Sunday, June 8, 2014

Collecting: My Thoughts

I collect many things but my oldest and dearest passion has been horses - swap cards, paintings, prints, books and figurines.  It all began when my dad brought home a little china horse for me when I was three years old.  I don't imagine many dads would gift such a young child with so fragile an item, but he was quirky like that, and unbelievably, the figurine remains one of the few in my growing collection that has never been broken.  Clumsiness, kitties and a lot of moving have taken their toll over the years, but this has had an unexpected side benefit - I have learned a lot of ways to repair broken artifacts and people at my shop actually pay me to fix their stuff.

A lot of people collect plastic "model" horses - Breyers and Hartlands .  I did not even know the name Breyer until a couple of years ago, although I had had several in my collection for many years.  Breyers are very realistic looking (for the most part) and there is a massive community that has evolved around their collection.  They make outfits (tack and costumes) and have "horse shows" and take photos with realistic backdrops.  They make manes and tails from real hair and repaint the models with excruciating detail. I have little interest in this; I have my special old Breyers, that is enough for me.

Another community is built around the collection of Hagen Renaker porcelain figurines.  I have about a dozen, dating back to the early fifties, but, again, I did not know anything about them until recently.  Some were gifts but most were bought one at a time, when my dad had to go visit someone in the hospital in Rochester and I went along to keep him company. He rewarded me by taking me downtown to a little gift shop off of Main Street where they sold small china figurines and a good number of novelty items (magic tricks and pranks).  Most in this collection are tiny and spindly and very fragile - and all have at least one broken leg and some have lots of breaks.  I have always repaired them, using increasingly better adhesives as they have become available.

A few years back I acquired a collection of Breyer miniature Stablemates - it took me quite a while to realize that that many of these were identical to my little Hagen Renakers and I was baffled at such seeming design thievery.  I eventually discovered that Hagen Renaker had licensed some of their molds to Breyer for recasting in plastic.  Mystery solved!

Original favorites

In the above photo, Horse Number One is the one in the center.  Clockwise from the upper left is the porcelain foal given to me when I was very young by a little old lady from our church.  She said it had been hers since she was a little girl - I figure it must be almost 150 years old by now, and I have never seen another one like it.  The next one, with the saddle, was made in Japan as a souvenir of Niagara Falls.  Others like it are all over eBay every day.  The grouping of three are Hagen Renakers and designed by Tom Masterson.  The white and gold horse with the spaghetti trim is Queenie, one of the few named horses in my collection.  At least as far as eBay goes, she is pretty unique.  Below Queenie are a pair of Bergen hard plastic horses (I called them Black Beauty and Ginger), and the pair of pintos are salt and pepper shakers.  The jaunty black and white colt and the little white Trojan have always been amongst my favorites and I have had them as long as I can remember.

Current favorites

My taste seems to moved away from mostly realism towards mostly fanciful.  My current favorites all seem to have an artistic style to them.  The one in the middle is one-of-a-kind hand modeled, recently repainted by me because the original paint had become drastically soiled.  I was so delighted to find it in a thrift store.  Upper left is a beautiful pink and blue drip-glazed Royal Haeger, then my collection of little porcelain Trojans (thank you, eBay!), the red rearing horse and the two green rearing ones were designed by Don Manning and I have discovered that they are from the late forties, early fifties.  The little pink gal is a Hagen Renaker (I love her!), the row of colorful colts are also Don Mannings, the elongated green glass colts are made by Mosser, and the white mare and foal are a recent thrift store find.  Aren't they sweet?

I have become a savvy eBay shopper and I have made myself very happy winning these little treasures.   The Internet is proving to be a wondrous resource for researching the origins of my figurines, but much information is lacking. I wish more makers would placed identification marks on their creations!  Not stickers - stickers fall off!   Sadly, I have found only a few books on the collecting of horse figurines. Maybe some day I ought to write a book about the subject, but for now I am keeping myself busy documenting my entire collection.

I am lost in the admiration of the creation of these figures - how lovingly and cleverly and carefully they have been sculpted by such wondrous and mostly unsung artists!  I run my fingers over the elegant lines and shapes.  The beauty makes me smile every day.  I will sing their song.

Horse Collection 1956

Horse Collection 2014