Events: 15th Anniversary - Hazle & Eric's Talk


15th Anniversary Event - 11th September 2005

This photo showing Hazle "on the sunny side of her street" first appeared in the Collect it! magazine feature A Month in the Life of Eric Knowles - September 2005. The picture was taken inside Talents of Windsor by owner Ricky Ghai before the event started.

Hazle

Hazle and Eric Knowles "In Conversation"

Held in the Sandringham Suite at The Castle Hotel on Windsor's High Street, coffee began at 11.30am with the talk between 12-1pm. Before the event members of the eGroup suggested questions. Marilyn posted this resume on 21st September.

Early Interest in Buildings

As Master of Ceremonies Stephen started by saying that Eric Knowles, the well-known television antiques presenter, was once member of a society for the preservation of vernacular architecture. Eric added that with his father being a structural engineer buildings had played an important part of his formative years. Eric trained as an engineer himself before joining Bonhams Auction House in 1976. Growing up in North East Lancashire he was surrounded by interesting architecture, especially castles. The family occasionally took trips into neighbouring Yorkshire where there were several important abbeys - after his father had arranged passports!

The joke about passports refers to The War of the Roses and other county rivalries...

Eric also studied architecture at school as it was part of the art curriculum. He regarded being able to recognise different building styles as “opening your eyes to what was around you”. People tend to walk past horrible frontages and not notice anything else but he has always said the past is still there - you just have to look up.

Funnily enough the gold sticker on Hazle’s Florist says a similar thing.

If you can see beyond Kentucky Fried Chicken in the square at Burslem (one of the six towns in Stoke-on-Trent) there is some great Georgian architecture. In the 1960s wonderful buildings were destroyed in the name of ‘white elephants’. Now the white elephants have been reduced to rubble because, although replacing things that lasted 200 years, they didn’t last 20. Eric said he was very keen on preserving our heritage. Asked by Hazle if he had used Bannister Fletcher’s book Comparative Architecture, he said it was more likely to have been The Observer Book of Architecture - considered lowbrow! He was also a fan of their volume on Natural History when a Boy Scout and had ruined his father’s biggest books by pressing flowers into the pages.


Event Ceramics

Hazle then started talking about the four Event Ceramics selected for discussion:

L’Objet D’Art LP50

Based on the new Cambridge Art Nouveau model, Hazle is painting all 50 ceramics, with certificates signed by herself and Eric. He had been in Cambridge just two days before, but didn't know the building. Hazle said that it was in a very European curvilinear style, that she had wanted to represent Art Nouveau artefacts, and had become passionate about the English Minton vase (on the far right). Eric asked to see this close-up and said it was a Secessionist piece: in the original Art Nouveau era, Minton had created ceramics in the Vienna Sezession style.

L'Objet D'Art La Belle Epoch
L'Objet D'Art
Event Piece LP50
La Belle Epoch
Event Piece LP50
La Belle Epoch LP50

This is on the Art Nouveau ceramic known as Fine Art Salerooom. The actual building called Glyn’s House is at 44 Old Bond Street, London. Again Eric had never seen it, but as it was near his accountant he would be sure to look it up. When Hazle was considering what to model for a particular Trade Fair someone said, “Do the building that will give you most pleasure”. Hazle immediately knew this was the one. The model had been taken “out of mothballs” for the event but nothing else would be painted on it.

Hazle explained that La Belle Epoch sold Art Nouveau prints, which were prolifically produced during the period. Much of the artwork was European but the enthusiastic adoption of this new style by illustrators is said to have been influenced by a British poster about Wren’s City Churches. So she just had to put that in - it is held by the boy on the ground floor. Some posters on the ceramic are by Alfons Mucha and Eric was familiar with his work. He spoke of another Mucha print similar to Hazle’s on the first floor portraying a languorous lady. Ironically she was advertising cigarette papers and the fact that she rolled her own! Eric’s said that the expression on her face indicated she was smoking something stronger than Woodbines. That got another big laugh.

Portraying the female form is typically Art Nouveau. Eric had first assumed that, with all the women in the windows, this building must be from Amsterdam (notorious for its red-light district). There was a lot of laughter and someone shouted, “Have you been there?” to which Eric replied, “It's just a phase I’m going through.” Stephen suggested he see the original Fine Art Saleroom which depicted the nude "Rokeby Venus" by Velasquez. Eric thought he was safer sticking with this one...

Ye Olde Pork Pie Shoppe

Hazle gave some background on this historic bakery. Eric thought it was fascinating and said "it must be the highest calorie example of your work”. Hazle replied, “We do a lot of food.” Noting the Dickinson name on the piece, Eric said he was trying to persuade Hazle to paint one for his friend David Dickinson in an all-orange colourway...

David is an antiques presenter infamous for his perma-tanned complexion!

Village Antiques

Eric was surprised the ANTIQUES wording on the roof was so big and asked if the building was under a flight path. More laughter. Hazle replied that everything was these days. Stephen said there was a similar shop roof sign on the A14 (Coventry - Felixstowe).

Pork Pie Shop Village Antiques
Pork Pie Shop - Open Edition Village Antiques LM250


Discovering Hazle Ceramics

Stephen asked about Eric’s discovery at the NEC Giftware Fair in 2004. Eric said he was interested in collectables across the board, from Ancient Chinese to Bunnykins, and especially in what made people collect them. At a fair he usually passed by most things very quickly but when he first saw Hazle’s High Street there was “an immediacy about it that stopped me”. He thinks it was to do with his interest in buildings, “They literally just spoke to me.” He also said he was a "potaholic" implying that something non-ceramic would have less appeal. His baby brother is a property tycoon and the idea of owning more buildings than him was attractive too!

British Ceramics & Themes

Stephen asked if Hazle Ceramics being British-made was important in today’s market and Eric replied emphatically, “Yes, Yes, Yes”. Eric went on to say that so many British industries had gone by the wayside including mining and the cotton mills - with which his family once had a strong connection. Now he was watching Stoke-on-Trent, centre of The Potteries, go through “a very tricky time - a very tricky time”.

There was this new word he wanted to get right... “O-U-T-S-O-U-R-C-I-N-G which basically means, ‘We’re going to sack you and give your job to someone in China who’ll do it for a bowl of rice.’ Don’t be fooled by something like Royal Worcester which says “Printed in England”. Royal Doulton is also now outsourced “and I know the Americans don’t want it because they tell me. They want something made in England”. Hazle explained how her gold stickers used to say, “Modelled and hand-painted in England” and people would ring asking, “But where are they actually made?” So now the labels say, “Designed, made and hand-painted in England”. And Eric thought it was important that the ceramics had British themes. “You aren’t ever going to paint McDonalds are you?” Hazle said she might like to do the very first one but he sounded doubtful.

I thought the points above indirectly answered David Harrison’s question on the group about whether there was continuing role for Hazle Ceramics in the collectables world.

He said to Hazle, “Where do you go? Keep building streets, making sure they appeal to everyone.” And to the audience, “Am I right, once you’ve got three or four you want a few more? It's the same with Moorcroft. I think it's a hunter-gatherer thing.”


Other Questions & Answers

Is this a good investment?

This is the question Eric perennially gets asked about almost anything. His standard answer is “No, go and buy shares in Marks & Spencer” because he considers buying something just for investment too soulless. Eric said you had to look at what happened to ceramics that were no longer made and heard that some had sold on the Secondary Market for £500-600. Hazle added that some had sold in excess of £1000. Eric said, "If you find these at a Car Boot Sale you must think it's your birthday."

Are Painters’ Marks important?

Yes. Eric said that once painters and designers were kept in an ivory tower but nowadays the process is much more personal. Hazle said her painters’ marks were partly a quality control check but they also underlined each individual painter’s style. Some people liked and collected particular artists. And Hazle painters are often invited to develop themes using their own background and personality.

Should a ceramic with an unsigned front be signed Hazle retrospectively?

Eric said that if something was missing it probably ought to be there. “It was probably a Friday afternoon thing.” He joked, “Would you still drive your car if it didn’t have the winged lady on the front?” This was of course a reference to the Rolls-Royce mascot! But he added that some mistakes could have a novelty value...

How unique are Hazles?

“I’ve never seen any others. I mean that’s what caught my eye.” Eric then talked about Lilliput Lane and David Winter cottages, describing them as fantasy pieces for little gnomes to inhabit! When asked about the resin used to make them he said, “What can I say? It is an amazing medium for portraying detail.” But he went on to add that, in common with the material used for die-cast toy cars like Dinky, resin may fracture over time which casts doubts on the long term investment value.

I found this interesting. Hazle Ceramics are unable to compete on price with resin buildings because they require baking several times in a kiln, with much loss of work along the way. But this traditional, laborious method contributes to their longevity.

Eric said Hazle Ceramics were affordable and reiterated, “It's that bit of Britain thing”. And while on the theme on uniqueness,  he said they gave a very good three-dimensional effect - without taking up too much space. There was a huge roar of laughter at this as most people there had large collections.

Can you tell just by looking that Hazles are made in Britain?

Eric said he could tell with some bone china but not this material. But in a discussion on forgeries Eric and Hazle agreed that the painting of outsourced items often gave the game away. Some Moorcroft had been appallingly painted and this also applied to Hazles where the paint could literally be scratched off. Eric knew of a case where ceramics made in China had Coats of Arms painted including directions to the painter eg an arrow marked Red, another with Yellow and so on! On some forged Hazles, items such as a sweets jar had been copied strangely, as if the painter did not recognise the item. Eric said there was now legislation so companies didn't have to use their own money to protect unique designs, which Hazle had once needed to do.

Is the English slip-casting method Hazle uses similar to when it began 250 years ago?

Eric wasn’t sure but said it was a very cost effective way of casting a mould. Hazle said that the invention gave a more uniform thickness to the clay so that firing was more reliable wherever it was put in the kiln. Whilst touring potteries in Thailand she realised that, although she couldn’t speak Thai, slip-casting has a universal language. And Hazle saw the same kit there from Stoke that she used.

Finale

Stephen said that before the close there was just one more thing - to be put to Eric by Chris Craig. Shock horror - even I didn’t know about this! Chris then asked THAT question, “Should I shave off my moustache?”. Eric said that after thirty years with his the wife sometimes got wistful but many comments about looking younger especially from women, had massaged his fragile male ego. He hoped that if Chris went ahead he wouldn’t encounter Eric’s problem of being asked for ID every time he went for a drink. There was talk on ITV’s This Morning of putting it to a telephone vote. But if the public asked for his to be re-grown he would only do it on a one year contract! Thus Eric ended in the same witty manner he had maintained throughout.

People then meandered over to Talents to meet Eric and have him sign their ceramics.


The day after from Kate:

For all of you who missed it - what a pity! A wonderful interplay between the entertaining Eric Knowes and Hazle, with Stephen keeping the whole thing on track.


From Carolyn:

Eric Knowles was lovely, easy to talk to, informative and not at all pretentious. In fact, it seemed as if he was enjoying the event as much as the rest of us. The ceramics were first class and I had some difficult choices to make!


From Yorkshire Karen:

I will leave my unsigned piece as it is. It somehow means more to me for being different. Thank you again for helping us absent collectors feel part of the proceedings.



Last modified on 20 January, 2014
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