50s Australiana kitsch

Gambit Ware 'Ceramique' Australiana leaf platesGambit Ware ‘Australiana’ leaf plates
made in Australia 1950s

Here is another part of my collection: anything botanically themed always gets me in. Add to that these plates were designed and made in Australia- celebrating our unique flora in the post war period. AND this is ‘Ceramique’ – an early melamine material that was developed to revolutionise ceramic – it would ‘never chip or break.’

The stylised plates came in simple pastel colours, but were quite botanically detailed- they include wattle, banksia, kurrajong, mulga leaves- to name a few. The simple colouring meant that each leaf shape was reproduced in six colours- so one could buy a set of six ‘for display OR kitchen purposes’!

This image shows another part of my collection- at last count I had 50 plates. Plates with their labels intact are worth significantly more. The Ceramique has certainly lived up to its name- there isn’t a chip or a crack on any of the plates, although colour fading has occurred on a few.

Kitschy – yes. But 50s Australian kitsch- I love it!

This selection of Gambit Ware is for sale: $125 [13 pieces]

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Genie Lamp vase

MCP Genie Lamp vase #257MCP ‘Genie Lamp’ vase #257
made in Sydney, Australia c1950

MCP- Modern Ceramic Products- started production in the 1940s, in Redfern, Sydney. MCP made strong geometric forms with very modernist styling – and a highly textured exterior finish to contrast with the smooth internal glaze. This two-toned aesthetic meant each vase shape could be made in a wide range of iterations- albeit along the 50s spectrum of baby blue, pale pink and pale yellow.

I’ve sold several- beautiful- MCP vases; have a look on the SOLD tab. They are now very collectible and it’s getting harder to find these beauties.

This ‘Genie Lamp’ vase is in baby blue. It is stamped ‘#257 MCP’ on the base, and it looks good with anything from old fashioned roses [referencing the 50s] to contemporary structural arrangements- like Eucalypt leaves.

The Genie Lamp vase is for sale: $AUD55

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Penny Inkwells

Penny inkwells,
made in Victoria, Australia 1880-1910

This is a collection of ‘penny’ inkwells; they are ceramic and so-called because they were cheaply made bottles that cost a penny to buy. They were crudely made and one of the first ‘disposables’- they were simply thrown out when they were empty. So this little collection is quite rare: most penny inkwells that survived the nineteenth century are chipped or broken.

The ceramic is stoneware with a salt glaze. Each inkwell is a different colour, depending on the mix of the original clay colour and the finished glaze: they range from a light tan to a deep russet brown. No two the same!

Most penny inkwells were used by school children; but would occasionally also be bought to be used in homes. There are many websites devoted to the collection of inkwells, and Ebay has a section for ‘collectable inkwells and ink pots’. Single penny inkwells in good condition are selling for around $45.

The collection of 8 penny inkwells is in excellent vintage condition, and is for sale: POA

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Retro Italian souvenir images

Retro Italian souvenir images [1950s]retro Italian souvenir images,
made in Italy 1960s

This collection was inspired after I visited Italy. It comprises a c.1960s Venice guidebook, 60s postcards in book form from Venice, Roma and Florence and 60s souvenir film slides from Rome and the Vatican.

The souvenir guide book is in excellent condition and is quite funny to read with its mangled English. The souvenir postcard books have never been used and are still complete – the old retro photographs are very stage-managed and have been colour-touched in that delightful 60s era style.

The souvenir slides have never been opened, and I expect they will have that lovely rosy patina of all old slides. They could be viewed using one of the Haminex slider viewers, posted below!

The Italian souvenir images are for sale: $65

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Slide viewers

Marquis and Viscount slide viewersMarquis slide viewer, made in Sydney, Australia c.1950
Viscount slide viewer, made in England c.1960

How fantastic is this baby pink Marquis slide viewer? The pink section is plastic, whilst the black section is bakelite. This slide viewer comes in its original box and is in near mint condition.

The Viscount viewer is nearly a decade older, and it evidences the transition from the modernist forms of the 50s to the more funky shapes of the 60s. It too comes in its original box.

Both viewers are working well – and replacement bulbs for them are still available. Which means there is no excuse for having photographic slides around that are not being used. You can go automatic with a large format projection [see slide projector/s below]…or view your slides individually and more intimately with these hand held viewers.

I do have a few slide viewers in my collection…I love the way they work – large glass viewing lens, small bulb and battery. And they look great massed together as a group – they are both functional AND aesthetic.

The slide viewers are for sale: $AUD55 each.

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Nally mixing bowls

Nally mixing bowls,
made in Australia, 1940s

I love bakelite and have collected Australian bakelite domestic ware for some time. Nally first started bakelite production in 1923 and was one of the first in Australia to do so. The factory was just up the road from where I now live.

These two mixing bowls – although nested [that is fitting exactly within one another]- were priced and sold separately. Nally’s advertising blurbs of the time made much of the fact that replacement pieces could always be bought, and as the mixing bowls were ‘harlequin’ [ie: different colours] they could be mixed and matched.

As it happens, these two bowls have never been used- testament to this fact is the original sticker in the base of the bowl. The sticker indicates these are ‘Genuine’ Nally bowls [in case you know, you thought they were fakes!]

The mixing bowls have a pouring lip, and came in the usual 40s pastel colours of blue, green, pink, cream and white. These bowls are yellow; and I’ve teamed them with a kewpie doll from the same era.

The bowls are for sale: $AU75

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Vintage camera

Ferrania Eura camera, 1959Ferrania Eura camera
made in Milan, Italy 1959

Ferrania was founded in Italy in 1923 – and still produces ‘point and shoot’ cameras today. The ‘Eura’ camera was made in 1959, and comes in its original vinyl case [made by Maves, also of Milan.] It uses medium format film- 120mm – which is still available; and comes with its original instruction booklet [in Italian and English]; and two helpful booklets produced by Ferrania : ‘Photography by artificial light- hints for amateurs’ and ‘It’s easy to take good photographs’ by Alfredo Ornano.

I’m not sure if the camera still works as it hasn’t been tested, but the original bag and 50s instruction booklets were too fabulous to pass up. There are some great YouTube clips evidencing the great photos that can be taken with the Eura – I think Alfredo Ornano would be well chuffed!

The Ferrania Eura camera is for sale: $AUD85

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Swinnertons Chelsea Blue

Swinnertons Chelsea Blue crockerySwinnertons Chelsea Blue
made in Staffordshire, England c.1950s

This set comprises 4 dinner plates, 4 side plates and 4 cake plates. The colour is described as ‘duck egg blue’.

I had been hunting for the matching Chelsea Blue coffee and tea sets, but upon reflecting how lovely the harlequin crockery sets are [see for example Swinnertons Nestor Vellum ‘Moonglo’ sets, below] I can’t actually imagine having a set all one colour.

Also, for some unexplained reason, the Chelsea Blue jug looks so wrong with the rest of the set- it is overblown, and has some quasi-20s affectations…what were they thinking? This is the 50s, people! I couldn’t bring myself to buy it – and left it on the shelf- which was probably a first for me.

This would be a good starter set for a harlequin table setting for 8 – just collect similar 50s colours in the same simple, rounded forms. Or just use as is – how good would cake look on those duck egg blue plates!

For sale: $AUD120

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Doggy bookends

ceramic dog bookends, Japan, 1950sCeramic dog bookends
made in Japan 1950s

These doggy bookends- cocker spaniels, I believe, were made in the 50s. They both have a large hole in the base- which I always believed was for glazing/firing purposes – but no- apparently this hole allows the bookends to be filled with sand, and then corked to seal. The sand allows the bookends to have a heavier mass, and so withstand the forces of all the books. I had no idea.

The book ends are shown here with our burgeoning Observer book collection – they are just the right scale for the books. I have not filled the bookends with sand – but leave that to the next owner.

The bookends would suit a reader with a library, or – a cocker spaniel enthusiast. The doggy bookends are for sale: $AUD80

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Bakelite napkin rings

Bakelite napkin ringsBakelite napkin rings
made in Sydney, Australia 1950s

This set of harlequin octagonal bakelite napkin rings was made by Marquis in the 50s. Harlequin refers to the different colours [indeed, one of the rings is ‘end-of-day’ bakelite.] End-of-day bakelite was the pattern formed when whatever bits of bakelite where left where thrown together into the mould.

In the 50s everything was ‘harlequin’ – think sets of anodised aluminium beakers. This was actually a clever marking ploy- if you lost/broke one piece of a set, it was easily replaced – since nothing matched by colour, pattern or manufacturer.

Marquis was a huge bakelite manufacturer- they made everything that could be made from bakelite- from kitchen utensils, to light switches, to 35mm slide viewers. Indeed, I seem to have quite a few kitchen scoops, butter dishes, teaspoons, salt and pepper shakers and slide viewers made by Marquis in my collection.

I love the form of these napkin rings: octagonal shape on the outside – so the napkin ring sat easily on a table- but circular inside form – so the napkin could be smoothly set in place. Form and function, people! And just look at those beautiful bakelite colours.

Bakelite continues to be a sought after collectible: and this set of eight napkin rings is for sale: $AUD80

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