in the shop so if you are looking for a grouping of serving pieces then this is your easy-breezy match-all mate.

 

Mexican Folk Art: How Circumstances Affect Creativity

Oaxaca, Mexico has been in the news a lot this week because of the earthquake that struck the region on Tuesday. It measured 7.4 magnitude on the Richter scale and has damaged close to 1,000 homes in the area.

Ms. Jeannie was saddened to hear this news, because ever since discovering that the black clay pottery listed in her Etsy shop (pictured below) came from that area, she has been learning quite a lot about Oaxaca.

Mid-Century Black Clay Mexican Pottery from MsJeannieOlogy

This type of earthenware vessel, also called barro negro which means black clay, is handmade using ancient traditions indigenous to the Mexican culture in this area.

Primarily formed into utilitarian objects like jars and pots, Mexican artisans have been working with the black clay for centuries. And surprisingly, you can feel that somehow when you touch it.

In this close-up of the vessel you can see how smooth the texture is…

The only place in the world to find this black clay is in the rugged mountainous terrain of Oaxaca, which is located in the Central Valley area of Southwestern Mexico.

Map of Mexico

Since there are  are no navigable rivers in the region,  Oaxaca is an isolated community, which, while limiting at times, it is also the reason why the Mexican-Mayan culture,  languages and traditions have been able to survive.

In this fascinating and soothingly hypnotic video below, watch Oaxacan women demonstrate how they make tamales using  traditional methods.  Ms. Jeannie loves watching these kinds of videos because you not only get to see how regional food is prepared but you also see how local people dress,  interact and communicate with another. It’s like an 8 minute mini anthropology vacation to Mexico!

Ms. Jeannie really likes the cotton dresses and skirts these ladies are wearing too! They remind her of these, that she recently saw on Etsy.

Cotton Aline Skirt from ellainaboutique

Buttercream Triangle Sun Dress from SparrowCollective

There are also beautiful more traditional Mexican embroidery style clothing on Etsy too. Like these two examples. It’s folk art that you can wear!

Embroidered Party Maxi Dress by AidaCoronado

La Bandida Mexican Folk Art Top from mybonny

The movie Frida starring Selma Hayak and Alfred Molina also offers a beautifully cinematic look into the life of Mexico and it’s artisians, particularly folk artist Frida Kahlo. The movie came out in 2002, but if you missed it, here’s the trailer:

In 2008, a traveling exhibit of Frida’s work went on tour…

Ms. Jeannie went to the exhibit with her sister at the Philadelphia Art Museum. It featured about a quarter of Frida’s painting collection and her never seen before  personal photograph collection, which was a really intimate glimpse into her life.  Of course all her photos were in black in white but after viewing her paintings,  Ms. Jeannie could imagine all the colors of mid-century Mexico.

This is Ms. Jeannie’s favorite Frida Kahlo painting. She likes it for many reasons, but primarily because every time she looks at it she gets something different from it. Also, Ms. Jeannie has a black cat that looks just like this one!

Frida’s inspiration was really born out of a life of crippling health problems. Artistic achievement seemed to be one of the few ways she could emotionally and physically deal with her broken body. In expressing herself in that way, she had a positive effect on millions of other artists and collectors of her work.

To Ms. Jeannie, Frida Kahlo is a genuine example of making the best of your situation and focusing on your strengths instead of your weaknesses.

In that way she is similar to the clay artisians of Oaxaca. They may be  limited because of their location and their lifestyle but those very limits are actually their gifts. And that is what sets them apart from everyone else.

Mexican folk art is a personal favorite of Ms. Jeannie’s. She likes the bright color combinations and the symbolism behind the art.  She also likes how it acts as an emotional bridge between artist and audience in a demanding way that says “pay attention to me now.”

Ms. Jeannie especially likes the following:

Angel Retablo Tropical Alta from CristinaAcosta 

Christina provided some history behind retablos that was so fascinating. She thought it was rather lengthy in description, but Ms. Jeannie enjoyed it so much she included it all…

“Retablos (or altarpiece in Spanish) are a traditional sacred art form with roots that pre-date Christianity, with roots in the Mediterranean areas that include part of what is now Italy. The art form of the retablo first came to North America with the Spanish settlers and artisans that followed the Conquistadors to the North American continent to settle what is now Mexico and the United States.

There are two types of Retablos, the Santos and the Ex-Voto. The Santos style of retablo is either a Saint (from the Roman Catholic Christian tradition) or a member of the Holy Family. Similar in concept to the art form of the Byzantine and/or European Orthodox Catholic icon, the Santos is painted in accordance with strict liturgical rules that define how the central figure of Saint or Holy Family member is represented. The counterpoint to the Santos is the Ex-voto, a no-rules, personal vision that is created to commemorate a blessing received or when a prayer has been answered.

The Ex-voto retablo is the art form I focus on. I love it! This retablo art form gives me a way to connect with the religion of my childhood, without having to get into any personal struggles with a dogma that doesn’t always jibe with who I am now.

When I was a child, my abuelita (paternal grandmother), Catalina Maria Ortiz Acosta would tell me about the ancestors we shared. They were goldsmiths, soldiers and settlers who had first come to North America in the 1500’s, eventually settling in what are now the towns of Santa Fe, Taos and Abiquiu in New Mexico and Ortiz, Colorado. Though she was born in Los Angeles, she held her New Mexican roots close to her heart, importing New Mexican chilis to her home by the beach in Playa del Rey. (I updated her recipe for Red Chili Sauce, if you’d like to try it.)

I paint my retablos to express and explore my gratitude for the blessings of my life. My favorite subject is the Divine Feminine which I interpret as Madonna / Female Creator images. Because my Spanish/Mexican ancestors migrated to North America in the 1500’s, I also include American Indian symbols, as that heritage is sure to be part of my mix.

Along with the visual symbols of my work, the materials I use have personal meaning. My Ortiz ancestors where famous goldsmiths. Thin sheets of 22kt. gold leaf, copper and sterling silver glisten under and over layers of oil paint and evoke the presence of those ancestors. The antique ceramic tile mosaic is glazed with 24kt. Gold and is from a now shuttered ceramic factory in the same area of Southern California where I grew up. The wood panels are built by an artisan wood worker and mostly include re-worked lumber siding from razed timber mill buildings in Bend.

I finish each Retablo with a blessing, usually on the back of the image. In the old tradition of territorial New Mexico, the Retablo often became the spiritual focus in the home when travel was dangerous and people could not attend church. Centuries of isolation in New Mexico led to the unique form of the Ex-Voto often painted on tin, leather or wood panels.

Artists were commissioned to paint retablos that often became symbols of a family’s spiritual life. In that tradition I offer myself to paint commissions of a Retablo for you that commemorates your blessings.”     – Cristina Acosta

Side Note: To see more of Cristina’s  work or to get your house color coordinated by her (very cool!) visit her website 

Love Shrine Mexican Folk Art by calaverasycorazones

Mexican Folk Art Easter Egg from Latrouvaille

Frida Kahlo Art Print Poster by HeatherGallerArt

Tropical Accent Pillow from arribachica

Kimberly of arribachica was inspired by Mexican culture as a child living in Los Angeles and San Diego.  Frequent trips across the border, family cultural activities and her artistic folk artist grandmother fueled a passion to study art in the colonial city of San Miguel de Allende.

Side note: A portion of the proceeds from Kimberly’s exquisite pillows benefit two Mexican organizations that empower and support young children. Visit her blog for more information http://www.kimberlymaier.blogspot.com/

Vintage Tin Mexican Folk Art from Bittersweets13

Vintage Mexican Folk Art Bird from TimelessFindsVintage

Purple/Blue Folk Art Box from mimexart

Miriam of mimiexart had this to say about the inspiration behind her Mexican Folk Art Boxes.

I’m a Mexican artist and since I leave my Mexico first to go to the Caribbean now in England. It has been difficult to be far away from home, family, friends, my city and all my culture but for some great reason now I understand why Mexico is so rich country so to cure my nostalgia I started to take back my memories of colour, images, people, places and paint- as an artist- is my first tool to communicate to the world.. so this is how I started to make this little boxes and become no just a therapy for my heart is also helping people to have a piece of Mexican love-art in their home and sometimes just inspire people to create similar things.This boxes are made to keep love-secrets, treasuries, jewelry, letters……… anything that you want to be safe and away from wrong hands.”

Side note: In addition to hand-painted boxes, Miriam also makes earrings and adorned mesh market bags.  Stop by her website to learn more about this wonderfully talented artist, world traveler and teacher.

Vintage Wooden Virgin Mary Shadow Box from theVirginRose

And most importantly, Ms. Jeannie likes that folk art tells stories. Stories of it’s creators, stories of it’s history and stories of universal bonds that tie us all together.

“I used to think I was the strangest person in the world but then I thought there are so many people in the world, there must be someone just like me who feels bizarre and flawed in the same ways I do. I would imagine her, and imagine that she must be out there thinking of me too. Well, I hope that if you are out there and read this and know that, yes, it’s true I’m here, and I’m just as strange as you.”  – Frida Kahlo


Set A Contemporary Vintage Table

For years now, Ms.Jeannie has been collecting bits and pieces of antique china to use alongside her everyday dishes. These everyday dishes are as basic as basic can be: white, plain, unadorned. The only bit of flair they possess is that they were made by an Italian plateware company. This makes the plates oval shaped instead of round and the coffee cup saucers are offset to accomodate a slice of biscotti alongside your coffee cup. Other than that they are strictly ordinary.

Having said that Ms. Jeannie discovered one day, while cleaning out her china cabinet, that when she paired these ordinary day plates with her vintage china treasures, her whole table setting instantly hummed with it’s own sort of individuality and surprise. The ordinary looked extraordinary and the mis-matched patterns looked marvelous next to each other because they contained a lot of similar colors.

So Ms. Jeannie started experimenting and was delighted to discover a very broad range of different decorating options when it came to pairing vintage with contemporary.

This is an example of how you can set a contemporary vintage table by combining contemporary dishes with vintage china.

If you look closely there are 10 different plate patterns/designs in this setting. They all work together because they have two themes tying them together: birds and green leaves.

The unexpected vermillion color in the napkin also helps tie together all the warm colors without looking forced or too matchy matchy.

The square bird dish is actually a contempoary soap dish, but has been repurposed to act as a small bread plate or a drink coaster here. It also matches the colors of the black and white toile-looking hunt plate as well as the antique orange, black and green floral bread plate from the 1930’s.

The colors in the antique sugar bowl match the colors found on the vintage bird water glasses. The crazing on the sugar bowl also matches the faux antique patina on the contemporary white salad plate from the Todd English Collection.

You can see here just by adding or subtracting pieces you can get different effects from your table display:

Ms. Jeannie is drawn to three things when it comes to scouting vintage china. She loves anything made out of old English ironstone, anything that contains the color green in its design and anything that contains crackling or crazing marks. So her collection has thousands of ways that it could displayed together since they have those three characteristics in common. You can start your own vintage china collection based on color, shape, time period or region for your own unique look.

This table arrangement was made up of the following pieces:

1 antique sugar bowl (circa early 1900’s)

1 Contemporary ceramic soap dish from Creative Co-op

2 contemporary salad plates from the Todd English collection

1 contemporary fox hunt salad plate from Corona

1 antique bread plate from T.S.&T Paramount Ivory circa 1930’s

2 vintage bird beverage glasses circa 1950s

2 vintage coffee cups (swirl pattern) from Hitkari Potteries

1 contemporary coffee mug from the Todd English Collection

1 vermillion colored cloth napkin from Pottery Barn

Start your vintage tableware collection with this curious antique sugar bowl for $14.00

Curious Antique Sugar Bowl – Pink & Yellow Rose Pattern from msjeannieology