Fans of James Clavell’s work will be familiar with his 1986 children’s story Thrump-O-Moto (The Little Samurai), but may not know that Connoisseur produced three limited edition studies based on the book and the George Sharp illustrations within it.
The story tells of Patricia, a young Australian girl with a physical disability, and her adventures with a small, elf-like trainee wizard named Thrump-O-Moto who appears one day in her world and – rather like E.T. – needs her help in order to return home to Japan. Patricia accompanies him and in gratitude he decides to find a way to help her, assisted by his family and some unexpected friends. Connoisseur portrayed two of the characters in porcelain.
Thrump-O-Moto is 7.5” (19 cm) high and was an edition of 200 designed by Richard Sefton, issued in 1986 at $775. He follows the George Sharp illustration both in decoration and pose; there is a wonderful sense of imminent motion as he prepares to draw his blade from its sheath, facing the evil monster Nurk-U who threatens his new friend Patricia.
This somewhat improbable fellow is named Charley Rednosebeerdrinker (for obvious reasons) and was designed by Richard Roberts. He too was an edition of 200, from 1986 at $775, and is 7” (17.75 cm) high. The book describes Charley as a
…rotund little man [who] came out from under a fallen tree, a beer mug in his hand, his long coat and tight trousers were patched and not very clean at all and his top hat was bent and busted and perched on his head. His eyes were twinkling eyes and his nose big and very red.
The yellow flowers are the magical Sunset Primroses whose essence is needed for the potion that will put Patricia on the road to recovery.
Unfortunately these are the only two characters that Connoisseur created. It would have been delightful to also have a study of Patricia, of Thrump-O-Moto’s elegant and serene mother Ka-chan or the wise Grandfather Ten. However, although not a sculpture, there was a third item in the series: a handpainted porcelain plaque.
This is a one-of-a-kind painting on porcelain by Sandy Griffiths, whose mother Freda Griffiths was also a Connoisseur artist. The overall (framed) size is 18.5” h x 13.75” w (47cm x 35 cm); the viewable area is 15” h x 10.5” w (38 cm x ~26.5 cm). As with all of the Connoisseur of Malvern plaques, already framed and with the backstamps visible through an opening in the wood ‘mount’. It was priced at $4750. The autograph shown is that of J.R. (Richard) Roberts who designed Charley.
The Asbury Park Press sent a reporter to cover the Brielle event, which was attended by members of the Connoisseur studio as well as James Clavell’s daughter (Mr. Clavell could not attend due to pressures of work.) According to the subsequent article,
“James was emotionally taken when he saw the piece,” Lewis said. “It’s exciting for any author to see his characters become three-dimensional.” But it was Clavell’s idea to do the characters from his children’s story. “He told us ahead of time he was doing a children’s book” Lewis said. “And he said it would be a good idea to do those characters. Our figurines help promote the book and the book helps promote the figurines.” Miss Clavell added, “It’s not his policy to have his characters reproduced like that but he made an exception in this case.”
These were not the only Clavell characters that Connoisseur of Malvern depicted; see The Sefton Equines for a view of the magnificent Shogun. Richard Sefton also designed Tai Pan which appears in the Human Studies post.
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