If you were a kid in the 60s or 70s, there’s a really good chance that your mom was leaving the house at least once a week to go to a ceramics class. Ceramics was really popular back then and there were little shops set up where women went to get away from the house and kids, get creative, and bring home something decorative for the house. Maybe there was even a little wine involved.
These shops offered up plain white porcelain molded figures to pick from and then mom would spend her evenings painting it however she wanted. Based on some of the color combos and painting tactics I’ve seen on these pieces in thrift stores, I think there’s even more fuel for the argument that wine may have been involved! Once the painting was done, the item was fired and it was on its way home to a new place of honor on the dining room table, mantle, or wherever else she felt it would look good.
We had quite the assortment of hand-painted ceramic goods in our home. There was the huge cornucopia (or horn-o-plenty, the alternative name that always seemed to put my brother into fits of giggles when it was said aloud) that was on display at our Thanksgiving table every year.
A tower of fruit and some other weird stuff in a footed urn turn up in our living room.
There was a really glossy red and black speckled owl whose head could be removed (sorry - I can't seem to find a picture quite like ours). My dad stored his pennies in that thing and would pay me one penny for every two bags of garbage I took out to the trash can. I guess child labor laws were looser then. We also had the big cabbage soup tureen with a dish like a giant leaf under it.
There were tons of these things. Even a porcelain Christmas tree that had plastic lights that actually lit up when it was plugged in. I loved that thing but at some point, my mom chucked it in the trash. She went through this crazy phase in the early 80s where she wanted nothing. She used to actually say "I want to live like Ghandi. I want to have nothing and be able to dust without lifting anything up." Strange comment but good advice, I always thought.
Retro Christmas and Ceramic Trees
About ten years ago when I started picking up retro Christmas decorations, I’d see those trees all the time in thrift stores. I resisted getting any for many years though I’m not sure why. Eventually, I ended up forking over maybe all of three dollars and got quite a nice ceramic tree. Mine was green with the colored lights and had some white paint on the tips of the boughs that was meant to represent snow. Kind of the ceramic version of a flocked Christmas tree.
Popularity in ceramic figures hasn’t been there for the most part from what I can tell. However, in case you’ve missed the posts all over the place in the past few days, these things are suddenly highly sought after now. Brand new ones are being made by several manufacturers and sold in stores and online for roughly $50 or less. But the vintage ones, the ones truly dating back to being “homemade” in that they are hand-painted and often “signed” on the bottom by somebody’s mom – WOW!
I’ve seen prices in the hundreds for just one. It’s funny how for so many years my friends have turned up their noses at my love of mid-century kitsch stuff and now the world is taking notice - driving up the prices for everybody else. For those of us who got this type of design long before it was cool, well, we’re grinning from ear to ear right about now.
If the ceramic Christmas trees see a lot of success in demand, then maybe, just maybe the cornucopia will be going for big bucks by next year’s Thanksgiving. Better run out and get one now!