First 2006 Auction – media 2

Img_1502reduction_1 Tuesday 28th November
The first  of this year’s mistletoe auctions in Tenbury Wells – the crowds are out in force as usual – and I spend 30 minutes just trying to park.  The Auction Yard – now under the ownership and management of William Chase (best known for Tyrrells Potato Chips [don’t call them crisps]) has been revamped a bit – and the stock is laid out at the back of the site.  Tyrrells are a main sponsor of this year’s Mistletoe Festival and we are very grateful to them.  The auctions themselves are managed by Nick Champion – who has been mistletoe auctioneer for many years.

Img_1486reduction And what a lot of stock there is – loads of mistletoe, and all very-heavily berried (despite the scare-stories of the News of the World a few weeks ago – and just as I, and anyone else who looked, predicted!).  There are the usual camera and film crews about – including all the local press – Worcester Journal, Shropshire Star etc and a video crew.  There’ll probably be more next week – we’ve got the druids coming then.

This pic shows some of the crowd waiting for the holly wreath sales to end and the mistletoe to begin.  They look a bit impatient…


Img_1493reduction And here’s the start of the mistletoe action – with Nick Champion (with the headset, shades and stick) preparing to auction the first mistletoe lot of the day.





Img_1508reduction These auctions move fast – with the stock removed within minutes of being sold, to be bundled into waiting wholesaler’s vans and lorries in the yard.




With the glut of mistletoe prices are low – Nick Champion was reported afterwards as saying "Normally we would expect in the region of 700 – 800 entries at this first sale… this year we received 1,100 lots."  Quality mistletoe was selling at 50p – 70p per pound – about half what it makes in some years.  You can read newspaper reports here (Hereford Times) and here (London Metro).

The video crew are a local unit from Hazelwood Video, haeded by producer Paul Bye.  They are making a video about the River Teme, with most of the filming next year, but wanted to cover the Tenbury mistletoe events now.  They film at the auction and then we go out of town to a local mistletoe-filled orchard to film a session with me talking about mistletoe.  You can Paul’s range of work on his website, and read an interview with him (and see a ‘high-speed trip’ down the Severn) here.

Meanwhile, at the Festival venue just at the auction entrance, I see we have a lot of visitors from out of town – identifiable when they ask for directions to the auction!

Orchard Conservation = Mistletoe Conservation

Monday 27th November –  and a trip to London for a meeting about Orchards with Sustain: ‘the alliance for better food and farming’  to discuss the national Leader+ funded (an EU-fund) orchards project. 

This is a 2 year project – which, after a few hiccups on the match funding, is now well-underway.  The meeting was a chance for reps from various orchard and fruit groups to get together and chat, and hear updates from the 4 local orchard projects funded by Leader+. 

I’m not going to list those in detail here – but if you’re interested they are Damsons in Cumbria, theatre/community apple pressing in Devon, innovative ways to assess true economic value of orchards in Herefordshire and an Orchards for Everyone project in Kent.  You can find an overview at Sustain’s Orchard Project website.

It was a very useful meeting for me, and for others – there are already calls for the next one to be brought forward from 12 months time to 6 months time.  Lots of networking, all sorts of orchards represented – apple, pear, cherry, damson, cobnut etc etc.   And all with common problems – decline, revival of interest, problems with harvesting, marketing, promotion etc.  And that’s just the crop – the community value and biodiversity value are also a Big Thing for our orchards – more on this another time…

Festival week – media 1

Saturday 25th November – and the Tenbury Wells Mistletoe Festival 2006 has now begun – the Christmas lights were turned on yesterday followed by the 1930s dinner-dance event.

So what’s in the Saturday papers about it?  Not a lot in most, though there is a quarter-page in the Daily Telegraph, majoring on the threats to the mistletoe auction site.  This is the piece that I mentioned a few weeks ago – with the photographer in the orchard – but as so often happens in the press they haven’t used any of those pics – just recycled some from last year. 

But the main pic is of the Druids – who make a striking picture – so can’t really blame the picture desk.  There is some disappointment in the Festival committe that the article didn’t mention more about the Festival events – but this is the main pages of the Telegraph – the concerts etc are less appealing to the editor of this than the threats to the mistletoe auction.  Events coverage will be more likely in the local papers.

A few national magazines have taken it up through – Saga magazine’s December issue covers the Mistletoe Festival events rather well – including a photo feature on their website.

Sunday 26th November.  No further media on the Festival yet – but TEME online mistletoe shop gets a plug in the Sunday Times online shopping pages.

Mysterious mistletoe pewter (Art Nouveau 5)

Pewter1 I’ve just taken delivery of a pewter beaker and saucer, with mistletoe motif on both.  They’ve come, via Ebay, from France.  I’ve seen similar items before, but this is the first I’ve actually handled.


But what are they?  What is this strange object for? 





Pewter3 Some beakers (probably more accurately ‘tellers’) I’ve seen like this are German, and I assumed this one was too, as the vendor described illegible lettering around the mug rim as ‘German’. 


So I was surprised to find that this lettering (not at all illegible!) is French – and simply states “Au Gui L’An Nouveau” a variant on the usual “Au Gui L’An Neuf” – the traditional French ‘Mistletoe for the New Year slogan.  Can’t think why the vendor didn’t notice this.








But it partially answers the mystery – it’s something for the New Year.  And judging by the obvious wear to the mug sides it has been in regular use – perhaps passed round a drunken crowd in the early hours of January 1st for some decades?


Pewter2 It polishes up rather well – and the form and quality of the decoration (usual botanically accurate branches and leaves but botanically inaccurate berries placed between leaves) is obvious. 




Jules_brateau_a_teller_with_gui_pattern_ But this isn’t a particularly fine example of the type – compare it with this pic of a much classier version, also recently advertised on Ebay.  This has a maker’s name ‘Jules Brateau’ and a date of c 1900.


This ‘posher’ one had a reserve of several £100, but I picked up my version for just £30 – I think I prefer mine, not ‘cos it was cheaper but because it’s obviously been used.

A car full of mistletoe (- Harvest 6)

Carful1 A TEME delivery – 50 boxes of mistletoe from Tenbury to Hungerford.





Carful2 Now I’ve had a fair bit of mistletoe in the car before – but never this much – all seats folded down, even some in the front passenger footwell. 





Trees_en_masse Delivery was to a wholesaler – where I was suitably impressed by the vast numbers of Christmas trees being packed for onward travel – there were forests of them (this is just one corner of a big site), all packed to go – and they made my ‘lil carload of mistletoe seem rather small…

New York, New York! – it’s a wonderful town!  Or so I’m told – I’ve never been, but did make a virtual trip over to monitor some more mistletoe art nouveau auctions on Friday.


I had my eye on five items, all 1920s Lalique designs, and all (to me) unaffordable.  But an interesting set, and a curious comparison to those in the Bonhams auction in London on Wednesday.


0259_1_lgThere were three Lalique Gui vases – all the same moulding, but each in a different colour – 259 was described as Plum, and estimated at $3 to $4K – it sold for $3500 after just 2 bids.









0260_1_lgNumber 260, described as Pea Green (not a description Rene Lalique would have liked I’m sure) estimated at $2 to $3K sold at for $1900 after just one bid. 










0403_1_lgNumber 403 described as ‘cased jade green’ (whatever that means) was obviously considered a real rarity – it was estimated at $7 to $9K but remained unsold, after one bid of $3500. 







0351_1_lg_1 There was also a classic Lalique Gui Bowl – in ‘opalescent mint green’.  Estimated at $800 to $1200K this seemed to still be unsold after three bids only amounted to $400.





0215_1_lg And then there was this rather odd thing – an item I’ve never seen before, described as a Lalique jewelry pendant, in a Gui pattern and in a ‘red amber’ colour.  It looks very like some of the modern Lalique Christmas pendants (usually round medallions) but claims to be original 1920s material.  This item closed at $475 (the estimate was $700-$900).







How do these compare to the London auction? 


The Gui Vases

Let’s halve the dollar prices to give a rough indication in sterling – which makes the Plum vase £1750, the Pea Green Vase £950 and the Jade Green one unsold at £1750, and holding out for at least £3500. 


The price differences between colours suggest a lot rides on the colour – Jade Green presumably being rare.   The London Druides Vase (a different mistletoe design) fetched only £480 – which suggests a better market in NY? 


The Gui Bowl

Sterling equivalent – unsold at £200, holding out for at least £400.  The similar London bowl was also unsold – and had also aimed for £400. 


Again a a lot seems to depend on the colour – the one for sale in Chester version only aims for £150 – but it’s a bit shabby compared to the NY one…

A quick review of other mistletoe AN stuff – there’s a lot of silverware out there and these examples have all been taken from recent Ebay auctions.


Bote_pyrogne_1900_argent_massif Cigar, cigarette and vesta (match) boxes are a popular mistletoe item – and as with the glassware they’re nearly all French or German.  These examples are both French vesta-boxes. 









Pyrogene_allumettes_argent_massif_decor_ Note the mix of realism and fakery; the leaves are faithfully depicted, complete with insect bites and misshapen edges – but the berries are placed between the leaves, which is never the case in life (the berries form in the branch angle below the leaves, not between the leaves)











Dance_ticket_holder This is a Dance ticket holder – quite an unusual little piece and one that includes some oak leaves too – reflecting the old druidic oak/mistletoe association.













Rond_de_serviette_en_argent_massif And this napkin ring is unusual too – the depiction is entirely incorrect – with stalked berry clumps that seem to be modelled on American mistletoe, but leaves modelled on European.  It looks rather ‘cheap’ to me! 

(You can see the difference between these species types here)

A real live auction today, a change from that virtual Ebay stuff – at Bonhams, New Bond Street, London.


This afternoon’s sale was titled Design 1860-1945, and included three items of mistletoe interest, all from the 1920s (correction! – 4 items, one from c 1910 – listed at the end…)


Brandtbonhams The first mistletoe lot was No: 276 `Boule de Gui‘ by Edgar Brandt.  This was officially described as ‘A Cast Metal Paperweight, circa 1925 fashioned as a globe with central section of openwork mistletoe stems, on a square base 9cm high, stamped to base rim `Edgar Brandt’ 


Now I’ve seen these before, several times actually – the Brandt Gui paperweight is a well-known mistletoe article, sometimes seen fashioned into a lampstand.  But this one is rather fine – compare it to another version, shown below, that was recently advertised on Ebay.  Most of them are like the Ebay version – so the Bonhams piece looks very good.  But it didn’t impress the buyers – only making £150 today.




Laliquedruidesbonhams Next up was lot 317 – René Lalique’s `Druide’ vase – described as ‘an Opalescent Glass Vase, design 1924 the globular vessel moulded with stems of mistletoe, with polished berries in relief, showing traces of blue staining 18cm high, etched `R.Lalique France No 937′.


This is much rarer than the Gui vases of similar shape (see pic in preceding blog) – and shows Lalique’s fascination with mistletoe (he used it on a huge range of items – even some modern Lalique ware uses the mistletoe theme ).  Here he managed to create something significantly different with the same plant – the striking feature being the protuberant berries.  This sold for £480. 



LaliqueguibonhamsAnd finally lot 329 – one of the Lalique ‘Gui’ bowls – described as ‘an Opalescent Glass Bowl, design 1921 moulded with mistletoe 20.5cm diam, etched ‘R.Lalique France’ and ‘No 3224’.  A nice example, though unremarkable in terms of colour stain – not one of the more unusual ones. 


This one did not sell (estimates were £500-700).  Maybe it was overpriced – there’s a similar one at Bonhams Chester going soon – and that’s estimated at £150 – though it does have a slight chip.


More Lalique mistletoe glassware later in the week – at an auction in New York….


Bonhamspilkington Almost forgot the 4th mistletoe item today – which I didn’t spot at first as it was such an unfamiliar design.  This was lot 24 – a vase designed by Richard Joyce for Pilkington’s Royal Lancastrian range.  It is a ‘High-Fire Vase, circa 1910 the shaped tubular vessel painted with sprigs of mistletoe in gold with white berries 17cm high, maker’s marks and artist painted monogram to base’  It was sold for £700.


Royal Lancastrian ceramics were made by Pilkington’s in Manchester – and were very different indeed to the Lalique and Brandt continental styles.  Perhaps rather rarer now – I’ve not seen these design before, and though, in mistletoe terms, less true to the plant this design is rather stunning and very attractive. 

Pity about the price (no, I didn’t bid…)




Mistletoe and art nouveau – not a well-known combination in Britain – but big in continental Europe.  The form of the plant, the branching pattern and curves of the leaves were perfect for this type of imagery.  When linked to the special place mistletoe has in continental traditions, it is easy to see how mistletoe became a popular subject.  This week’s blogs will be looking at examples, and at a couple of live auctions in London (Wednesday) and New York (Friday).



There are many examples of Lalique and Daum mistletoe glassware – you can see some on my mistletoe website, but I’m posting more examples here, with comments on how difficult it is to buy them, unless you have lots of dosh.



Rene Lalique’s ‘Gui’ (Mistletoe) bowls and vases are probably the best-known examples – and though each comes in effectively ‘standard’ patterns they do have a bewildering variety of colour forms. 


More on these later in the week – there are several due to be auctioned in New York on Friday.






Daumvasewithribbon250plus Daum were another art glassware firm that had a regular mistletoe theme – their material is more variable in shape than Lalique, but is often characterised by gold detailing on green/clear glass and the Mistletoe at New Year slogan Au Gui L’An Neuf trailing around the piece in a ribbon motif.



If you want to collect this calibre of stuff you need to have some savings – the examples shown are all from recent Ebay auctions – and all go for several hundred pounds – some over £1000. 


And also be well aware of imitations/forgeries – I’m not sure how you can check this online, but a lot of buyers seem to trust the system and buy regardless.









98_1 I’ve never managed to acquire any of the glassware – I’m not wealthy enough – but I’ve come close a couple of times, most recently for this broken Daum mistletoe bowl – which went for the bargain price of 14 Euros a couple of weeks ago. 


Intact it would have been £100s…I was gutted – even in 4 pieces I would’ve loved and cherished it (well, put it away in a drawer, along with other mistletoe trivia).