Today's most famous designers often have the talent to create furniture, pottery, jewelry, paintings and even industrial items and architecture. Some 20th-century artists also are known for working in many fields.
Viktor Schreckengost, best known for his famous Cowan Pottery Jazz Bowl, also designed trucks, chairs, streetlights, fans, kitchen cupboards and a special World War II radar detection system.
Michael Graves has designed more than 350 buildings, including those for Disneyland, as well as kitchenware for Target, glass for Steuben, hospital rooms for patients — even the scaffolding used when the Washington Monument was restored.
Many 19th-century artists are also known for more than one talent. Emile Galle is best known for his Art Nouveau cameo glass. He took over the family glass and ceramics business in 1874 and at first created handmade cameo pieces. By 1894 he was making glass pieces using a less expensive acid-cutting method.
He also made Art Nouveau furniture that sold well in the 1890s and is selling well today.
Q: My mother wants to sell an old cabinetmaker's workbench my father used for about 55 years. It was given to him when it was a few years old, so it must be more than 60 years old. It's 33 inches high, 86 inches long and 24 inches deep. The top is made of rock maple, and I think the base is poplar. It includes a tool trough at the back and two vices, one at each end. The paper label identifying the maker still is attached to the bottom. It reads "Hammacher Schlemmer & Co." What price should my mother ask?
A: Hammacher Schlemmer is a retailer that has been based in New York City since 1848. It used to specialize in selling hardware and tools, but today it sells all sorts of things. Hammacher Schlemmer originally sold your mother's workbench — it did not manufacture it. It is easiest to sell a workbench as large as yours in your local area. Try Craigslist or the website of your local newspaper. You might be able to sell it for close to $1,000.
Q: I have a Shawnee "Howdy Doody on a Pig" bank. It is 6 3/4 inches high. My father gave it to me in the 1950s, when I was a child. It has been on my bureau for more than 50 years. I just found out it may be rather rare. Is it valuable?
A: Your bank was one of many Howdy Doody collectibles made during the 1950s. The children's TV show featuring Howdy Doody and Buffalo Bob ran from 1947 to 1960. The characters became popular with college students in the late 1970s when Buffalo Bob (Bob Smith) began to lecture on campuses. Now that the baby boomers have grown up, they are collecting toys from their childhood. A Howdy Doody bank like yours sold at auction for $125 last year.
Q: I have a set of china pieces that belonged to my mother. The pieces are marked "Smith Phillips Semi Porcelain." The set includes a large pitcher and basin, a large covered urn, two smaller pitchers and a small covered bowl. The set has no cracks or chips, but the original chamber pot does not match the rest of the set. Can you tell me something about the company that made it and when it was made?
A: Many "wash" sets like yours were made before indoor plumbing was common. Since there was no running water, a pitcher, wash basin and chamber pot with a lid were kept on a washstand in the bedroom. A complete set could include a toothbrush holder, soap holder and other small items. Smith Phillips China Co. made toiletware, dinnerware and specialty items. The company was founded by Josiah T. Smith and William H. Phillips in East Liverpool, Ohio, in 1901. It became part of American Chinaware Corp. in 1929 and went out of business in 1931. Complete matched sets with six pieces sell for about $200 or more, depending on the pattern and maker.
Q: I'd like to know more about a bottle that has been in my family since the early 1900s and has always been referred to as a "Bristol bottle." It's made of light blue opaque glass decorated with raised flowers and garlands. The bottle is 7 inches high. There is a black mark on the bottom, but it's unreadable. Can you tell me something about it?
A: Bristol glass was first made in Bristol, England, in the late 1700s. It is similar to milk glass and has been made in several colors by factories in the area. Glass called "Bristol" also was made in other cities in England and in other countries. All of the original factories in Bristol were out of business by the 1920s, but modern Bristol glass is being made in the area today. The Bristol glass most often seen at auctions and shows today is a Victorian lightweight opaque glass that usually is blue. Your bottle is probably a toilet water bottle, perhaps part of a set. Value: $80 to $100.
Tip: The best defense against a burglary is a nosy neighbor.
(Cutline for May 22, 2011) Emile Galle is a famous maker of cameo glass, but he also made this pottery vase. The vase sold at auction this year for $2,185 at Hudson Valley Auctioneers in Beacon, N.Y.