Beverly Sills, Boehm made in England, Boehm of Malvern, Boehm porcelain, Bohem Roses of the Rainbow, Connoisseur of Malvern, Cranleigh Art Ceramics, David Fuller, Diane Lewis, Freda Griffiths, Sandy Griffiths
It’s extremely likely that most collectors of Boehm porcelain have absolutely no idea about that studio’s close connection with Diane Lewis…. despite the fact that by the late 1970s almost 50% of all Boehm-branded porcelain sculptures on the retail market were being produced under her auspices. Why has this vital partnership been virtually unknown?
Part of the blame can be assigned to the only comprehensive book about Boehm porcelain: The Porcelain Art of Edward Marshall Boehm written by Reese Palley and first published in 1976 (the late 1980s reprint does not contain all of the original’s material.) This is the only Boehm book that includes the output of their British studio; but I’m getting a bit ahead of myself, so let’s backtrack.
In 1970 Helen Boehm, widow of Edward Boehm who had died the year before, was looking to expand the operation of their single New Jersey-based studio and establish a satellite studio in England. As Palley’s book describes it, the work of a small new studio named Cranleigh Art Ceramics came to her attention; according to him, the studio was owned by “two young men named Terry Lewis and Rick Lewis” (no relation, by the way.) For some reason he totally neglected to mention the existence of the third owner/designer/partner in Cranleigh: Diane Lewis, Terry’s wife. Even though Pally gave Terry and Rick very short shrift – they are only mentioned twice in the book’s 312 pages – the complete omission of Diane Lewis is, frankly, indefensible.
Helen Boehm struck a deal with Diane, Terry and Rick Lewis to acquire Cranleigh and establish it as a new corporation named Boehm of Malvern England Ltd. The facility was located on Tanhouse Lane in the village of Malvern, in Worcestershire. This letterhead dating from the 1970s contains Terry Lewis’ name as a managing director but inexplicably does not also display Diane Lewis’ name as the art director.
The first retail sculptures produced by the new Boehm of Malvern studio appeared in 1971 and represented three genres: flowers (Diane Lewis’ particular specialty), birds, and animals. That first year’s output comprised 12 limited and five non-limited editions in all. Before the end of the decade, approximately one-half of all Boehm sculptures produced would emanate from the studio operating under the Lewis’ artistic leadership even though their names never appeared on a single piece of Boehm of Malvern porcelain.
Perhaps this was one reason why Diane and Terry Lewis decided to part company with the Boehm organization and establish their own studio, Connoisseur of Malvern, in early 1979. (This is pure conjecture on my part, but in my view would be perfectly understandable!) The exact date on which the departure took place is unknown but logic suggests it was sometime during 1978. However, due to the typical lead-time in the design and production of art porcelain sculptures it’s certain that any pieces released during 1978 – and probably the majority of those introduced in 1979 as well – were designed under Diane Lewis’ aegis at Boehm.
At some point during the 1970s the original studio was relocated to a new facility on Howsell Road; it’s unclear whether this building was still in Malvern or was in the adjoining village of Malvern Link. In 1975 another building was acquired at the other end of Howsell Road; this was used for the production of limited edition plates and plaques. Diane Lewis remained in the studio dedicated to the porcelain figurines, however.
The Difference Between Boehm USA and Boehm of Malvern Porcelain
In addition to the visible difference (via backstamps) between the products of the New Jersey and Malvern Boehm studios, there is also a difference in the actual porcelain material (“slip”) that was used. The American studio worked in hard-paste porcelain, while the Malvern studio used – with very few exceptions which will be noted below – bone porcelain, typically referred to as “fine bone china” in the UK. The Malvern studio did experiment for a short while with the ‘Trenton hardpaste’ formula for several pieces, almost all of which were introduced in 1975. According to Palley’s book, it was used for only three limited-edition studies and 20 open editions, almost all of which were animals or birds.
The backstamp of the Malvern-studio sculptures shows the Boehm horse head positioned above a crown. In contrast, products of the USA studio have a feather there instead. Pieces from the Lewis era are typically also marked “Made in England”, but not all of the late 1980s or 1990s pieces include that designation. Most Malvern backstamps also say either “bone porcelain” or “bone china.” Most of the Trenton-hardpaste studies simply say “Porcelain” but that is not an infallible indication of the material that was used; some bone porcelain pieces are marked that way as well.
A sample of the sculptures produced by Boehm of Malvern during the Diane Lewis era appears below, with an almost-complete text list at the end of each genre section….”almost complete” because I am missing a few names to go with the design numbers. On my personal blog (The Chatsworth Lady) I’ve recently begun a new series about “Lost Porcelain Studios” which in the future will chronicle the Boehm of Malvern studio’s output in greater detail. However, because the launch and successful rise of the studio was due in such large part to Diane Lewis, I am beginning that journey on this site. Please note that because these sculptures were produced under the Boehm of Malvern brand, none of these appear on this site’s Connoisseur of Malvern Index page.
The design number format at Boehm of Malvern was forthright and easy. All limited edition birds began with the number 100-, and all nonlimited ones with 200- (although not in strict order, because open-edition flowers and animals also began with 200.)
My last limited-edition bird study example is one that was created, announced to the public as a 1975 release, but then never actually produced for retail. Titled Crossbills with Beech, it is 13″ x 13″ (33cm x 33cm) and was given design # 100-23. Because it was never actually produced for sale, that design number was reassigned to an entirely different bird study, Rivoli’s Hummingbird with Hibiscus, that was released the following year.
The upper photo shows Diane Lewis working on Jenny Wren, the very first nonlimited edition bird study released by Boehm of Malvern (1971). It was given design # 200-1.
The second open-edition bird was the Cuckoo (Young Female), in 1972. This piece was the first retail trial using the Trenton hardpaste formula; you can immediately see the difference in the mold design and especially the delicate flowers which appear in Jenny Wren but are entirely lacking in the hardpaste mold’s design.
Unfortunately none of the open editions have introduction years on them, and Palley’s book stops at 1976; as a result I do not have an issue year for the adorable Saw Whet Owl although his design number (200-38) puts him squarely into the Diane Lewis era at Boehm. I’d say that 1977 is a good bet. He stands just over 6″ (15.25cm) tall.
An educated, reasonable guesstimate of the cutoff dates/design numbers for the Diane Lewis-era designs from Boehm of Malvern is probably between 100-25 and 100-30 for the limiteds and around 200-65 for the open editions. This assumes that all of the 1978 retail introductions as well as at least some of the 1979 ones fall into that category.
I also have numbers but not the corresponding piece names for the following twelve open edition numbers, which could be either a bird, flower, or human study: 200-37, 200-41, 200-42, 200-43, 200-47, 200-48, 200-52, 200-57, 200-58, 200-59, and 200-60. If/when I find any of these I will add them to the proper list.
That said, here is the list of Diane Lewis era Boehm of Malvern birds by design number, with introduction year in parenthesis where confirmed. An asterisk following the name indicates that the piece was cast in Trenton Hardpaste rather than in bone porcelain.
Limited Edition Birds: 100-1 Nuthatch with Fly Agaric (1971); 100-2 Little Owl (1971); 100-3 Winter Robin (1971): 100-4 Goldcrest (1972); 100-5 Barn Owl (1972); 100-6 Black Grouse (1972); 100-7 Tree Creepers on Eldertree with Mistletoe, (1972); 100-8 Blue Tits with Apple Blossom (1973); 100-9 Yellowhammers with Hawthorn (1973); 100-10 Screech Owl (1973); 100-11 Long Tailed Tits with Gorse (1973); 100-12 Peregrine (1973); 100-13 Blackbirds with Cherry Blossom pair (1973); 100-14 Lapwing with Dandelions (1973): 100-15 Green Woodpeckers with Morning Glories (1973); 100-16 Song Thrushes on Crab Apple (1974); 100-17 Stonechats with Blackberry and Brambles (1974); 100-18 Crested Tit with Kerria Japonica (1974); 100-19 Swallows with Marsh Marigolds and Reeds (1974); 100-20 Chaffinch with Double Cherry (1974); 100-21 Ruby Throated Hummingbird with Crocus and Forsythia (1974); 100-22 European Goldfinch (1975); 100-23 retail piece Rivoli’s Hummingbird (1976); 100-24 Kingfishers (1976); 100-25 Siskins with Clematis (1978). The Grey Wagtail with Wild Arum may have been a 1978 or 1979 piece; its design number is unknown at present.
Open Edition Birds: 200-1 Jenny Wren (1971); 200-7 Cuckoo* (1972); 200-10 Peregrine* fledgling (1974); 200-11 Gentoo Penguins* fledglings (1975); 200-13 Baby Puffin* (1973); 200-16 was never assigned to a retail piece, as per Palley’s book; 200-17 Common Tern* fledgling (1974); 200-18 Bonaparte’s Gulls* fledglings (1975); 200-19 Blue Heron* fledgling (1975); 200-21 Bridled Titmouse* (1975); 200-22 Chestnut Backed Chickadee* (1975); 200-23 Carolina Wren with Mushroom* (1975); 200-30 Tree Sparrow with Japonica (1975); 200-31 Pied Wagtail* (1975); 200-38 Saw Whet Owl; 200-39 Robin with Snowdrops; 200-40 Pied Flycatcher with Broom; 200-45 Linnet with Gentians; 200-46 Redstart with Hazel; 200-49 Willow Warbler with Pussywillow; 200-50 Marsh Tit with Periwinkle; 200-51 Firecrest with Larch; 200-54 Great Tit With Common Daisies; 200-63 Wren with Campanula.
This category is where the personal talent and artistry of Diane Lewis really shines. Several of the Boehm floral studies foreshadow those which she later designed at Connoisseur of Malvern. The design numbers of the limited edition florals all begin with the number 300, while the open editions share the 200-range with the birds and animals.
Oddly enough, the very first Boehm of Malvern floral piece was a rather atypical one and was a combination of the flower and bird genre! However, its design number (300-1) puts it in the flower category. The Swan Centerpiece is filled with peonies and while only 6″ (15.25cm) high is an impressive 22″ (almost 56 cm) long. Produced in 1971-1974, the declared edition of 350 was terminated after only 133 were made; the problem proven to be insurmountable fragility in transit to retailers. It’s said that this piece was a Helen Boehm suggestion and that the idea for the design did not originate with the directors of the new studio.
Another ambitious piece that proved – in Palley’s words – “impossible to ship” was Sweet Viburnum, whose announced edition of 350 was reduced by 90% ….production was halted after slightly more than a single year (1971-72). It was 12″ high x 13″ wide (30.5cm x 33cm). It’s not known whether the apparaent small cluster of flowers at the front edge of the base was intentional (by design) or evidence of damage. Because this appears to be a stock photo, the odds are that it was supposed to be there.
Another design/shipping lesson learned the hard way in 1971 was Chrysanthemum and Bamboo, another one-year-only design that was terminated because of its high fatality rate in transit. This was an even larger ‘gutting’ of the declared edition, which went from 350 to only five. I’d be very surprised if any of the five survive intact today. Measurements are (were) 9″ x 12″. (23cm x 30.5cm) This was the first instance of a design number being reassigned to a subsequent piece; its number, 300-5, was also used for its replacement design which is shown below.
Chrysanthemum with Butterfly, replacing the ill-fated “…with Bamboo”, appeared in 1972 shortly after its predecessor was officially cancelled. It is very slightly smaller than its predecessor and was optimistically given an edition size of 350. Four years later (1976) the studio had produced 260 of them, so it seems likely that the issue was completed. The butterfly depicted is the Clouded Swallowtail. Palley’s book mentions that each of the chrysanthemums contains between 80 and 90 individually handmade petals.
This 1973 study is known by two names depending on the source. Palley’s book lists it as being named Streptocalyx poeppigii (quite the tongue-twister!) but it’s possible that the backstamp – of which I have no photo – may read Butterfly with Red Yucca Cactus. By any name this piece must have been a nightmare to produce, pack and ship, and it is rarely found intact today. Composed of more than 600 individual pieces, its announced edition of 200 was cut to only 50 before the issue was closed in 1976.
The 1976 Magnolia Grandiflora with Monarch Butterfly is the only floral study the Malvern studio produced in the Trenton hardpaste material. The substantial petals and leaves would have lent themselves to experimentation with that material, although the butterfly’s feet and antennae were no doubt crafted in softpaste. This was a rather large limited edition at 750 and, judging by examples that have been offered for sale, almost 600 were definitely produced.
Open edition flowers during the Lewis era seem to have numbered slightly more than twenty. Four are shown here.
The first open edition floral (and second open edition overall, being design # 200-2) was the Betty Sheffield Supreme Camellia in 1971. See the Flowers Part Two post for a comparison with the more elaborate study that was produced later by Connoisseur of Malvern.
Iceberg Rose was originally named “Bridal Rose” in its initial 1971 advertising. It was only produced for two years. This is not the same sculpture as the “Iceberg Rose” that was produced during the 1990s by the Trenton studio.
This elegant single stem is called simply Blue Iris and was a 1972 introduction.
The Roses of the Rainbow series is another case of the original 1970s Malvern studio pieces being re-issued in later years by the New Jersey operation, but unlike the Iceberg Rose(s) those were produced from the exact same molds as the originals. The Malvern pieces appeared in the late 1970s (probably 1978 although like all Boehm open editions the stamp is undated) and differ only in flower color. The mold/design number is 200-55 followed by a letter suffix denoting the color: W for white, R for red, B for blue, S for salmon, and M for mauve. There is also a Peace Rose version, with suffix PE, and Tropicana with suffix T (third and fourth photos.) There’s room for confusion regarding the design numbers because although the majority are marked 200-55, there was also a red version from the same mold but designated as 200-53. It may be that this design number was a trial balloon of sorts before committing to the multiple-colorway format.
Limited Edition Flowers: 300-1 Swan Centerpiece (1971); 300-2 Yellow Daisies (1971);300-3 Cornus nuttalli Dogwood (1971); 300-4 Sweet Viburnum (1971-72 only); 300-5 (first usage) Chrysanthemum and Bamboo (1971-72 only); 300-5 (second usage) Chrysanthemum with Butterfly (1972); 300-6 Streptocalyx poeppigii/Butterfly on Red Yucca Cactus (1973); 300-7 Double Peony (1974); 300-8 Debutante Camellia with Viburnum (1974); 300-9 Gentians with Butterfly (1974); 300-10 Blue Waterlily with Swamp Fly, (1974); 300-11 Emmett Barnes Camellia II (1975); 300-12 Magnolia Grandiflora with Monarch Butterfly * (1975); 300-13 Swan Lake Camellia (1976); 300-14 Queen of Night Cactus (1976); 300-15 Orchid Cactus (1976); 300-16 Supreme Peace Rose (1976); 300-17 Supreme Yellow Rose (1976); 300-19 Helen Boehm Iris (1978); 300-20 Helen Boehm Daylily (1978); 300-21 Pink Lotus (1978); 300-22 Tropicana Rose (1978); 300-23 Edward Boehm Camellia (1978); 300-24 Pascali Rose with Freesias (1978); 300-25 Helen Boehm Camellia (1978); 300-26 unknown piece not mentioned in Palley book; 300-27 Double Clematis Centerpiece (1978); 300-28 Rose, Blue Moon (1978); 300-29 Spanish Iris (1978); 300-30 Rhododendron fastuosum with Butterfly (1978); 300-31 Watsonii Magnolia (1978); 300-33 Cactus Dahlia (1979)
Open Edition Flowers: 200-2 Betty Sheffield Supreme Camellia (1971); 200-3 Malvern Rose (1971-72 only); 200-4 Iceberg Rose (1971-72 only); 200-5 Yellow Rose, sometimes called Tea Rose (1971-72 only); 200-6 Queen’s Masterpiece Rose (1972); 200-8 Peace Rose stem (1972); 200-9 Iris, Blue (1972);200-12 Pat Nixon Camellia (1972); 200-14 Single Peony (1973); 200-15 Double Peony (1973 only): 200-20 Emmett Barnes Camellia II, open edition version of #300-11 (1975); 200-25 Pink Rose stem (1975); 200-26 Blue Poppy stem (1975); 200-27 Pink Rose Bud stem (1975); 200-28 Pussywillow stem, 13.75″ long (1975); 200-29 Pussywillow stem, 11″ long (1975); 200-34 Peace Rose stem (1976); 200-35 Pink Perfection Camellia (1976); 200-53 unidentified red rose; 200-55 Roses of the Rainbow series (probably 1978); 200-56 rose blossom in different color options as per suffix, different mold than Roses of the Rainbow (1979)
Animals and People
The Lewis-era Boehm studio also created a number of animal and human studies. The first venture into the animal kingdom was a series of four limited editions called the Moments in Nature series. All introduced in 1971, they have their own design number range which is unique to this series.
The animal studies returned in 1973 with The Nyala, launching a new series called Endangered Animals and also a new design number range as 500-1. This large piece is 20″ high and almost 17″ wide. (60cm x 43cm)
One of the final animal studies of the Lewis era was Bengal Tiger in Momentum, issued in Spring 1979. This massive piece, 16″ (40.5cm) high, 37″ (94cm) long and 15.25″ (38.75cm) wide, was a declared edition of only 25. It’s not known how many were actually produced. A contemporary advertisement from Brielle Galleries, from which this photo was scanned, said only “price upon request.”
The Malvern studio created only seven human studies during the Lewis era and their designer is not known. Five of the seven belong to the same 1975 series depicting children and which was titled “Growing Up.” Their design numbers run from 700-1 to 700-5.
I have a tiny bit of personal history with The Paintress. At that time I was starting to collect Cybis porcelain (Connoisseur of Malvern being a mere glimmer in the Lewis family’s eye at that time) and my local retailer also had the Paintress on display. I was intrigued by her and dithered over whether to purchase her or another Cybis piece. Not being able to afford both, I went back and forth and ultimately decided to concentrate on Cybis instead. Of course when I went back later that year the store had sold out of the Paintress and was not planning to acquire any more. If I had known as much then as I do know about the Malvern studio, my initial decision would have been different!
Originally there were to have been six in the Growing Up series, the last piece to have been called Waiting Patiently which was produced as a proof and given design 700-6. However, it was never released and that number was eventually reassigned.
No additional human studies were issued by the Malvern studio until 1977, with the start of a proposed new series called “Divas and Dons” based on famous opera singers. Only two were made, however; 700-6 (the number of the cancelled Growing Up piece) which was of Beverly Sills, and 700-7 which was Jerome Hines. One recently sold Beverly Sills was numbered 87 but no other information is known about these other than this photo of the one that was presented to the singer herself; the plaque reads “Beverly Sills as ‘Manon’, Metropolitan Opera Ball, March 19, 1977”. The series went no further and in later years the Trenton studio appropriated the 700 number range for various home décor items produced in the USA, starting with 700-8.
Limited Edition Animals: 400-1 Bobcats (1971); 400-2 Raccoons (1971); 400-3 Foxes (1971); 400-4 Red Squirrels (1971); 500-1 The Nyala (1973); 500-2 Puma* (1975); 500-3 Giant Panda (1975): 500-4 Otter * (1976); 500-5 American Mustangs (1976); 500-6 African Elephant with Calf (1978); 500-7 Snow Leopard (1978); 500-8 Mountain Gorilla (1978); 500-9 Arabian Camel and Calf (1978); 500-10 unknown piece from 1978; 500-11 Black Rhinoceros (1978); 500-12 European Fallow Deer (1979); 500-13 Bengal Tiger in Momentum (1979)
Open Edition Animals: 200-24 Bengal Tiger Cub*, either with or without a butterfly (1975); 200-32 Painted Turtle* (1975); 200-33 Fawn* (1975); 200-35 Rabbit* (1975); 200-44 African Elephant (possibly 1976 or 1977); 200-62 Black Rhino Calf (probably 1978)
Growing Up series (all 1975): 700-1 Melon Boy*, 700-2 The Truant*, 700-3 True Love*, 700-4 The Paintress*, 700-5 Dreamaway*.
Limited(?) Edition people: 700-6 Beverly Sills as Manon; 700-7 Jerome Hines as Boris Gudonov. Both 1977.
The actual year in which the Boehm of Malvern studio stopped producing sculptures is a bit murky but it appears to have occurred sometime during the early 1990s. In any case, the Diane Lewis era at Boehm seems to have ended with their 1979-1980 retail introductions.
At least three of the artists who worked for Diane at the Boehm studio followed her to Connoisseur: David Fuller, Freda Griffiths and her daughter Sandy Griffiths. All were very talented painters and had examples of one of a kind handpainted plaques in a major exhibit of that genre in 1975. Thanks to the artist icon system at Connoisseur of Malvern, sculptures and plaques painted by Freda and Sandy can be readily identified: Freda’s icon is a trowel and Sandy’s is a wide horseshoe (U) shape. See also the special series of plaques that Freda designed exclusively for the Fort Royal Galleries in Worcester, shown within the Botanical Plaques post. Mr. Fuller only worked for Connoisseur for a relatively short time; his artist icon while there is unknown.