Items given by studio potter Lucie Rie (1902-95) to her cleaning lady come for sale at Design and Modern Contemporary auction on March 29 2023. An experimental bowl, a mould for making buttons and a miniature masterpiece were all presents to the vendor’s mother who worked for many years at Rie’s home and studio at 18 Albion Mews, Paddington.
Lucie Rie is best remembered for her bowl and bottle forms. However, during and after the war, to make ends meet, she made glass and ceramic buttons and jewellery for couture fashion outlets. She was employed by her countryman Fritz Lampl (1892-1955), the founder of the Bimini Glass company in Vienna who, after fleeing Nazi Austria, relaunched his glass blowing venture in Soho under the name Orplid in 1938. Its most popular line was a series of hand-made glass buttons, some fashioned using plaster casts of Roman coins supplied by the British Museum.
The two-piece plaster mould offered here, has the number 315 and a carved 'Bimini' mark. Chiswick’s design specialist Maxine Winning dates it to the 1940s or 50s and expects it will bring £400-600. “It is an emotive object, one that takes us back to Lucie Rie’s first days in London as an emigree. Fritz Lampl was an important figure in her life. Not only did he give her work in wartime London but he encouraged her to experiment with making buttons in ceramics.” The buttons themselves are keenly collected and bring substantial prices when they come to auction. “Issy Miyake was a big collector of them and used them on some of his catwalk pieces in the 1989-90 collection. On her death, Lucie Rie bequeathed her whole personal collection of buttons to him”.
Also gifted by Lucie Rie to her cleaner during years of employment at Albion Mews was a 9cm high x 18cm diameter bowl dated to the early 1980s. A fully-finished footed bowls of a type that have become increasingly coveted in the market across the past decade. This example, a finely-potted prime-period work in an arresting turquoise and manganese glaze, has an estimate of £20,000 to £30,000. It is more heavily potted than many pieces of this date but has a fine glaze of mottled and pitted blue and turquoise to the foot and manganese to the rim.
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