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Pitchers

As noted in the theme descriptions, the main thing that distinguishes what I’m here calling ‘pitchers’ from ‘creamers’ is size.  Many of these are a foot or more tall, and hold over a quart, so pretty obviously they were designed to hold water or milk (or wine in some cases), not cream.  Thus in this picture, the one in the middle is a pitcher.  The one on the left is definitely in the creamer category, and the one on the right, while borderline, I’m also calling a creamer. 

3 large black and white cow pitchers 3 larger cow pitchers

Here are some large black and white cow pitchers; the one with the pink bow and yellow bell – which came equipped with cooking implements – is marked for Jay Imports, Made in China.  The one next to it, sort of football shaped and with no legs, is marked “©1992, B.W., Taiwan” (it cost me 99 cents).  The large bodied cow with the polka dot tail for a handle is copyrighted for Clay Art, also made in Taiwan.  For some reason this is one I keep forgetting I already have, so the collection now has four of them.  The round one with the daisy necklace holds two quarts, and is marked for OCI, Omnibus, Japan.  It appears frequently on eBay.  Both of the ones to the right of it are from Taiwan.

4 more large black and white cow pitchers

Here are four standing black and white cow pitchers, all with some sort of filler between their legs.  The one on the left, with the blue collar and yellow bell standing in grass, is one of the few in the collection that was made in Brazil. Next to it, with the grass and yellow flowers, is one from ‘Young’s Exclusive’. It came in a box that says ‘Kitchen Creations’, is dated 1999 and was made in China.  It actually has a matching sugar bowl, so in spite of its size it might as well have gone in the creamer pile.  The cow with the chicken beside it is from Certified International Corporation, © Coco Dowley, and was made in Taiwan.  The cow on the right is unmarked.

8 large sitting cow pitchers

Here’s a whole herd of tall sitting up pitchers.  The big red one on the left is stamped for “Home”, made in China; the one next to it in the back is from Japan, as is the one on the far right with the pink nose and big blue bow, © B&D.  The two to its right in the back row are both from the US.

4 more large sitting cow pitchers

In this set, the two on the ends are Italian.  Pitchers from molds of this shape come in a variety of materials and colors.  The big black and white cow pitcher second from the left is copyrighted ’84 from Animals & Co., made in the US.  I bought this one in a shop in San Diego in 1985, but have since seen a number of them (at a much lower price!) on eBay.  There’s also a brown and white version which seems to be much rarer. 

Here indeed is the brown and white version, bearing the handwritten inscription “© 1984 Animals & Co. No.35”, and a potter’s mark “A”.  This is the second of these I have bought – the first arrived in many small pieces; it’s tough, not to mention expensive, to pack and ship ceramic items this size…it’s almost a foot tall and 9½” wide.

The large blue pitcher, like its red cousin a couple pictures back, is from “Home”, made in China.  The one next to it comes from the same mold as the middle one in the second picture, but is painted somewhat differently; it bears the incised mark of © 1992, B.W., Taiwan.

The foot-tall pitcher with brown eyes and nostrils is unmarked; the slightly smaller one to its right has a sticker that says “Designer:  Pelzman Designs”.  

The white cow on the left has glued-on glass brown eyes and is marked “Marcia Ceramic USA DC-1 ©”.  Next to it is a rather wild and unembarrassed interpretation with a prominent udder and blue horns and belly that’s looking straight up out of bulgy eyes, from China.  On the right is another version of the typically Italian pitcher, although this one bears no marks.

Here’s another version of the “Marcia” pitcher, but this time with a sticker, and holes instead of the glass eyes. From the “Potteries of California” web page, we learn that Marcia of California  was owned by George Sigal, who with his sons produced fairly large items like this pitcher from the 1950s to 70s in a pottery located near the Cal State LA campus.  I guess one would have to ask George why they used the name Marcia.

This very nice large brown pitcher, crafted of red clay, is my first and only cow from Latvia.

The hot pepper pitcher on the left, by Fitz and Floyd and marked “ © OCI 1 QT”, matches the teapot featured in the introductory section, and a sugar and creamer.   The nicely done black and white one in the middle is from “Frutuoso and Frutuoso”, made in Portugal (Can’t find them on the web, but half the fun is in the searching…the top of google’s list under Frutuoso turns out to be a stud farm).  On the right is a Japanese cow that from its pained expression and position of the forelegs looks like it’s hurting in the soft parts.

Here is Mr Frutuoso again, this time accompanied by a smaller relative marked for the same company.  The little guy also appears with other black and white creamers on Page one of Modern Variations.

The rather piggish-looking cow on the left seems to have rather more than the normal allocation of teats.  Makes you wonder if whoever designed it ever saw a real cow.  The middle one with pinwheel designs is a Japanese version of the ‘begging’ cow that is featured in several more interpretations below.  On the right is a very hefty cow that, although unmarked, arrived here (via eBay) from Dublin, Ireland

Here’s another anatomical wonder…I can understand the plaintive look on her face. Perhaps her parents were grazing too near Chernobyl.

Here are four variations on the ‘begging’ theme, from different ends of the earth.  The pitcher on the left, while unmarked, I believe is from Japan like the one with pinwheels.  The one next to it, with the purple nose and brown bell, is incised for “Caldas de Raihna, Portugal”. Next to it, in black and white, is one from a paint-it yourself ceramic shop, marked “For Mom, love Tom and Cindy”.  The mottled brown one on the right would appear to be from a similar mold, but the ad on eBay stated that the seller bought it from a “’gentlemen’s private collection’, being sold because of his divorce, which was mostly top quality glass and pottery; he claimed it was English, c 1860-1880.”  The glaze does seem not unusual for that period, though I have no way of knowing for sure.  True or not, I fell for it.

This is another Portuguese beggar with the same inscriptions as the one above, but this time with a sticker for Andrea by Sadek. This gift, tableware and home furnishings company, also known as Charles Sadek Import Company or j.willfred, was founded in 1936 by Norman and Charles Sadek and is still operated by the Sadek family. Their headquarters are in New Rochelle NY, and they have 7 showrooms across the US.

This has to rate as one of the more fantastic, or at least imaginative, pieces in the collection. Cow? Horse? Mythical beast? Well it was sold as a ‘cow with breasts and wings’, and it certainly has those in plenty. It came to me from France. Actually it is Portuguese, clearly marked for Fabrica Sant’Anna, one of the oldest traditional, high-end Lisbon ceramic factories, established in 1741 and deriving its name from its original location. This piece is dated 2004, and was created with traditional Portuguese techniques.

This tall metal bull pitcher – albeit for sure designed more for display than use, and indeed useless for holding liquids because of an open flaw in the bottom between its legs – is marked for Cuenca, as well as for the artist or studio, which I believe to be Adci Hem (??).  Although there is a Cuenca in Ecuador as well as Spain, I’m pretty sure this fanciful beast is Spanish, and will continue to try to find out more about it.

These two are also from similar molds. The one on the right, which would appear to be from the same mold as a pitcher shown in the Delft theme, has a stamp that states “Biltmore Estate Collection, Genuine Delft”. The white pitcher bears the stamp of “Maryland China, Taiwan”, and I’d guess is made from a copy of the Delft mold. At least I’d be willing to bet the Dutch didn’t copy the Taiwanese in this case…albeit the Delft blue coloring does of course have a Chinese origin.

This interesting pair are 19c Victorian era…the grey one was sold by a knowledgeable UK antique dealer as Swansea pottery.  Quite frankly I think the heads look as much if not more like a fox than a cow, but both were sold as cow pitchers and who am I to argue.

Here’s a collection that includes a teapot, creamer and sugar, cup, and three pitchers (thus they’re here), all with cow heads sticking out of rectangular or circular ‘bodies’.  The teapot and creamer/sugar are from Dept. 56, made in Japan.  The pitcher is unmarked, but I believe belongs to the same set.  The one quart milk carton that has the cow with the blue collar is ©Russ Berrie & Co., and was made in Sri Lanka.  Its half gallon neighbor, wearing the yellow bandanna, is from Taiwan, and bears the mark of two hands cupped around a flower with “S L” above them.  The cup, which I bought because I thought it matched the teapot set (it doesn’t), is by Ganz, Taiwan.

Here’s a very similar interpretation, from Enesco Designed Giftware.

Here are a couple of ‘Brits – medium and mini lip-licking calf jugs from Enesco, Ltd’s “The Young Herriot Studio Collection”, Border Fine Arts Studio, ©2008, Carlisle. 

This is a group of miscellaneous cows, all a bit too large to be used for cream.  We bought the one on the left in a grocery story in Ljubjana, Slovenia, during a visit in 2000; lovely town, fond memories.  The white heavy set bull with yellow horns and a brightly painted scene, in the middle, is unmarked but I’d guess from the style and picture that it’s from Italy or Spain.  The other three are from Japan, and the one standing in the grass is marked for ‘the haldon group’.

This large pitcher with the raised farm scene on the side is from “style.eyes by Baum Bros, Country Fair Collection, China”.  These other four are all from the same mold, painted differently.  I bought them from 4 different eBay sellers, at prices ranging from $3 to $25.  I’ve since learned not to buy the first one of a pattern that comes up, unless it appears to be an unusual antique.

3 odd looking cow pitchers

These aren’t the most beautiful cows in the collection, but they are unusual.  Only the one on the right, which has purple rhinestone eyes, is marked; it says ‘Dunbar” in script.  I guess whoever made it was proud of it.

This is another version of the pitcher on the left above, more clearly shoving the dress, shawl, and huge ears. It’s unmarked, of heavy and brightly glazed ceramic.

Three caricatures, unrelated but more or less with the same basic idea.  The middle one has a faint “TS” impressed inside what looks to me like a tank, and the one on the right is stamped B901. 

forlorn looking cow pitchers

Here are a couple unmarked rather forlorn looking cows, a heavy set smiling one with a red bow and a huge bell, and an older ‘cold paint’ pitcher.  This one has retained most of its paint; I have one identical to it where all the paint has been worn off, and I didn’t realize they were the same until I was taking these pictures.

The stubby cow with the big head and orange bell on the left is from Japan.  Its blue sponged companion is marked for “Hudsonware Vermont”…a small paper that accompanies their products claims their products are all ‘hand molded, hand sponged, and signed in the “Northeast Kingdom of the Green Mountain State of Vermont”.    The white pitcher with the green eyes and its brown friend with the white forelock are both from ‘paint it yourself’ molds – the white one has “LB80” inscribed in the bottom, and the brown one was made by “Amy,’70”.

Well, they have to be cows because cows have horns and mice don’t.  I’d guess them to be Japanese- no other country seems to produce such fanciful cows.  The only marks on them are numbers, 9198 on the biggest and 8721 on the other two. 

This is the first of several ‘sets’.  The little ones are creamers, but the biggest is a pitcher so I chose to put them here. The sticker on their bottom says they’re from Stonewall Kitchen, Made in Spain.

The tag on these rather wild interpretations says they’re “Bee Happy by Claire Mackie, a collection of Department 56”.  The smaller cow must be intended to be a creamer, since it came with a pink udder-shaped sugar bowl and a spoon with a daisy on top.  Dept. 56 has produced quite a number of cows, but these are by far their most imaginative.  They’ve been around since 1976, and make giftware, collectibles, and holiday decorating items.  Check out www.department56.com if you like ‘stuff’.

This set (actually I bought the pitcher separately from the cream and sugar, but they match) are stamped for Japan, and bear a silver gift-box shaped tag that reads “imported by Giftcraft, Toronto”.  They seem to be somewhat patterned after geo.z.lefton’s cows.

Here’s another fanciful pitcher, creamer and sugar set, made in China, with stamps that read “Milk Cow© Collection exclusively by Park Designs, Goldsboro, NC”

Here are three pairs of large and small creamers or pitchers.  The ones with the blue pants and pink bows are from “Farmers Kitchen, Christopher Wren, Produced for Staffordshire Tableware, England”.  The white and black ones with the grey noses are marked “© Henriksen Imports, Inc., Japan”.  The caricatures with the bright orange noses that are flashing their udders are unmarked themselves except for a sticker that says made in China, but the smaller one came in a box that says “Crazy (little) Cow Milk Jug … Cute, irresistible and crazy. Great fun to have around your home! Collect the set. Registered design of Country Kitchenware Supplies, Ltd., CKS.MALVERN.WR13 6NN UK”.  There’s a teapot that accompanies them, shown in that theme section.

These big nosed caricatures come from “Home Essentials and Beyond”’s  “Happy Cow Collection, Made in China”.  The smaller one is also in the Modern Variations page, but then its big brother arrived so it ended up here as well.

Here’s a square set, “Made in Taiwan”,,,purchased separately and I didn’t notice they went together until I was dusting the collection (yes, I do the dusting…and the polishing…though I can’t really understand why my wife won’t help)

Some cows dress up.  This is a mixture of a pitcher, a couple creamers, and a teapot. The big black and white cow with the red sunglasses is from Vandor, dated 1987.  We got it in Hamburg, Germany.  Its small friend with the green and yellow shades is marked “Bonnie’s Ceramic Company, Inc., Handpainted, Made in USA”.  The pair with the wild orange tennis shoes are from ”Fiona Stokes, S. Papel, © Otagiri, Japan”.

Some Vandor 1987 cows have red shades, some have green shades. I’ve included it here next to the one shown above as coming from Pelzman Designs, because it turns out this Vandor cow also has a Pelzman designs sticker. They’re quite similar, but the one without the sunglasses has significantly larger front legs and, although you can’t see it here, a larger tail tip. Apparently Vandor has an affinity for skinny legs. www.vandorproducts.com notes that they’re proud of “making retro cool since 1957…suppliers of hip and functional products”. They create and distribute over 150 designs per year, and are based in Salt Lake City with offices in Hong Kong, China, and the Philippines. I haven’t been able to find out much about Pelzman, but an eBay search indicates that they do a whole lot of work for Vandor, presumably among others.

Here are an unmarked pitcher and teapot that bear some distinct similarities; enough that at first I thought they were from a set, but on closer inspection just seem to have come from folks with similar ideas.

 

 

As the mark here clearly shows, these three rather fierce looking cows come from the Pearl China Company. The ‘Pearl China and Pottery Company’ was established by Dennis and George Singer in 1931, in East Liverpool, Ohio.  This city is sometimes known as the ‘Pottery Capitol of the Nation’, and its Museum of Ceramics lists dozens of pottery companies that operated there. Pearl Co. was designed to serve both as a pottery and as a distributor of goods from other manufacturers.  Pottery production stopped in 1960, but the company remained open as a popular retail outlet until late summer 2009, switching owners to friends of the Singers a couple times before the last owner retired. As far as I know this was the only cow mold (#635) that Pearl used, and these were the only three colors in which they were produced.  From the frequency with which they appear on eBay, they were quite popular at one time. Pearl apparently did make some for other locations or organizations to sell as souvenirs –a yellow one with a Pikes Peak picture is shown on the Advertising and Souvenirs page. 

2 cow pitchers

Here are three very different interpretations.  The fancy one with the daisies and kerchief bears a vague resemblance to Fitz and Floyd’s Heidi Holstein, but is unmarked. The pitcher with the orange horns and bell and grey spots that include hearts bears a sticker that names her “Peaches ‘n Creame”; she was made in Taiwan, ©Himark.  The farmer is unmarked; he has a hole in the back of this hat, and the corn is the spout.

This is a very cute and original interpretation by CLAY ART of San Francisco, copyrighted 1993, entitled Cow Under the Moon, and made in China.  I have a number of pieces of from them (including another pitcher above) , but the only information I could glean from the web came from a 1997 About.com article http://collectibles.about.com/library/articles/aa061797.htm that notes: “In 1979 Michael Zanfagna and Jenny McClain were teaching at Mission High School in San Francisco, when they decided to build a business of affordable art.”  They made salt and pepper shakers, cookie jars, and similar items…obviously including the occasional amusing cow. Are they still in business?”

 

This fierce looking blue eyed Czechoslovalian (green circular stamp) bull appears to be contemplating George Washington.

I’m not sure what to make of this one - big floppy hat, long eyelashes, red jacket and ‘hands’ to cheek as if to say ‘oh my!’…No marks, and the seller thought it may have been home-made.

Here are two that aren’t cow shaped, but were too cute to resist.  The one with the red handle and face of a cow in a fancy hat is from the Regal Pottery’s Company’s Old McDonald Farm series; it tends to be rather pricey these days.  Regal Pottery was established in Antioch, IL in 1938, and was purchased by the Royal China and Novelty Company a couple years later.  It was apparently well known for Jim Beam decanters, the Old MacDonald Farm and Little Red Riding Hood series, and cookie jars; it closed in June 1992.  The orange clay milk carton with black hooves and shiny white spot came from a fancy ceramic shop in the UK in 1996, and is marked with a handwritten “ii95, ©

This little modern guy was also too cute to pass up.  It comes from the Peter Pots Pottery, whose web site notes that they have been making stoneware in Rhode Island since 1948, and since 1954 have been located in the “historic Glen Rock Mill” in West Kingston.

This one is also a bit odd for the collection, but we like to buy at least one cow creamer in every country we visit.  A while back we went to Costa Rica for a couple weeks of birding, and this was the only cow we found, in a ‘porcellan’ shop in San Jose that specializes in peddling oriental gee-gaws to the Ticos.

While we’re in the ‘odd for the collection’ mode, here’s a wild one – designed to hold a quart milk carton.  The seller states that it was designed by Judy Shelby Lotus, for her ‘Moo Dairy” collection.  I can’t find anything about her or her collection on the web, but both her name and “Moo Dairy” are prominently displayed on the pitcher. If nothing else, this is certainly different…

I debated about this one, but the cow is sufficiently part of the shape that I guess it qualifies for the colection…it’s marked for “T-J-Maxx”

Here are a couple of my favorites (named Jezebel and Penelope by our webmaster).  They were hand made by a (unknown) South Carolina folk artist, according to the antique dealer from whom I acquired them at a Kiwanis sponsored antique fair in Arlington, VA.  At first I sort of just walked right by them because I wasn’t at all sure they were cows…but when you turn them around, for sure they’re each fully equipped.  Very fanciful to say the least.  Perhaps someone can identify the artist.

Here’s another hand-thrown pottery cow pitcher – it came from eBay, with no information beyond the “Kran” incised in script in its bottom.  It’s probably no surprise that I was the only bidder…

Yet a third hand made cow pitcher – this one a “Face Jug” signed by the maker Otis Norris of McBee, South Carolina (who is rather famous for such things) and dated 9-02.  Face jugs are a southern US folk art specialty, and …

here’s a black bull’s head version, “no.1 cow” by Linda Corn of Lula, Banks County, Georgia, dated 12/99.  It’s being kept company here by a cow standing in grass with grapes around its neck, marked with an incised “V COR” and bearing a decal for Wang’s International, Inc.

This cute hand-made milk pitcher with her udder in the middle of her back came to me via eBay, but was purchased initially at Bluff Park Art Show in Birmingham AL, on the 1st Saturday in Oct 1984.  It is signed with the year and what looks to be “Spunkun”.  Anybody know Spunkun??

This is a lovely hand-blown art deco black bull pitcher signed “C.Jenkins 2007”.  You can see more work by this artist, including bulls like this, other animals, and other beautiful art glass pieces,  on his web site http://charliejenkins.com…from what I glean there, he worked out of Oakland until he married in 2007, then moved with his new wife to Dresden, Maine.  Since the web site hasn’t been updated since the wedding, I assume this bull was made in California and he’s been somewhat busy since.

 

Switching to the other side of the earth, this is a clay water (or soy?) pot that the seller claimed is 17c Qing Dynasty.  It’s either a bull or a water buffalo, as is…

this interesting Russian liquor dispenser that came, thanks once again to eBay, from a seller in Vratsa, Bulgaria.

Here’s another decanter, presumably for a liqueur given the size of the cups.  This one’s a bit outside the two-hole criterion since its head serves as the bottle top, but like a lot of other ones that are ‘close’, I couldn’t resist.  It does after all hold liquid…

This one also is obviously way outside the criteria – however, there are a couple very large and nice cows with barrels and spouts on the Faience page, so I fell for this caricature to keep them company.  It’s missing its spout in back, but almost assuredly was made as a liquor dispenser. It’s Japanese made (it has a sticker that says so), and labeled for “PAC”, although it has all the characteristics of  several others scattered throughout that came from Thames. Somehow I can’t imagine it holding sake.  Indeed, I doubt that one like it was ever sold in Japan – only some crazy American would ever buy something this weird.  

This is a blown glass liquid holder – the seller said either a dog or a cow, so naturally I assumed it was the latter although I do harbor some serious doubts. It probably came with a cork and metal stopper in the snout. The attribution is possibly to Orrefors Kosta Borda AB, a Swedish utility and art glass company that has a history dating back to 1742 (and since 2005 has been part of the New Wave Group), but more likely (from what I can find on the web) to John Erik Hugo Gehlin (1889-1953) a Swedish glass artist and designer at Gulla Skrufs glassworks which was in production from 1893 to 1995 and was once owned by Orrefors. One way or the other, it for sure seems to be Swedish.

Here again (again since these were also featured in the ‘Places’ theme for Spain) are oil and vinegar cruets that we bought in Seville, and a larger wine jug, this one from Toledo. 

And here’s a pair of the larger wine pitchers, with an impressionistic bull.  Meant to be mother and child I guess…only a Mom could love a face like that.  Or maybe for wine and grappa…or…

Here is a similarly shaped pitcher, said to come from Mexico.

The plain brown bull pitcher here is unmarked.  It’s companion, which has “VINO” embossed on its right side and a connected large T and small R on the left, is apparently the same ceramic pitcher, but beautifully wrapped in varnished goatskin parchment.  The seller indicated that, although unmarked, it was most likely attributed to Aldo Tura, an Italian artist-craftsman-designer who began his furniture and decorative object business in the 1930’s (see www.tura.it).  I’ve poked around a bit and found that Tura did indeed make quite a number of parchment-wrapped bar accessories as well as bars and other furniture, and some of the accessories seem to have been marked with a green label stuck to the bottom, which may have fallen off of this piece.  If it is indeed a Tura then I got a heck of a bargain…and if not, at least I’ve now got a really classy goatskin-parchment wrapped vino jug.

Update:  Since I acquired the leather-wrapped bull I’ve seen several others on offer in various conditions and with different brands.  One, in pretty tough shape, had a label that read “Artesania Raymon, Made in Spain, Ref 125”.  I’ve not been able to find out anything about this company except that it’s in Valencia, and has made a variety of other leather-wrapped glass and pottery items.  I think this attribution is more likely than Tura.

Three more large pottery wine jugs – the one with the cups from Mexico, the second from Peru, and the wild bright caricature (cow or devil??) unidentified.

This red clay jug with the grey glaze and stylized markings is smaller than many of the others – unidentified, although the sellers said they’d like to think it was Cretan or Etruscan…I would too, but I don’t.

No need to guess what this one’s for, or where it’s from:  “Sangria” is clearly inscribed on the front, and “El Toro, Madrid” on the side.

There are a couple like this on the Places page, from Ecuador (assuming the sellers were right about where they got them)…this one is from Spain.  Like the others, it reads “Recuerdo de Cuenca” , Souvenir of Cuenca.  And yes, there is a Cuenca in both Spain and Ecuador.  This one also has an impressed seals on its right rump that reads “E. del Castillo Alfarero , Cuenca” and Emilio Castillo’s ceramic studio is in Cuenca Spain.  The knowledgeable UK seller stated that this is an example of the Cuenca’s most typical pottery item, the so called "Toro Ibérico" (Iberian Bull) which  was originally created by the master potter Pedro Mercedes who was inspired by an Iberian bull head from the 7c Moorish period which was found in the town of Huete and is kept in the Museo de Cuenca.

Here’s another variation on the theme…about 6 ½ inches tall and 9 inches long…it came to me (via eBay naturally) from the UK, but it’s extremely unlikely that it was fashioned there. 

This unusually shaped, hard red clay cow or bull reads “Ron de Salamanca” on its chest.  It nearly didn’t make it into the collection because it came with the handle badly broken in shipping (thus the eBay seller refunded the price), as well as a missing horn. Then I broke the other horn.  But it was so unusual that I decided to see if I could patch it up, and here it is, looking not too bad at least from a distance.

pitcher

I’m cheating on my rule a bit with this one because it has only the one hole in its snout, but it’s so large, unique, and graceful I couldn’t resist it.  It came from Ontario Canada  (Very slow and expensive shipping!), and the only info the seller could provide is that he got it at an estate sale from someone who had an extensive pottery collection, and that it’s most likely Blue Mountain or CCC pottery. 

Of course, some cow pitchers are also creamers and vice-versa, i.e.  one hole but designed to pour, like a ‘classic’ creamer. There are a few scattered around in various sections – notably the Elsie heads are pitchers in this sense – and here are a couple interesting Japanese versions from, I believe, before WWII. 

This is a modern interpretation, with the bulbous snout serving as the handle. No wonder she looks so forlorn, getting picked up by the nose.

This one also has a big nose (and very stubby legs), but at least it has a handle.

This smiling chef is big enough to hold almost a quart. I sometimes wonder why I buy these things!

This little pressed glass creamer violates my rules but it does have a nice metal cow (as well as 4 birds and “cream half milk half”) on the lid, and I justified buying it because it’s small much more likely to see daily use than any of the others, if only because my wife likes it.

SUITEKI or Water Droppers

As I stated on the home page, this is a later addition to the collection, of interest to me because they meet the ‘two hole’ rule, and because I wanted some traditional versions of a cow, bull, ox or water buffalo from the lactose intolerant populations of the Far East... and also, as noted below, because my wife got me hooked on them.  Probably the best overall explanation of suiteki that I have found comes from a very informative article at the Japanese Art and Architecture Net Users System (JAANUS) web site, from which -- and I quote – we learn that the Japanese term Suiteki means “Lit. water-dropper. A small container used to hold the water which is added to the inkstone ‘suzuri’ during the grinding of the ink stick. Water-droppers may be made of copper, jade and stone, but ceramic are the most popular. Depending on their size and shape, water-droppers may also be termed suichuu, suichuujou  (also suijou), suiu  or senjo. More specifically, a suiteki has two small holes for water and air and is designed so that only a few drops of water can fall at one time. Suichuu are shaped like pitchers and have a pouring spout and a handle. Suiu and suijou are bowl or jar-like, and some have wide mouths, making them popular for use as brush washers (hissen), while others have small mouths. Senjo, or "toad", was so named because a toad was believed to hold water in its large belly. Thus many jade toad-shaped water-droppers exist. At first the suiteki was simply a jar or bowl used for holding water, but as interest in the accoutrements of calligraphy grew, water-droppers became more specialized. Bronze water-droppers in the shapes of fantastic creatures [monsters], ceramic suiu and teapot-shaped suichuu were created in China and found their way to Japan and became popular with the literati of the Edo period. In Japan, suiteki were already used in the Nara period (7c) when sutra copying flourished. A set from this period made up of a bronze water-dropper, a spoon and a tray used to hold the ink stick are preserved at Houryuuji, Nara. Since the late Heian period (11c), a special kind of writing box ‘suzuribako’, which includes the water-dropper, in addition to the ink stone and other writing tools, became very popular. The water-droppers varied greatly in material, shape and design. Notable, are the elaborately designed ceramic suiteki, including many animal-shaped examples, that were found among old Seto (13c) and Oribe (16c) wares (see ‘setoyaki’, ‘oribeyaki’) Water-droppers of richly colored cloisonne (shippou) also became popular from the 16c.” I sure hope JAANUS doesn’t mind my passing on their information to cow-creamer collectors.

I have my wife (a calligrapher among her other talents) to thank, or perhaps to blame, for this extension of the collection, since she bought me this lovely porcelain water dropper (it’s missing a horn) in a Hong Kong antique shop while I was busy on business. It was the only one I had, with no intention of acquiring more, until we visited Japan a couple years later and…

pitcher2

we noticed three cows among this 19c Edo period bronze water dropper collection in the Tokyo National Museum. Naturally enough, since for some reason the museum didn’t want to part with them, I started hitting the web to learn more about them. There’s also a (pricey) book entitled “Suiteki - The Art of Bronze Water Droppers” if you really want to get serious.

cow

I may not have been able to buy the bronze cow suiteki that were in the museum, but I have managed to acquire a few lovely bronze examples, such as this simple reclining beast that came to me from Kumamoto, on the western shore of Kyushu. My other bronze suiteki all seem to be water buffalo, but this one is very definitely a cow – and he or she looks sufficiently plump and pampered to be a model of a source of Kobe beef.

bronze cow

bronze cow2

This lovely bronze Japanese suiteki of a reclining water buffalo has its own wooden box, and came marked as 19c Tokugawa era.  The seller notes he acquired it from the San Francisco Asian Art Museum.  I’d be delighted to learn the English translation of the Japanese characters on the box and its attached paper.

This small but very well done early 20c copper or bronze suiteki of a boy with a flute riding a water buffalo came to me from Okayama, Japan, which is about half-way between Kobe and Hiroshima.  The seller told me that the boy or man riding a water buffalo is a traditional theme of Zen Buddhism – which of course sent me to digging through the web.  I learned that this is a representation of the sixth stage from an early Taoist story of the ‘Ten Bulls’  that (according to Wikipedia) may represent a Zen Buddhist interpretation of the ten stages experienced by a Bodhisattva as outlined in various Mahāyāna sūtras. The wikipedia article states that the story as related by the 12c  Chinese Zen master Kuòān Shīyuǎn has pictures, poems and short pieces of prose that “tell how the student ventures into the wilderness in his search for "the Bull" (or "Ox"; a common metaphor for enlightenment, or the true self, or simply a regular human being), and how his efforts prove fruitless at first. Undeterred, he keeps searching and eventually finds footprints on a riverbank. When he sees the bull for the first time he is amazed by the splendour of its features ('empty and marvellous' is a well known phrase used to describe the perception of Buddha nature). However, the student has not tamed the bull, and must work hard to bring it under control. Eventually he reaches the highest Enlightenment, returns to the world and ‘everyone I look upoon becomes enlightened’.” The sixth stage has the man riding the bull home in great joy, and in the 12c picture he is playing a flute.  Whether or not this is the correct interpretation of this suiteki, many in my collection  – Chinese as well as Japanese – feature a person riding, climbing or lying on a standing or reclining bull (water buffalo). 

Here is another older Japanese bronze with a similar theme – in this case, both the man and the ‘bull’ are peacefully reclining.

Here is a nice pair of reclining bronze Japanese water buffalo – great detail, down to the  rope through the nose.  One of these came to me from California a couple years ago – then I couldn’t resist its twin, which arrived  direct from a seller in Tottori-shi, Tottori-ken, Japan.  That of course sent me to the web, where I learned that Tottori Prefecture, located in the Chugoku region of southwest Honshu, is the least populous prefecture in Japan, and has the nation’s only large area of sand dunes. From Wikipedia, always the source of fun information, I found that ‘The word "Tottori" in Japanese is formed from two kanji characters. The first, , means "bird" and the second, means "to get". Early residents in the area made their living catching the region's plentiful waterfowl. The name first appears in the Nihon shoki in the 23rd year of the Emperor Suiko when Yukuha Tana, an elder from the Izumo, visits the emperor. The imperial Prince Homatsu-wake was unable to speak, despite being 30 years of age: "Yukuha Tana presented the swan to the emperor. Homatsu-wake no Mikoto played with this swan and at last learned to speak. Therefore, Yukaha Tana was liberally rewarded, and was granted the title of Tottori no Miyakko."

Here is a very fine Japanese example, a small resting porcelain Bull, from the early Showa period, ca 1930.

This rather large suiteki cow with the long bushy tail has a little Buddha-like figure on its forehead.  The seller said it was 50-100 years old. It is bizen-ware, an iron-hard, wood fired unglazed type of pottery. Wikipedia notes that “Bizen is named after the village of Imbe in Okayama prefecture, formerly Bizen Province (on the southern coast of western Honshu). This artwork is Japan's oldest pottery making technique, introduced in the Heian period. Bizen is one of the six remaining kilns of medieval Japan.”

This interesting Japanese celadon suiteki of unknown date – but not new - came from Kobe.

This simple but lovely rectangular water dropper with a raised sleeping cow is also presumably Japanese.

This is an interesting heavy suiteki of a boy on a water buffalo, possibly Korean.  It’s lost its right horn.

This pair of early earthenware Chinese water droppers picture what the seller said were ‘immortals’ riding water buffalo or bulls.  The bulls and the fronts of the men (but not their faces or backs) are coated with Sancai  which  (again turning to Wikipedia for information) translates as ‘three colors’ and “ is a type of lead-glazed pottery: lead oxide was the principal flux in the glaze, often mixed with quartz in the proportion of 3:1. The polychrome effect was obtained by using as coloring agents copper (which turns green), iron (which turns brownish yellow), and less often manganese and cobalt (which turns blue).”  The seller said that this pair came from a large Chinese collection and is 17c Ming or Kangxi.   The Ming Dynasty lasted from 1368-1644, and was followed by the Qing (last Imperial) dynasty which lasted until 1912.  Kangxi, considered one of China’s greatest emperors and the longest-reigning, was the 4th Qing emperor, and ruled for 61 years, from 1661-1722.  It would take an expert to verify this attribution or narrow things down a bit and I’m certainly not one, but at the very least it makes a good story and these very interesting water droppers are fully appropriate to lead off my Chinese water dropper area.

cow

This silver kneeling bull with a little cup on a hinge under its chin is also Chinese.  I have seen horse and sheep versions of this form. 

cow

cow

Here is a modern Yixing clay suiteki of a reclining water buffalo with a boy climbing onto its back.  This clay, from the region near Yixing in Jiangsu province, has been used since the Song Dynasty and is very popular for teapots because their unglazed surfaces absorb traces of the contents, leading to a more complex flavor…thus they should never be washed with detergents, or used for more than one type of tea.  There are a few cow or bull shaped Yixing clay pots on the Teapots page.

Here is another Chinese clay water dropper, this time with a large-headed boy struggling to mount his water buffalo.

Here are three modern Chinese porcelain suiteki all featuring the same reclining ox or water buffalo – two on a rock and the third on a seal.  They all hail from Bejing.

These are exceedingly large (for a suiteki) modern Chinese water droppers. I first acquired the red one – couldn’t resist at 99 cents plus postage – and then found the grey one with the naked boy on top for considerably more, but with postage paid from Beijing. My wife, a calligrapher, tried them both and says that the one with the boy has the filler/stopper hole in a much more convenient location for a right-handed person.

Here’s another fairly large one, a Chinese celadon kneeling ox or water buffalo, pudgy and cute.  It was advertised on eBay as being from the “Long Quan Kiln” which of course sent me right away to Google.  From chinaculture.org and chinauniquetour.com I learned that “The porcelain of Longquan ware represented a great school of southern celadon that arose in the Song Dynasty (960-1279). It was manufactured in fairly vast areas in the southwestern part of East China's Zhejiang Province. The sites of former celadon kilns and workshops are found throughout the counties of Lishui, Suichang, Yuehe, Qingtian, and Longquan on the upper Oujiang River, with Longquan as the production center. There were also many kiln sites in Pucheng along the Songxi River in the northern part of East China's Fujian Province”…and more, should you care to go to those sites. Wikipedia also has a nice article about the many kilns in the area. Pretty obviously mine – which cost ~$9.   - does not date from the Song Dynasty; but my attempts to learn more about current Long Quan kilns from the seller came to naught thanks to his paucity of English.

Here are some additional Chinese examples.


This carved Chinese water dropper – the hole is in the rear – doubles as a seal.

I didn’t notice when I bought it, but this little Chinese water dropper of heavy earthenware with green glaze is the same as the one above, but without the seal.  It was sold as ‘min kiln’, but I have no idea what that means.

This rather large, stylized, modern water dropper – I’ve seen it offered in a variety of colors – may not have been intended to be a cow, but then I occasionally have a rather vivid imagination.

This one also takes a bit of imagination for it to be a cow…the seller said it was a donkey, but I’ve never seen a donkey with horns. Possibly a sheep but they don’t generally lie down like that. Thus it’s some variant of water buffalo or cow-like creature, and at the low price, close enough for me.  In addition to the interesting pattern on its sides, it has a blue stamp with illegible Chinese characters on the bottom

These four soapstone small Chinese suiteki are fairly old – said by the seller to come from a “large collection of high quality antiquities from an estate of the daughter of a former merchant sea captain stationed in Asia.”  I’d guess them to be probably early 20c.

This water buffalo or ox is even older: 15c Vietnamese, recovered from the Hoi An shipwreck.  The seller, Ethnix Tribal and African Arts of NY (they have a really neat web site) provided the following information in the eBay description:  “In the mid 15th century a junk loaded with over 250,000 fine examples of Vietnamese pottery sank to the bottom of the South China Sea in an area called the Dragons Embrace, 40km off the coast of Vietnam. The shipwreck was discovered by Vietnamese fishermen who began pulling up huge amounts of pottery in their nets.  Subsequently the Vietnamese government hired a salvage company to recover the massive amount of sunken treasure which was to be auctioned later in the major auction houses, in London, Paris, New York, San Francisco, etc.  As a result, the Hoi An  sunken treasure has provided both financial and scholarly rewards. Sales proceeds, amounting to tens of millions of dollars, have gone to build museums in Vietnam and to pay for further excavation and research. With the discovery of previously unknown ceramic forms and design, the historical and artistic relationship between Vietnam and China has been redefined and the quality from this little known chapter of Vietnamese artistic tradition has been recognized. This piece was purchased in an antique shop in Saigon”.  For more information about the shipwreck,  go to http://www.thingsasian.com/ and search for Hoi An shipwreck.  Really neat stories here.

No, not all cows…but there is a bull in this set of clay Chinese zodiac suiteki in a brocade box. Cute…couldn’t resist.