Garden Ware is meant to be hidden outdoors

05/19/2012 7:12 AM

05/19/2012 7:12 AM

Art pottery made by Weller is a favorite among collectors. The company made art pottery in Zanesville, Ohio, from 1893 to 1948.

From the 1920s to the 1940s, Weller also made less sophisticated pottery for the yard called Garden Ware. Stone-colored birdbaths, sprinklers, fountains, toadstool seats, sundials and urns were available.

Large, colorful Garden Ware figures were the most unusual. They were made in several sizes: 4, 7 1/2, 10 and 18 inches. Lifelike dogs, roosters, birds, cats, rabbits, pelicans, ducks, frogs and squirrels were produced, along with humorous frogs, gnomes and unusual “Pop Eye” dogs.

All of these figures were made to be half-hidden among plants, a surprise to be glimpsed from a garden path.

Many of the figures were created by Dorothy England Laughead. She worked at Weller Pottery from 1925 to 1960.

Today a 4-inch Coppertone frog sells for about $300 and a 4-inch Pop Eye dog for $300, but a 19-inch “Gnome on Tree Trunk” is worth more than $5,000.

Most Garden Ware has cracks and chips from living outdoors, but minor damage does not change the price very much.

Q: I recently saw an ad for new Bauer pottery. Pieces shown in the ads were in solid colors with molded rings. Is Bauer being reproduced?

A: Bauer pottery was originally made by J.A. Bauer Pottery Co. from 1885 to 1962. After the factory closed, the molds were destroyed.

In 1998 Janek Boniecki, a collector, began making new Bauer under the name “Bauer Pottery Co. of Los Angeles.” Original colors are used, and the molds are made from pieces of original Bauer pottery.

A plaster model of an original piece is made about 8 percent to 10 percent larger so that the finished piece will be the correct size after it shrinks. Then a master mold, which is known as the block-and-case, is made from the plaster model. Production molds or dies are made from the master mold.

About 150 different pieces of new Bauer have been produced. Pieces are now being made in Highland, Calif.

New Bauer pottery is marked “Bauer Pottery 2000 Highland USA.” Pieces are sold in gift stores and through online catalogs. To see the complete line, check the company’s website, BauerPottery.com.

Q: I was given a four-piece set of patio chairs by a family friend who said the set originally came from an old motel in Miami Beach, Fla. I have been trying to decide if I should restore the chairs or sell them. The metal frames have some rust and several of the chairs’ vinyl straps are missing. The straps are fastened onto prongs on the frame. I have yet to find anyone who has ever heard of prong connections for straps, and everyone I have asked thinks the set is very old. Is there any way to find the age and value of these chairs?

A: Old lawn furniture doesn’t sell for high prices unless it’s marked with the name of a famous designer or maker. It’s probably not worth the time and money it would take to restore it. The rust must be sanded or scraped off the metal frames. Then the frames should be painted with a rust-preventative base coat and a finishing coat of paint.

In order to consider restoring the chairs, you would have to find a source for new straps. You can buy vinyl strips in various lengths, but it might be difficult to cut the kind of holes needed to fit around the prongs on your chairs. In order to avoid sagging straps, the vinyl strips have to be cut 10 percent to 15 percent shorter than the actual measurement needed. Then the vinyl has to be boiled briefly to make it pliable enough to be stretched to fit the frame. Vinyl tightens as it cools. If you can find the supplies and do the work, you still have chairs that will be very hard to sell.

Q: What are the fancy decorations and handles on silver trays made of?

A: If the tray is sterling silver, its handles probably are sterling. The handles on silver-plated trays are often made of spelter, Britannia metal or another low-grade metal and then plated when the rest of the tray is plated.

Be careful. We know of someone who put a silver tray in the oven to keep food warm. The heat melted the handles and they fell off.

Q: I would like to know how to clear the water in old snow domes. The water in mine has gotten very cloudy.

A: The liquid would have to be replaced. There are a few repair services that will do it, or you can attempt to do it yourself. But it’s difficult.

Hold the snow dome upside down before you try to separate the top from the bottom. If it’s glued together, you may be able to soften the glue first by immersing the snow dome in hot water.

Snow domes with black plastic bases or brown pottery bases made in the 1930s and 1940s were held in place by plaster of Paris, which can be carefully chipped away. Domes with new shiny black plastic bases, black pottery bases (1940s), or cobalt blue bases (1920s) cannot be opened unless they have a threaded base, and very few did.

If you can open yours, pour the original liquid through a cloth so that the “snow” is separated from the liquid. Use distilled water to refill the dome. Adding about 1/2 teaspoon of glycerin to the water will make the “snow” fall more slowly.

Snow domes should not be stored in the dark. Exposure to light keeps the liquid clear. But don’t keep them in direct sunlight. The glass can magnify light rays and may start a fire.

Tip: A diamond ring is durable but not indestructible. Don’t wear it when using chlorine bleach that can discolor the mounting. Have a jeweler see it once a year to check for loose prongs or worn mountings.

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