‘All were handpainted and collectors look for distinctive and complex glazes’ 20 / April-May 2015 / ve
Treat your home to the ultimate creature feature says Keeley Harris VINTAGE COLLECTIVE MEMBER
MID-CENTURY CAN OFTEN be minimalist and modest in its outlines and hues – but, then again, sometimes it can burst out into the most joyful, extravagant fancy. And what Vintage 50s and 60s living room wouldn’t benefit from an injection of the sun-drenched colours and crazy fantasies of Italian ceramicists Bitossi? The Rimini Blu range of pottery was created back in the early 1950s by Aldo Londi, then the noted Italian ceramics company’s creative director, and it certainly gave that old design fable “blue and green should never be seen” a thorough goosing! Bitossi also works in earthy reds but it’s the rich and complex Mediterranean blue and green glaze that brings sunshine into any room, and its almostcrude stamped pattern sent the style on the roller-coaster of fashion as its time came and went. Now it’s very collectable again – and especially when it comes to the nothingreally-naive-about-them-at-all animal figures. Many were made in large quantities so are relatively easy to find, but all were hand-painted and collectors look for distinctive and complex glazes, with earlier examples much more desirable than later. Aldo Londi was passionate about nature, and his animals are iconic. Highly stylised and very quirky, humour and personality shine out of them. Birds include owls, doves, hens, ducks and lapwings, while there are also elephants and hippos, lions, dogs, rams, boars – in fact a whole menagerie. They look really great grouped together and two musts for any collection are a horse, especially an imposing one reminiscent of ancient Chinese terracotta horses that comes in different sizes and colours, and a monumental bull, very stylised and full of brooding power. Collector Helena Johansson started her impressive collection three years ago
1960s horse - on every Bitossi collectors short list!
but still has a list of pieces that she hopes to track down: “I am looking for a large penguin to sit alongside the smaller version. I think the bright colours and funny shapes is what got me hooked.” If you don’t want to wait for originals to come your way, you can always buy a new one… I can’t believe I’m saying this! But since they are a company with heritage, their product is still of a good standard. Bitossi reissued some of their most popular designs in the late 1990s, but they do feel less substantial and the glaze is more uniform and less interesting, so you will still want to replace them over time. Passionate Bitossi collector and dealer Alex Stone is a case in point. “My first Bitossi piece was actually a reissue of the beautiful bird on metal legs, and it’s a lovely thing,” he says. “But once I’d got the bug, I was soon buying every original piece I could get my hands on!” These reissued pieces all feature an impressed ‘Bitossi’ stamp on the base while, rather confusingly, the name never appeared on their work until the end of the 20th century. Even more confusing, is the 1980s Bitossi sold their work under the name Flavia, so pieces marked as such are still genuine Bitossi. There are also imitations out there so handle as many genuine pieces as you can – it’s the best way to tell old from new, and real from fake! ve
Naive sculpture of a Lion’s face
1970s Ram’s head ashtray
Pair of 1960s Dachshunds
The highly prized bull
Figure of a seated Pigeon 1965
Meet Signor Pinguino designed in 1959
Handy ceramic pot and lid in the shape of a chicken!
The musthave moggie There’s one Bitossi animal, above all, that every collector wants and needs: Aldo Londi’s magnificently stylised, cylinderbodied, disc-faced cat. This beast is big, beautiful and – unless you can stumble across one from an unaware seller – pretty expensive. But trust me, once you start collecting you will want one!
ve / April-May 2015 / 21
Treat your home to the ultimate creature feature says Keeley Harris