Know-How: Hazle Seconds


On 27th June 2006 Clay asked:

Recently on eBay there were some older Hazle items that the seller stated might be "seconds". I emailed them and got this reply:

"Our understanding of a second is that an item is declared this when it does not meet the quality standards set forth by Hazle. We are not absolutely sure if the JS [not the usual painter’s mark but more in the middle back] indicates the second. To be on the safe side, we are selling any ceramics missing the gold label as a second."

Can you shed any light on possible Hazle seconds on the market, or what this is about?


Marilyn replied:

Principle of Seconds

All manufacturers sometimes produce flawed or slightly imperfect items. With ceramics there are a multitude of things that can go wrong especially in the kiln. As luck would have it problems often happen on the final firing after all the painting has been done!

In common with other products Hazle Ceramics are occasionally sold as seconds, initially only by Hazle direct or Roding Arts and then only at Craft Fairs or the Covent Garden stall. The collector pays a much cheaper price for a piece that may be nearly perfect while the company still gets something for all the work put in. Roding Arts currently has exclusive rights to seconds. However there are only a few, if any, available at a time and they seem quite scarce at the moment.

What Constitutes a Second

Hazle seconds could, for example, have a slightly sunken or otherwise misshapen body after firing. There might be a minor painting mistake or the overall paint quality is considered below par. A chipped piece could also count as a second. However small chips can often be smoothed out imperceptibly with a special stone and the ceramic may then revert to being a first. While some flaws are more obvious, others are not so noticeable and it is possible for slightly substandard pieces to slip through the quality control net. Not all faulty pieces are offered as seconds and many end up in the bin.

Again in common with other ceramic makers, the earliest Hazles tend to have a simpler, less refined look. What may have been acceptable then might not pass muster now. Before Hazle Ceramics became a company Hazle sometimes sold pieces with small firing cracks on the back at Craft Fairs to make ends meet. It is unlikely a cracked piece would be sold nowadays. There would have to be a compelling reason - such as a ceramic being very rare but with a collector particularly keen to own it.

Mark of a Second

A collector always knows when they are buying a second from Roding Arts or Hazle - the imperfection is pointed out, the piece sold without a box and the price greatly reduced - around 50% less is usual. Even without a box, if the ceramic is part of a Limited Edition or Painting it will still have a number and a certificate where applicable.

Except in the first few years, a second is also marked with black paint either inside the casting hole or at the bottom centre of the hole’s rim. Although a black spot inside the hole is the current mark, the letters S, J and JS have also been used in the past. These are not to be confused with the Painter’s Mark js of Janice Shepherd or the interlocking JS of Joan Sargeant - either would appear in the top left corner. Instead of a painted mark some ceramic makers etch something, eg the figure 2, into the body of a second.

The absence of a gold sticker, mentioned in the message above, is not a reliable indicator of anything. Someone might have forgotten to put it on and they can subsequently fall off. In the early days there were no stickers and then a small white label preceded the gold one. Seconds are likely to have stickers where applicable.

Summary

It is not always possible to determine whether a piece was originally a Hazle second. A ceramic marked as a second could actually be better than another from the days when seconds were unmarked. Many Secondary Market Hazles on eBay are sold without boxes but they are by no means all seconds. And of course faults such as chips and impact cracks can occur later in a ceramic’s life.

If you are interested in a ceramic on eBay remember that the glare of flash photography can hide flaws, even inadvertently. If you are in any doubt about the condition it is advisable to use Ask Seller a Question as Clay did. According to the UK Trading Standards Office a buyer in an internet auction has less protection than with other forms of distance selling but nevertheless items must be as described.



Last modified on 20 January, 2014
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