In Part II of this interview with Elizabeth Bradley, we will learn more about the different types of antiques she collects for her Elizabeth Bradley Antiques.
Q: Victorian Staffordshire figures are varied and popular. What types of figures do you specialize in?
A: I especially love the Staffordshire dogs… all breeds… and the animals… sheep, cows, rabbits. Royal figures as children, from the Victorian era, are popular, too. These are my favorites and seem to appeal to my customers, too.
Q: What is Imari, and how do Chines and Japanese Imari differ?
A: At the end of the 17th century, Japanese ceramics became fashionable and were heavily influenced by Korea. They were shipped from a port in Japan called Imari and became known as Imariware. Early Japanese Imari was underglaze blue ceramic with overglaze enamels of cobalt blue, iron red and gilt. Most early Japanese Imari is in museums or private collections.
Rarely did the Chinese copy from the Japanese, but they did copy early Japanese Imari, in the 18th century, turning out a finer porcelain with a much more delicate color palette. Then, in the mid-19th century, the Japanese began to produce Imari for a larger market, with vibrant blues and reds. This is the Japanese Imari we see and collect today. Later Japanese Imari is far more reasonably priced than Chinese Imari as it is later, more primitive and there is more of it available.
Q: What is Canton pottery?
A: Canton pottery was made in China in the 19th century and was often used as ballast for the ships that brought tea to America. It is generally crudely made and can be found in many different forms. Often it was purchased by early Americans to be used as every-day china as it was very cheap. There is a “kitchen set” at Mount Vernon. Over the years, it became more prized and more rare. Today Canton is a collector’s item.
Q: What do you look for when selecting pieces, whether Staffordshire or Imari or Canton pottery?
A: First of all, the piece has to be aesthetically pleasing. Then I look for the best condition and color and general appeal, and of course, reasonableness of price.
Q: What advice do you give someone who is interested in collecting antique Staffordshire, Imari, or Canton and Oriental pottery?
A: Buy what you love, first of all. Although antiques generally appreciate in value over the years, if you worry about resale value, then buy stocks and bonds. Most importantly, buy antiques that become part of your life and home. Condition is important but, sometimes, with a really rare piece, condition becomes less important. For example, I have a wonderful Japanese wooden temple guardian figure, missing most of its paint and gilt. It doesn’t matter to me because I will never find another one.
Q: What is your greatest pleasure in working with these antiques?
A: I love to look at them… some days, I have one favorite, some days, another. I often say, “I am so pleased that we bought that lovely Chinese Imari urn or a charming Staffordshire dog.”
People often ask how I can bear to sell the things we buy. I have developed a philosophy: some things I buy to keep, some things I specifically buy to sell, and some things pass through our collection. When we are ready, we sell them. It is a fluid collection for us and we never tire of it.
> Visit the Elizabeth Bradley Antiques to learn about about the Bradleys and their beautiful antiques.
> Read Part I of this interview, for a look at how Elizabeth Bradley was introduced to the world and the business of antiques.