THE KOVELS | Antiques and collecting Familiar furniture styles share rustic origins



What are the differences among furniture styles called Adirondack, Black Forest, tramp art or rustic?
They all are late-19th to early-20th century styles that have been given their names within about the past 20 years.
Tramp art was usually made from old cigar boxes that were chip-carved and decorated with pieces of cigar boxes and paint. The travelers who made pieces of tramp art often traded it for food. Small items like boxes and picture frames were common. Large chests of drawers, easels and even chairs are harder to find.
Black Forest furniture was made in Switzerland by a family who created thousands of different pieces. Clocks, benches, hall trees, chairs and other furnishings were made from the late 1800s to the present. Most familiar are cuckoo clocks and furniture made with carved bears for legs or arms. Adirondack furniture was made by a small group of men working for lodges in the Adirondack Mountains during the early 1900s. Special pieces were made from local woods. They were often decorated with patterns made of twigs glued to the surface.
Rustic furniture was made to be used in hunting and fishing lodges. This furniture was made of naturally shaped branches, logs, roots, tree stumps and other natural materials. In some areas, horns or antlers were used to form chairs.
Today, decorators and collectors mix all of these styles.
Q. What are Mackmurdo feet on a table?
A. Arthur Heygate Mackmurdo made Arts & amp; Crafts furniture in England beginning in the 1880s. Many of his tables and desks have straight, rectangular legs. The bottom of a leg widened out into a square foot. The foot has been nicknamed a Mackmurdo foot.
Q. I am wondering what my lady-head planter is worth. She is a black woman wearing a fancy white turban decorated with colored polka-dots. A shiny paper sticker on the bottom reads & quot;Norcrest Fine China Japan. & quot;
A. In 1921, Hide Naito founded a small gift shop in Portland, Ore., that became the Northwest Trading Co. Naito's firm imported Japanese ceramics and in 1955 changed its name to Norcrest China Co. Norcrest continued to import pieces like lady-head vases, figurines and dishes from Japan. Lady-head vases made from the 1950s to the '70s are popular with collectors. Norcrest examples sell for about $50. The Naito family became wealthy property developers in Portland.
Q. I have a costume-jewelry rhinestone pin shaped like a star in a circle. It is marked "Ora." Is it old?
A. Ralph Singer and Oreste Agnini, an Italian immigrant, started a company in Chicago in the 1920s. The company, Agnini & amp; Singer, made costume jewelry designed by the two owners. They made pieces with stones that were cemented, not set. They had a special way of making the links on bracelets. Their early jewelry was not signed.
The mark "Ora" was used in the 1950s. The company was renamed Ralph Singer Co. in 1953 and continued to use the Ora mark.
Some old designs remained in production, and new lines were made, including a line of fraternal jewelry.
The company was sold to Stanford Smith in 1984. It is still working. Your piece was made sometime between 1950 and today.
Q. My antique serving bowl is white with a pink rim. There is a decal of pink flowers around the inside and outside. The mark on the bottom is a Union Jack with the word "Durability" on it. Under the flag are the words "J.H.W. & amp; Sons, Hanley, England." Does the mark give you any clue to the maker and age?
A. A big clue. Your bowl was made by J.H. Weatherby & amp; Sons, a firm that has worked in Hanley, England, since 1891. Hanley is in the Staffordshire district. For centuries, the area has been best-known for its potteries. The mark you describe was used by the company during the early 1890s. That's when your bowl was made.
Q. An old iron bootjack, 9 inches tall, was passed down to me. It is in the shape of a woman with her hands behind her head and her legs spread apart. Her clothing, just black boots and red lingerie, is painted. The figure was obviously nailed to the floor through the elbows. In that position, the legs are raised. The user could put his boot between the figure's legs to pull a boot off. Can you tell me anything about the age and value?
A. Your bootjack is nicknamed "Naughty Nellie." It probably dates from the 1890s. Like other bootjacks of the time, it was mostly used in bunkhouses in Western states.
If the paint on your iron figure is in excellent shape, your bootjack would sell for about $300. If the paint has faded, don't repaint it. That will decrease its value. But beware -- this amusing bootjack has been reproduced many times.
Q. My plaque that looks like painted plaster is marked "Bouterware." Can you tell me about it?
A. Three-dimensional plaques marked "Bouterware" were made by Corocraft Studios of Brooklyn, N.Y.
Arthur Osborne, an Englishman who worked in the United States as a tile maker and later returned to London, made a ware called Ivorex in 1899.
It was a hard, plasterlike product that was cast in a mold. The three-dimensional "tile" was then painted and coated with wax. They were popular and remained in production until 1965.
Several companies, including Corocraft and Ivor Art, imitated Ivorex. Some Ivorex plaques were reissued in the 1970s.
Tip
Antique rugs sometimes get dry rot in the cotton backing. It is an airborne fungus that lives on fibers. The rug will have weak, brittle fibers.
XThe Kovels answer as many questions as possible through the column. By sending a letter with a question, you give full permission for its use in the column or any other Kovel forum. Names and addresses will not be published. We cannot guarantee the return of any photograph, but if a stamped envelope is included, we will try. The volume of mail makes personal answers or appraisals impossible. Write to Kovels, The Vindicator, King Features Syndicate, 888 Seventh Ave., New York, NY 10019.
& copy; 2002 by Cowles Syndicate Inc.

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