Happy Labor Day!!!
Today, we are going to look into my dear friend, Holli Morris’ Tartanware Collection! So take it away, Holli…
I decided long ago that the term “collector” sounds so official…like you should be an authority or expert on what you are collecting and believe me, I am neither…I simply have a love for tartanware! I don’t buy or collect for investment purposes…so I think of myself as an “ACCUMULATOR”.
Kathryn: When did you first start you tartanware collection!
Holli: I bought my first piece twenty years ago when I was pregnant with my son. I decided that his nursery would be decorated with a soldier motif based on a collection of Old Britain soldiers I had found earlier. I thought the red tartans would be a wonderful accent and a great reason to start another collection!
Kathryn:Why are you passionate about these pieces, what really spoke to you about them?
For as long as I can remember I have been drawn to all things plaid and after my first trip to Scotland and purchasing a wonderful tartanware box to add to my son’s collection, I was totally hooked. I love the colors and the history of the tartans. There were so many objects made for different purposes and I love the thrill of the hunt
Kathryn: Tell me a bit about the history of tartanware.
Tartanware is one of the finishes applied to Mauchlineware which started in the early 1800’s in Scotland in the Ayershire town of Mauchline. It is made from the wood of Sycamore trees and started out being made primarily for snuffboxes.
When Queen Victoria was crowned in 1837 it ignited a passion for all things Scottish. Snuff dropped in popularity and the Smith brothers, William and Andrew, who at the time were the foremost makers of Mauchlinware, started to make souvenirs and other items.
There are five finishes most closely associated with and recognizable as Mauchlineware and they are: Tartanware, Transfer Ware, Fernware, Black Lacquer Ware and Photographic Ware.
Tartanware is so called because the various tartan patterns were either hand painted or in later years tartan paper was glued onto the wooden objects. The Smith brothers invented an inking machine that that replicated tartan plaids on paper and revolutionized the whole process in 1840. The paper could then be cut, fitted in segments and glued to the pieces.
The seams of the various tartan papers were carefully masked by black paint covered with gold wavy lines which gave an elegant finished look. Tiny gold lettering identified the tartan.
The tartans of choice are colorful reds, blues and greens of such patterns as Prince Charlie, McBeth, McDuff, Menzies, Albert, Victorian, Caledonian and Stuart among others.
Tartanware was produced in quantity until 1933 when a fire destroyed the machinery used to print the tartan papers at the W & A Smith firm
Kathryn: Where and how do you use your tartanware? (where do you display and how?)
The collection quickly outgrew my son’s room and I now display it in our family room in a wall of built-in bookshelves. The tartanware shows up nicely on the white shelves and I get to see the collection daily and enjoy recalling how I came about the various pieces.
Many people have learned about tartanware and my love for it from seeing my collection. I have gotten leads from people who have spotted a piece they think I may be interested in…one friend told me of an antiques dealer who had just gotten back from a buying trip and had a rather large collection for me to chose from. Needless to say, that was my biggest find!
Kathryn: Tell me a little about the current prices for such pieces and some of your best sources.
Tartanware prices have soared over the years and it has become increasingly harder to find, therefore it is often reflected in the price. At an Antiques show, you can expect to pay higher prices…from the low hundreds to thousands of dollars depending on the authenticity, condition, rarity and size.
Kathryn: If a person wanted to start collecting tartanware, where would be the best place to start and what would be your advice to them?
As with many things, there are lots of reproductions and clever fakes in the marketplace. I would start with a reputable dealer and get familiar with the look and feel of authentic pieces. There are also several books that are quite helpful…my favorite is “TARTANWARE SOUVENIRS FROM SCOTLAND” by Princess Ira Von Furstenberg with Andrew Nicolls.
The internet is also a good resource for information and there are usually several pieces on eBay.
My philosophy is to always check out places when you travel…you never know what you might stumble upon and for me, it is a perfect memento of a trip!
Thanks so much for sharing your collection with us, Holli! And now, I am going to show you a few images of some of my favorite Tartanware. Enjoy~
Aren’t these napkin rings fabulous? They can go with so many different linens.
And last, but certainly not least..a thimble holder.
Well thank you so much for joining us today and I do hope that Holli’s collection inspired you. Please stay tuned to hear more from my wonderful month of guest “collectors”.