In the world of art porcelain it was almost unheard-of for studios to give credit to the individual artists who actually created the sculptures; there was an almost universal policy of ‘forced anonymity.’ Normally the only name that appeared on a studio’s output was that of the studio itself, typically that of its founder or the chosen corporate name. On rare occasions the name of their marquee designer might appear, but as for any of the other people responsible for a sculpture? They were invisible to the public.
Connoisseur of Malvern was a unique and welcome exception to this unwritten industry rule. Diane and Terry Lewis believed that the artists and craftspeople who produced these works of art should be acknowledged not only in a general sense but on each individual piece as well. This was accomplished with a marvelous array of symbols chosen by the artists themselves. Every person who had a hand (literally!) in creating an individual sculpture would ‘sign’ that piece with their own personal icon. Certain of the designers had a namestamp instead, and a few utilized both depending on what their actual contribution to a given piece was.
The backstamp on the Connoisseur pieces produced by the original studio includes either three or four artist icons and often the designer’s name as well. There will be an icon belonging to the mouldmaker, caster or caster/assembler, flowermaker (if any) and painter – typically in that order, from left to right. The section below identifies all of the icons that have been positively identified thus far, plus those whose craftsman-identity is unknown to me. This is an ongoing project and I would be most grateful to my readers for help in identifying the unknowns; there is a direct-contact form at the bottom of the About the Archive page.
It’s my hope that with an eventually-complete artist iconography it will be possible to fully credit the artists that created every sculpture that the original studio produced. (Note that Diane Lewis Chance sculptures and plaques do not include icons because these were created after the original studio was sold.)
These icons have been taken directly from actual backstamp images, and enlarged for clarity.
Additional artists whose icons are not known/shown above were:
Sue Redding, paintress
Jeff Sanders, mouldmaker
Ingrid Pope, paintress
Fred Brewer, mouldmaker
A very few backstamps have five icons, as in this one on a Bugaku:
(Tony Orton mouldmaker, Peter Waltham caster, Mark Farmer as assembler, Joyce Calvesbert, unknown painter)
and Edna Hibel Rose:
This is one example where the icons seem to be slightly out of sequence. The D (possibly for Darren Eacock) as mouldmaker, followed by Mark Farmer as caster, is typical, but the third icon is Tracy Walmsley’s who is usually seen in the painter position. Then comes Mark Hodgkiss, kiln technician, whose icon one would expact to see following that of Mark Farmer. Perhaps these two decal positions were accidentally transposed during application. The final (milk-bottle?) icon is that of an unknown painter.
Almost all of the in-house designers at Connoisseur were designated in the backstamps via their actual name rather than with an icon. However, some wore “two hats”, so to speak, in that they not only designed certain pieces but helped to physically produce them. Diane Lewis was the studio’s director and its major floral designer but she was also a flowermaker; if she actually formed the flowers on an individual retail sculpture that she designed, her flower icon will appear on that backstamp as well as her name. Likewise, Aileen Burton was also a flowermaker and designer. Freda Griffiths was a painter but she also designed a series of botanical plaques and so her name appears in full on those backstamps.
To date, I have “dual markings” (full name as well as an icon) for only those three people: Diane Lewis, Aileen Burton, and Freda Griffiths. Wendy Collins went from having a W icon as flowermaker to her married name of W(endy) Green as a designer. This doesn’t mean that the none of the other designers had an icon as well – only that at this moment I do not know what it may have been. Again, further information would be most welcome.
It’s not known whether all of the Connoisseur designers had three different “name format” stamps (signature reproduction, full spelled out, and initial/surname) as in the Diane Lewis examples. The images below represent the formats that I have thus far found on backstamps. It’s possible that each designer did have at least two namestamp formats but equally possible that they may have had only one. Examples will be updated here as needed.
As displayed below: Diane M. Lewis, Richard Sefton, Aileen Burton, Freda Griffiths, Robert (Bob) Russell, Christopher Ashenden, Richard Roberts, W(endy) Green.
It is indeed heartwarming to see that the talent, skill, and dedication of porcelain artists were permanently acknowledged despite the prevailing reluctance within the porcelain industry to do so. The studio expressed it best in the ‘Craftsman’s Marks’ key that they printed during the studio’s first decade:
Connoisseur is proud of the skill and experience of its team of craftsmen. In recognition of this, every model bears the name of the designer and the special symbol of each craftsman who has helped to create it.
And a very well-deserved recognition it is, indeed!
Images of Connoisseur of Malvern porcelain sculptures herein are provided for informational and educational purposes only, not for reproduction, resale or advertising. All photographs are copyrighted by their owner as indicated via watermark. Photographs with a Connoisseur watermark originally appeared within their copyrighted publications and appear here via the kind permission of Connoisseur of Malvern, Ltd.