Early in the 1970s Anne & Philip Plant were creating some really interesting ceramic works that blurred the boundary between ceramics and fine art. Anne made some conventional wall panels including a commission for Flintshire County Library, and a plaque for Price Charles to be given away at a ceremony at the Welsh Countryside Awards in 1970. It seems though that they were more at home creating abstract panels mounted on board with unusual and poetic titles. The glazes are reminiscent of the work of Berndt Friberg and Gutte Eriksen with subdued but textured tones, sensitively and skillfully handled. I have found a few examples with titles such as "Ragnarok" and "Tagetes" and the one I own called "Goulard" which is a chemical compound. The panels are usually made up of many composite pieces arranged to create a fractured landscape of sorts, very evocative of the period. I also have an original brochure from their studio in Northwich, Cheshire which contains their mission statement which was to "hope that their work may begin the acknowledgement and recognition of clay and glaze as a fine art media". For me, it is some of the most interesting studio work I have seen of the period.
This is a new artist to me too, but some digging around has revealed a craftsman of the 1960's with a singular vision. Once you have seen a few pieces, Ron Hitchins' composite ceramic panels are incredibly distinctive. Looking for all the world from a distance like printers blocks set in a frame, closer examination reveals minutely detailed abstracted tiles, each one slightly different to its neighbour. Research and lack of available information suggests that these may have been made by hand one by one, or the moulds were, and when arranged, the artist took great pains to not repeat designs within each work. I have seen very large panels of up to 120 tiles and also mirrors and decorative items. Later works appear to have been cast in resins and also with metallic and matt glazes. His work appears on the iinternet for sale from time to time, but at very different prices, the market perhaps not sure what to make of these objects. They have appeared on 1st Dibs and in Bonhams though, so clearly quality is considered high. Ron is apparently currently living in Hackney at the grand age of 87! Certainly a name to watch, and artworks that would complement any self respecting retro styled hipster pad!
American by birth, Peter Orlando married a Parisian woman whom he met during his posting as a soldier in France in WW2. Denise was also to be a collaborator with him on his artistic journey. Trained at the Beaux Arts in Paris and at the Sevres workshops he went on to open his own atelier in Paris where he produced ceramics from 1952-68 subsequently moving solely into painting. Orlando (or "Orla") ceramics are very distinctive and he was able to create his own style, which with a fine arts background, must surely have been directly influenced by his surroundings. The Surrealist movement in Paris with Breton at the helm and Miro, Dali and Tanguy also present on occassion, are discernable on bth the form and decoration of the plates and vessels he was ceating. Dali's melting landscapes and Miro's insect like abstractions are especially evident. Once again, Orlando ceramics are currently very reasonable, but given that every piece is slightly different and therefore unique, it can't stay that way for much longer.
In the field of art & antiques there are still some rich areas for the thoughtful collector who will be rewarded not only with the pleasure of being surrounded by wonderful objects, but eventually with a decent return on their initial investment too. The vagaries of fashion are of course a major influence on such matters, but at the head of the market, top quality and rarity always seem to sell. Fine art is becoming (or already is) an expensive playground but there is certainly scope within the Decorative arts for new collections to be built from limited resources. French Art ceramics of the 1940's-50's are a case in point, and a growing area. At the top of the pile, as in painting, Picasso sits like a behemoth, influencing all others and leading the market in price, the work he created as one offs and in series at Madoura with the Ramies proving a gilt edged investment. As the names become more obscure and designers are revaluated and the market redjusts, the names of Jouve, Masson, Szekely, Pignon and Borderie are also achieving startling prices. There is a rarified atmosphere around the reputation of these ceramicists - half craftsmen, half sculptors. Their work was certainly never cheap, but its price has escalated hugely in the last ten years or so. The next tier down, Derval, Capron, Chambost and their ilk are still reasonably affordable and I think this is where the opportunities lay. Rare designs and one off pieces are the key items to look out for, and as Picasso ceramics continue to escalate in price, I can only see the price of his followers increase too, especially as some were directly in his circle at Vallauris.