Friday, 15 June 2012

Fur is Foul and Fowl is Fair

                In addition to the game pie dish moulds found in the attic of the old Kirkham’s pottery works by Susan Ellis-Williams (see yesterday), Portmeirion Potteries continued to produce the traditional Kirkham hen shaped egg-holders, in a variety of sizes and colours.

Portmeirion Hen egg-holder

Egg holders were popular in the past, in the days before refrigerators, and eggs kept in a pottery holder, in a cool larder, are better than those kept in the fridge. Buy your eggs in small quantities, half a dozen say, or a dozen at most for a family, and they will remain perfectly fresh for two or three weeks. If in doubt, drop the egg in a glass of cold water – if it sinks, it is still fresh, but if it floats, it is likely to be past its best. Eggs kept in the fridge, especially in the door, suffer from temperature fluctuations as the door is repeatedly opened and closed. Those kept at the back of the fridge will keep longer, but the egg begins to break down and become watery, and may absorb smells and flavours from other foods. A cold egg, fried in lard or bacon fat (never use oil) will spit and splutter, and if not cooked thoroughly may be a little too raw – think salmonella. If used for baking, get them out of the fridge and allow to return to room temperature before using them – or better still, just keep them in a pottery holder to begin with. This is the size two hen, in brown ‘Rockingham’ glaze, which was eventually retired in 1983. 

Compare the better modelling, detail and colour of the Portmeirion hen with a cheaper, generic egg-holder from an unknown maker. 

Generic Egg Holder with less detailed plumage

Portmeirion Hen showing greater detail of plumage

The Portmeirion hen is much sharper, with a much more convincing basket, better feathers and the glaze colour is deeper and richer. The last hen (White No 1) was produced by them in 1994. 

Portmeirion Duck egg-holder

From 1975, Portmeirion produced a white duck shaped egg-holder, modelled by Susan Ellis-Williams (her only modelled bird), and signed by her ‘Susan Ellis-Williams 1975’ beneath the tail. The lid was sold on the basket base of the No 1 hen-shaped holder, and the duck, like the hens, has two chicks peeping out from beneath its wing. 

Susan Ellis-Williams signature and 1975 - if you look closely

This design was available until 1983, and is now quite rare and desirable to collectors (because of the signature); examples do not often become available, (so if you come across one at a reasonable price, I suggest you snap it up). 

Portmeirion Dolphin shaving mug

Another piece from Portmeirion is this magnificent shaving mug, in the form of an old-fashioned, grotesque dolphin, decorated with rose hips and flowers. This is a piece to divide people; you’ll either love it or hate it. I could bore the bejaysus out of you with Portmeirion pottery – I love it, and have quite a collection, especially of the Botanic Garden series, but I’ll leave it alone for now. 

Another view

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