Have you been wondering about the history of a favorite Arts and Crafts Antique or who might have been the maker of your latest find? Do you need to know how to care for a damaged finish or what to look for when buying early-20th-century pottery, furniture, metalwares or other collectibles?
Expert David Rudd is American Bungalow’s knowledgeable guide into the fascinating and often confusing world of antiques. Send your questions and photos to email@example.com and share your find with other readers. We look forward to hearing from you.
David Rudd is president of the Arts and Crafts Society of Central New York and owner of Dalton’s American Decorative Arts in Syracuse; visit his shop at daltons.com. The opinions expressed in this column are David’s own.
From Issue 78, Summer 2013:
Q. This small vase (7″ tall) was given to us by a member of our congregation who is now in her nineties. She had received it as a wedding present, and after seeing our Limbert furniture, kindly gave it to us. Since our Limbert was my grandparents’ wedding furniture, this gift was an especially wonderful addition to our collection. Can you tell us anything about it?
Rev. Ron Patterson
Nice pot. As the mark on the bottom indicates, this was produced by the Weller Pottery Co. (1872–1948) in the Zanesville, Ohio, area. The mark was incised by hand and used from about 1927 to the early 1930s. This line, named Velva, was produced in a mold and hand painted. Interesting note: in her Weller Pottery, Sharon Huxford states that “… Velva, as even the company sales lists refer to it, is spelled ” Velvo” on its paper label.” Note that when collecting molded pottery, if you like a crisp sharp example, keep in mind that the later the production, the softer the lines. Molds wear down with use.
Q. I found this table for less than $100 at a local antiques store. I bought it as a recreation project, not really knowing anything about it except that it resembled an L. and J. G. Stickley piece I had seen in the 1989 book, The Mission Furniture of L. & J. G. Stickley (published by Turn of the Century Editions). Paging through the book, I found that No. 380 was very similar, except that its legs protrude through the top. The leather top of my table is completely gone except for
Your assessment that your table is not a product of any of the Stickley companies is correct. It’s hard to say who produced it, since many companies were copying Stickley designs. It does have the “look,” however, and can be restored. the skirt, with real brass tacks. The wooden top is 1/4-inch-thick quartersawn oak plus another 1-1/4 inch for the skirt. The tenons of both the upper and lower cross members appear to be mortised, but the “through” tenon is actually an applied stub. The legs are laminated out of two pieces. There are remnants of a yellow or cream-colored paper label. You can see that there is some quartersawn and some flat-sawn oak. I believe it is not a real Stickley but a knockoff, but before I do anything to it I thought I would ask your opinion. I will not be disappointed if you agree.
As you astutely observed, tenons are not always what they seem. If the grain of a “protruding” tenon runs parallel with the grain of the leg, the tenon is applied. But more often than not, a copycat manufacturer will apply a piece of wood so that its grain runs perpendicular to that of the leg in order to make it appear authentic. To identify such a tenon as applied, you would have to look closely at the grain of both the tenon and the opposing stretcher for a grain match.
Let’s say you are at an auction house or barn, and you spot a table with keyed tenons. The lighting is dim, and you don’t have a flashlight with you. In order to test it, you would need to try to slip a business card, credit card or other thin piece of stiff material behind all corners of the protruding tenon. If you can slide it behind the protrusion, it’s applied. If not, it’s worth taking a closer look.
Q. I purchased this chair in a local resale shop. The cushion has been recovered in a synthetic-leather-like material with what seems to be extra padding and foam, making it a bit too high to sit on comfortably. But, without it, I fear the wood “box” that contains the coils will be uncomfortable at the edge. The chair has no breaks or cracks and no markings at all. Please help me decide its background, age and how the seat should be restored based on the original.
Glen Ellyn, Ill.
Interesting find. After looking at the photos of your chair, I believe it’s homemade. This wouldn’t be unusual, as there were many furniture plans published for do-it-yourselfers in a variety of publications. For example, Gustav Stickley published plans for his “Craftsman” furniture in his publication, The Craftsman (1900–1916) while Popular Mechanics Handbooks produced a three-part series, Mission Furniture, How to Make It, written by Henry Haven Windsor and published around 1912.
There are a few details that lead me to the conclusion that this is a DIY project. The “tenon” coming through the arm is actually a cap on top of the arm (if you look closely, you can see running grain instead of end grain). There are other indicators, as well: the use of straight-grain wood, the way the seat is braced and the lack of a curve to the back are all traits of the home woodworker.
Let’s look at the upholstery. We do quite a bit of upholstery work in my shop, and this may be the most unique method I have seen. It’s not a very practical configuration, because as the springs soften with use, one would sink lower and lower into the box; that’s just not comfortable. I would probably abandon this method for one more commonly used, such as a wide jute-webbed flat-frame. Springs and an edge wire can be attached to the flat frame; a simple piece of foam topped with Dacron batting to soften the look would also work. For standard seat height, the top of the finished seat should be between 17″ and 18″ from the floor. This could then be covered with any material that suits your style.
Q. I recently acquired a vase similar to the buttress form that Karl Kipp is known for. The hammering and dimensions match what I have seen in my online research. The only difference is that my vase is square and has no markings. It is heavy-gauge copper with a beautiful patina that looks original.
Over the years, I have heard of and seen a few of what the Roycroft Shops called the “Egyptian Flower-Holder.” All have been round with square-stock buttresses, and all but one were unmarked by a maker. The marked example had a professional-looking hallmark, though the maker is unknown.
One of the first things I noticed with your vase is the use of rectangular instead of square stock for the buttresses. Every one I have handled has used square stock, even the unsigned examples. I then started looking through old Roycroft ads and Internet listings for another square vase, with no luck.
It was not unheard of for a home craftsperson to attempt to make objects like this. I have seen some pretty good things coming from do-it-yourselfers. Your vase is the perfect example of why we need continued research in the art, craft and ideals of the Arts and Crafts period.