From the Worthologists’ Files: Stonelain Pottery Piece

One of the advantages of being an appraiser is the sheer volume of incredible things one comes across on a weekly basis. Not all are hugely valuable, antique, rare or even all that sought after. Many times their value is only sentimental, but they often come with priceless provenances. Our Worthologist file cabinet is a treasure chest of such items– appraisal requests from our clients ranging from stuffed aardvarks to folk art zithers, all of which I’ll cover here in this column.

Our client acquired this piece at an estate sale in a lot of items in New Port Richey, Florida.

Not all of the pieces we’ve appraised are antiques; many are Mid 20th century designer items, but still have a strong base of collectors and often an interesting history. Our client had this to say about this piece:

I acquired this piece at an estate sale in a lot of items in New Port Richey, Florida.  On the back of the piece it says Stonelain with a pitcher with interlocking S’s.  There is also a very faint signature in the lower right of the front of the piece.  I can not really make out the name as it is faded.  It looks like 4 letters.  After the letters there appears to be a C with a circle around it.  It appears the second letter may be an H and the third letter a U. Under the clear coating there is a spider-web-type effect.  Even with this effect, when I run my hand over the surface, it is completely smooth.

The intertwined “SS” initials found inside the Stonelain maker’s mark on the base of many pottery pieces is the mark from master potters William Soini and Frances Server.

Based on the images and the marking, this piece was designed by Alphonse Shum (AKA Juan Acher Baptist-1897-1967) and was marketed through the Associated American Artists of New York City. The Association produced pottery under the Stonelain label from the late 1930’s to around 1952, and many of the pieces were decorated by important American artists of the time such as Thomas Hart Benton, Doris Lee, Marion Greenwood, and Georges Schreiber. Master potters William Soini and Frances Server handled the technical aspects of the pottery production. It’s their intertwined “SS” initials found inside the Stonelain maker’s mark on the base of many pottery pieces. In the current market, our Worthopedia lists  comparable pieces by Alphonse Shum in the $30.00-$100.00 range, with one selling for as much as $349.99. 

 This Stonelain Pottery Alfonzo Villa Shum Mid-Century Pottery Fish sold for only $10 in August 2014.

Mike Wilcox, of Wilcox & Hall Appraisers, is a Worthologist who specializes in Art Nouveau and the Arts and Craft movement. He can be reached through his website Antique-Appraise.com.

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