Monday, January 22, 2007

Chinatown or Bust?

When I married Bill and moved into his house, we blended all of our belonging together, keeping some and letting go of some too. When we were "melding" I noticed an unusual doorstop in one of the rooms that caught my eye. It was a chalk ware bust of an Asian child that appeared to be sucking it's thumb. It was hard to tell because it was in really rough shape. He said it was originally his great grandmothers from Carmel, who's wedding ring I now wore, and that it had been through a house fire at his Grandpa Joe's house in the late '80's. I really enjoyed looking at it, and I even did a few small watercolors sketches of it. It wasn't until I stopped in an antique store in Paso Robles on my way to L.A. a few years later that I saw another like it and found out what it was. Yes, it was chalk ware, an Esther Hunt style chalk ware bust. The one I saw was expensive and beautiful! As you can imagine, chalk ware chips, peels and breaks easily so I'm guessing that many were destroyed, making them valuable and collectible.

Esther Hunt began making and selling chalk ware busts, and portraits of Asian women and children in the '20's in San Francisco, after studying art there and then with William Merritt Chase in Paris. She grew up and lived most of her life here in California. There were a handful of artist working in the same genre at the same time, and all of the work seem to be very collectible today. I was surprised that I had never seen one before! Being a long time thrifter/collector from California, and being from a family that loved most things Asian and all! Well, that original "doorstop" still sits on a bookshelf, and over the last twelve years we've been lucky enough to find a few. We love the hunt! I have even restored one just like the Child Sucking it's Thumb that started it all. None of ours are Esther Hunts, and none of ours were expensive. I'm writing this tonight because yesterday Billy and I had a rare few hours together, and we went antiquing in Moss Landing together. Well, we walked into a little store and boom! There she was! In all our years of looking together, we have never seen one in a store! I found a bust once by myself years ago in L.A that I bought, plus I've found a few small pieces that were probably carnival give-aways from the period that I got as well. Mostly we see them on-line, mainly on EBay. This bust is big! She's about 9 1/2" tall. She isn't in pristine shape, but she is in original condition. There are a few chips and dents plus some paint loss. I just love the tilt of her head, and the expression in her eyes. Next week is our anniversary, and so we got her in celebrate a dozen years of searching together.


futuregirl said...

She is quite beautiful! I'd never heard of chalk ware. I'm totally intrigued.

capello said...

very cool!