Lost Porcelain Studios: Boehm of Malvern (1971-1978)

The story of the first decade of the Boehm porcelain studio in Malvern, England, is entwined with those of two other venerable British makers: Royal Worcester and Connoisseur of Malvern. This initial post about ‘Malvern Boehm’ covers the sculptures produced during the 1970s; the plaques and decorative plates issued during those years will be examined separately.

After the death of Edward Marshall Boehm in 1969, his wife Helen took over the operation of their New Jersey studio. During a visit to the UK in the early 1970s, she happened to notice a selection of naturalistic porcelain sculptures sold exclusively at the Thomas Goode store in London. After learning that they had been produced by a small studio called Cranleigh Art Ceramics in Worcestershire, she asked to meet with the creators who were also employed at the Royal Worcester porcelain factory: Keith Bufton, Terry King Lewis, and Rick Lewis (no relation to Terry.) She was so impressed with their work that she offered them the opportunity to direct a satellite studio for Boehm, to be known as Boehm of Malvern.

The company was incorporated in February 1971 as Boehm of Malvern England Ltd and was located on Tanhouse Lane in the village of Malvern in Worcestershire. The studio’s on-site Directors were Keith Bufton (Director of Design), Rick Lewis (Artistic Director) and Terry Lewis (Director of General Management.) Diane Lewis headed the flower making department. In order to accommodate the expected increased demand, local advertisements were placed asking for people with experience in ceramics to apply; quite a few of them were former Royal Worcester artists.  Only a few years later they required more facilities and obtained permission from the town authorities to add more square footage to the original structure, including a slip house and a casting area.

Materials and Backstamps

A key difference between the output of the Malvern and New Jersey studios was the chemical composition of the porcelain. The British studio used bone porcelain, but the American operation used a “hardpaste” formula. Bone porcelain is much more amenable to hand-forming elements such as flowers and leaves, which is why the floral designs from the Malvern studio often exhibit superior detail and workmanship. During 1975 the UK studio did create several designs in the hardpaste formula at Trenton’s request but never used it again after that.

 

These backstamps are examples of those appearing on limited edition sculptures produced in the 1970s.  The “default” logo during this decade was the horse-and-crown stamp. Notice the slight variation of the material description: Porcelain, Bone Porcelain, or Bone China. All three mean the exact same thing – at least in the UK, where “bone china” = porcelain. However, in America the term ‘bone china’ refers to a different material which is not porcelain.

Here are two non-limited edition stamps. Boehm used their own terminology to describe pieces that were not limited editions; “open” meant “still in active production” but after production was stopped, the piece was then described as “nonlimited.”

It is typical of Boehm plant and wildlife sculptures to include the Latin name of the subject below the sculpture title. The five-digit number is the design code, the intricacies of which are addressed next.

Boehm of Malvern Design Numbers

Design numbers assigned by the UK studio followed a set formula, which also enabled them to be differentiated from the products of the New Jersey operation. During the 1970s the first three digits always indicated whether a piece was a limited or nonlimited issue. The very first piece issued by the Malvern studio was design #1001. As soon as the series reached five digits, a hyphen was typically put between the third and fourth which is why I refer to them as the “100 series”, “200 series” and so on. Throughout the 1970s the first three digits also represented the category of the subject of the sculpture; in the mid-1980s that rule of thumb was altered somewhat. This list below covers the entire operating timeframe of the Malvern Boehm studio, not just the 1970s addressed in this post.

100-xx series
1001 through 100-55 = Limited edition birds, 1970s to early/mid 1980s
100-55 through 100-99 = Limited edition animals, fish, and some birds. Starting in the mid 1980s.
101-xx  series = Limited edition animals and birds; caution is needed because some examples were made in the USA even though bearing a Malvern design code. Ranges from the 1980s to early 1990s.
102-xx  = Limited edition birds but also some limited edition human studies. Mid 1980s to early 1990s.
103-xx  = Limited edition florals, mid to late 1980s
104-xx  = Limited edition florals and/or birds, late 1980s to early 1990s
200-xx = nonlimited edition birds, 1970s to mid 1980s
201-xx = nonlimited edition  animals, 1970s to mid 1980s
202-xx  = nonlimited edition birds, mid 1980s onward
203-xx  =  at least some of this number series were “theme series”, such as the Children of the World which were in the 203-30’s range. I have so far seen only six pieces in the 203-xx series.
204-xx = nonlimited edition flowers, late 1980s
205-xx = this may have been a special series of late 1980s nonlimited flowers
230-xx = used only for the late 1980s “animals in the round” nonlimited series
250-xx = nonlimited florals during the 1980s
260-xx = assigned to the Rare Wildflowers Collection done for the World Wildlife Fund in 1982
300-xx = Limited edition florals from 1971 to 1982
301-xx = Limited edition florals from the 1980s
4001 through 4004 ONLY = the Moments in Nature limited-edition animal group series from 1971. All other 400 series Boehm pieces were made in the USA, not in England, and are typically nonlimited editions.
500-xx = Limited edition animals from 1971 to the mid 1980s
550-xx = Limited edition series that may have extended only to horses; first half of 1980s.
The 600-xx series throws a monkey wrench into the entire lineup because they were first used in 1976/77 Malvern for Limited Edition hand-painted plaques, then only by the NJ studio for decorative plates, and then transferred back to Malvern again in the 1980s (600-01 onward) for use on their mixed porcelain/bronze series! To make matters worse, they re-used some of the same numbers that had already been used for different things in the 1970s.
601-xx = a mixture of Limited and nonlimited florals, some sold via the Hamilton Collection; mid 1980s.
620-xx = Limited edition porcelain-with-ormolu (gilded bronze) flowers from the mid 1980s. There may have been only one or two in this series.
640-xx = Limited edition porcelain-with-bronze birds, mid 1980s.
670-xx = Limited edition porcelain-with-bronze fairies, offered to Collectors Club members in 1986
7001 through 7007 only = seven human studies from 1975 and 1977. Starting with 7008 (a small salt-cellar in the form of a swan) this design code series was reassigned to their home décor pieces, most of which were made in Trenton. However, the aforementioned swan salts were produced at the Malvern studio.
BW series = white bisque cupids astride various animals. Most of the BW-series pieces were made in Trenton but for some reason these were done at Malvern. Production years are unknown but possibly late 1980s or early 1990s.

I have never seen a Malvern Boehm design number higher than 7007, and currently maintain a list of all Boehm of Malvern design numbers as a Word document that is updated as I find new backstamps. Many of the nonlimited edition stamps (and some limited ones as well) do not include the design number, so there are  some gaps, but all design numbers that I have found are there. If you would like a copy of the list, simply ask via the contact form on the About the Chatsworth Lady page and I’ll be happy to email it to you.

By the way, the design numbers on Malvern backstamps may or may not contain a hyphen. The non-hyphenated versions seem to be more prevalent after the mid-1980s. I use the hyphenated format because I think it makes the longer numbers easier to read.

1970s Birds (Limited Editions)

Boehm of Malvern issued at least 50 limited and nonlimited edition bird studies from 1971 through 1978.  I have separated them here into limited and non-limited editions

Nuthatch with Fly Agaric (design 1001) was the very first retail piece from the Malvern Boehm studio. Made from 1971-1975, it is a limited edition of 350, standing 8″ high and as wide. The third photo shows artist Christopher Burns painting one in 1972.

Also among the very first group of limited edition studies was the Winter Robin, an issue of 350 which was completed in 1975.

The impressive Barn Owl from 1972, a declared edition of 350. This 21″ high study was originally designed with the wings at a different angle, resulting in a width of 21″ as well; it was redesigned before production to make the wings more horizontal and increasing the overall width to 27″.

Yellowhammers with Hawthorn, from 1973, was a declared edition of 400 but only 350 were made. It is 11″ high, 11.5″ wide, and 10.5″ deep. The second photo is a contemporary magazine advertisement from the Marshall Fields department store.

The Screech Owl was also a 1973 issue, of 500, and standing 10.5″ high.

Another 1973 edition is the Peregrine, with a height of 21″ and a wingspread of 19″. An issue of 350.

Green Woodpeckers with Morning Glories was made for only three years (1973-1976.) Originally an edition of 250, it was slashed to only 50 before closing. This example exhibits breaks, losses, and prior restorations.

The very detailed Stonechats with Blackberry and Brambles from 1974, a declared issue of 350 that is 12″ high.

 

A real production challenge was presented by Swallows with Marsh Marigolds and Reeds. Issued in 1974 as an edition of 350, only 68 of them had been successfully completed twelve years later (1986)! I have no idea how many were ultimately made but I’d be surprised if it were even as many as 100. This piece is 18″ high and almost 12″ wide.

Crested Tit with Kerria Japonica was an issue of 500 in 1974.

A 1975 issue of 500, the European Goldfinch says “British Goldfinch” on the backstamp; however, this bird (Carduelis carduelis) is native to more parts of the world than just the UK. Our American Goldfinch, Spinus tristis, is an entirely different bird.

Design number 100-23 was assigned twice but only used once in retail production. It was originally given to the 1975 study Crossbills with Beech which proved to be a production nightmare and was never released. The number was reassigned to Rivoli’s Hummingbird with Hibiscus the following year (1976.)

Blue Tits with Apple Blossom was originally an issue of 400 which was reduced to 350 within three years and possibly even lower thereafter.

Long Tailed Tits with Gorse experienced a similar edition size reduction.

The Grey Wagtail with Arum has been variously described as either a 1978 or a 1979 release. The declared edition was only 150, and thirteen of them were definitely made but as to any others, it’s murky. This piece is 11″ high.

1970s Birds (Non-Limited Editions)

Here are several examples of nonlimited editions from the mid 1970s, with the porcelain ‘formula’ noted. The first non-limited bird was Jenny Wren, shown earlier.

The second open-edition bird was the Cuckoo (Young Female), in 1972. This piece was the first retail trial using the Trenton formula; you can immediately see the difference in the mold design and especially the delicate flowers which appear in Jenny Wren but are entirely lacking in this design.

Peregrine fledgling, 1974, 5″ high (hardpaste)

Bridled Titmouse 1975, 10.5″ high (hardpaste)

Carolina Wren with Mushroom, 1975, 7.5″ high (hardpaste)

Robin with Snowdrops, 1976 or 1977, 8″ high. Notice the difference in the delicacy of the floral elements made possible here by the bone porcelain, compared to the simpler shapes of the hardpaste items.

Unfortunately none of the open editions had introduction years on them, and Palley’s book stops at 1976; as a result I do not have an issue year for the adorable Saw Whet Owl although his design number (200-38) suggests that 1977 is a good bet. He stands just over 6″ tall. (bone porcelain)

Using the same method, I am pegging the Willow Warbler with Pussywillow for either 1977 or 1978. (bone porcelain)

Wren with Campanula, 1978, 6.5″ high (bone porcelain)

1970s Flowers (Limited Editons)

The Malvern studio also issued at least 50 limited and unlimited floral studies during their first decade. Several of them foreshadow those which Diane Lewis later designed at Connoisseur of Malvern. The design numbers of the limited edition florals all begin with the number 300, while the open editions share the 200-range with the birds and humans.

Oddly enough, the very first Boehm of Malvern floral piece was a rather atypical one and was a combination of the flower and bird genre! However, its design number (3001) puts it in the flower category. The Swan Centerpiece is filled with peonies and while only 6″ high is an impressive 22″ long. Introduced in 1971, the declared edition of 350 was terminated after only 133 were made; the problem proven to be insurmountable fragility in transit to retailers. It’s said that this piece was a Helen Boehm suggestion and that the idea for the design did not originate with the directors of the new studio.

The second 1971 limited edition, Yellow Daisies, exhibits the delicacy and fine detail that collectors would come to expect from Boehm of Malvern. The full edition of 350 was completed.

A design/shipping lesson learned the hard way in 1971 was Chrysanthemum and Bamboo (upper photo), a one-year-wonder design that was terminated because of its high fatality rate in transit. The edition size went from 350 to only five!  I’d be surprised if any of the five survive intact today. Measurements are (were) 9″ x 12” This was the first instance of a design number being reassigned to a subsequent piece; its number, 3005, was applied to its replacement design, Chrysanthemum with Butterfly which appeared in 1972. It is slightly smaller than its predecessor.

This 1973 study is known by two names depending on the source. Palley’s book lists it as being named Streptocalyx poeppigii (quite the tongue-twister!) but it’s possible that the backstamp – of which I have no photo – may read Butterfly with Red Yucca Cactus. By any name this piece must have been a nightmare to produce, pack and ship, and it is rarely found intact today. Comprised of more than 600 individual pieces, its announced edition of 200 was cut to only 50 before the issue was closed in 1976.

One of the early pieces was the Double Peony (#3007) in 1974. This 3.5″ x 8.5″ study was a declared edition of  500, and after two years 137 of them had been made. This is a tree peony. This design was the replacement piece for the open edition Peony #200-15 in 1973 which turned out to be an absolute packing/shipping horror and was discontinued.

This intriguing piece with the lovely coloration is Blue Waterlily with Swamp Fly, also from 1974. Its declared edition of 750 may not have been fully completed. It is 3.5″ high and 8″ long.

The 1976 Magnolia Grandiflora with Monarch Butterfly is the only floral study the Malvern studio produced in the Trenton hardpaste material. The substantial petals and leaves would have lent themselves to experimentation with that material. This was a rather large limited edition at 750.

Two consecutive cacti studies issued in 1976 included a lizard. The Queen of Night Cactus with Collared Lizard (300-14) was an edition of 500. “Queen of the Night” is the colloquial name for the night-blooming cereus, Selecereus grandiflorus.

The Orchid Cactus, #300-15 and also an edition of 500, also incorporates a lizard but its species is unknown. The flower is an Epiphyllum which is a popular houseplant genus of cacti.

One of several designs named in honor of “the boss” was the Helen Boehm Iris in 1978, an edition of only 175 and measuring 9″ long.

Another water-flower was the Pink Lotus in 1978, another edition of 175. It is 11″ in diameter but only a bit more than 5″ high. The description of this particular example said “with a loose butterfly and lizard” but it seems as if the lizard has ‘escaped’!

I wish there were more photos of the Double Clematis Centrepiece, an edition of only 150 from 1978. It is 13″ high.

A blue rose, blooming only at Boehm. Rose Blue Moon, an edition of 500 from 1978.

Boehm of Malvern produced a bumper crop of confusing camellias during their initial decade, both in limited and open editions. At least the limited editions always had the name in the backstamp – something that often didn’t happen with the nonlimited designs! For example, the only marks appearing on the 1972 open-edition Pat Nixon Camellia (#200-12) are the script name “Boehm” and the words “Made in England” on the underside of the stem end.

Swan Lake Camellia from 1976, an edition of 750 measuring 5.75″ x 10.5″. The example shown has several areas of loss to its leaf tips and flower stamens.

Two camellias named in honor of the Boehms were introduced in 1978, both in editions of 500 each and of similar dimensions (about 4″ high and 8″ wide.) The  upper (pink) sculpture is the Edward Boehm Camellia and the lower one is the Helen Boehm Camellia.

1970s Flowers (Non-limited Editions)

Non-limited edition flowers during the 1970s seem to have numbered slightly more than twenty. On Boehm price lists, the non-limited editions were designated as “Open” whilst the piece was actively produced; afterward, they were termed “non-limited.”

One of the first open-edition florals (design #2002) was the Betty Sheffield Supreme Camellia in 1971.

Iceberg Rose was originally named “Bridal Rose” in its initial 1971 advertising. It was only produced for two years. This is not the same sculpture as the “Iceberg Rose” that was produced during the 1990s by the Trenton studio.

This elegant, ethereal-blue single stem is called simply Iris, Blue and was a 1972 introduction.

 

A Single Peony issued in 1973, 10″ long and 5.25″ high. I have never seen a color photo of this piece and so have no idea whether it is white or a very pale pink. (In this case “single” refers to the flower’s form, not to the quantity portrayed.)

I have always been captivated by the rare and notoriously difficult-to-grow Himalayan blue poppy, Meconopsis betonicifolia. Here is Diane Lewis’ version of the Blue Poppy for Boehm in 1975: a single glorious bloom and burgeoning bud, atop an almost impossibly fragile porcelain stem. Length is almost 11″ overall, and the flower 4.5″ in diameter.

The Roses of the Rainbow series is an instance of the original 1970s Malvern studio pieces being re-issued in 1999 by the New Jersey operation, but unlike the Iceberg Rose(s) the Rainbow pieces were produced from the exact same molds as the 1970s originals. The Malvern pieces appeared in the late 1970s (probably 1978 although like all Boehm open editions the stamp is undated) and differ from one another only in flower color.

The mold/design number is 200-55 followed by a letter suffix denoting the color: W for white, R for red, B for blue, S for salmon, and M for mauve. There was also a Peace Rose version with suffix PE, and Tropicana with suffix T. The photo above shows the 1970s Malvern salmon Rose of the Rainbow and its backstamp. There’s room for confusion regarding the design numbers because although the majority of these are marked 200-55, there was also a red version from the same mold but designated as 200-53.

1970s Animals

The first venture into the animal kingdom was a series of four limited editions called the Moments in Nature series. All introduced in 1971, they have their own design number range which is unique to this series.

Bobcats was the first limited edition animal, numbered 4001. The declared edition of 300 was reduced to 200.

Raccoons had its original edition of 350 also reduced to 200.

Foxes had the same edition size and reduction as the Raccoons.

The final piece in the Moments in Nature series was Red Squirrels. It had an even bigger reduction, from 350 pieces to only 100. The high-flying pose of the upper squirrel no doubt contributed to that!

The animal studies returned in 1973 with The Nyala, launching a new series called Endangered Animals and also a new design number range as 500-1. This large piece is 20″ high and almost 17″ wide.

The Puma group was the second in the series, assigned design number 5002 with a declared edition of 100; but a year later only 26 of them had actually been made. It’s quite possible that the final edition may have been as few as 50. Like a number of the other 1975 issues, this was cast using the Trenton hardpaste formula. It is 13″ high overall, including the 2″ thick wood base upon which it sits, and 20″ wide.

When the Snow Leopard was issued in 1978 the studio had already returned to using their normal bone porcelain formula exclusively. At design #5007 it’s uncertain whether this was designated as an Endangered Animals sculpture but it seems likely; there is no indication on the backstamps of any of the animals as to any special collection they might be part of. Edition size is unknown but at least 40 were made. It is 12″ high, 13″ wide, and 8″ deep.

Another unknown (at present) issue size was the European Fallow Deer in 1979, an impressive 25″ high and 19″ wide. This example has a small piece missing from one antler.

One of the final animal studies of the 1970s was Bengal Tiger in Momentum, issued in Spring 1979. This massive piece, 16″ high, 37″ long and 15.25″ wide, was a declared edition of only 25. It’s not known how many were actually produced. A contemporary advertisement from Brielle Galleries, from which this photo was scanned, said only “price upon request.”

The Cottontail Rabbit from 1975 is an example of a nonlimited edition made using the Trenton hardpaste. He measures 6″ x 7″ and appears to have a decidedly irked (or at least no-nonsense) expression!

1970s Human Studies

Only seven human studies were released by the Boehm of Malvern studio during the 1970s; the first five were part of their “Growing Up” series of child portraits. This series was designed by Richard Roberts, who later joined the Connoisseur of Malvern studio. All of these were non-limited editions, cast in Trenton hardpaste and released in 1975. Unfortunately, I do not have a photo of the first in the series (Melon Boy, design #7001.)

The Truant was the second in the series (#7002); he is 9″ high and 14″ wide.

True Love is a rare hardpaste sculpture that also contains hand-formed flower elements; it’s likely these were shaped from bone porcelain instead. This piece is 12.5″ high.

I have a tiny bit of personal history with The Paintress. In the 1970s I had begun to collect Cybis porcelain and the Bonwit Teller department store also had a Paintress on display. I was intrigued by her and dithered for days over whether to purchase her, or another Cybis piece. Not being able to afford both on my less-than-$100/week salary, I ultimately decided to concentrate on Cybis instead. Of course when I went back later that year, the store had sold out of The Paintress and could not acquire any more. If I had known as much then as I do know about the Malvern studio, my initial decision would have been different!

Dream Away (#7005) is the same size as The Paintress.

The intended sixth sculpture, named Waiting Patiently, was never released. The design number that was originally allotted to it (7006) was reassigned in 1977 to the limited edition Beverly Sills as Manon, shown here next to its namesake. The companion piece, Jerome Hines as Boris Gudonov, was given design #7007. Both were introduced at retail during the summer of 1977 with events at Brielle Galleries and Reese Palley. This new ‘Divas and Dons’ series went no further and in later years the Trenton studio appropriated the 700 number range for various home décor items produced in the USA, starting with 700-8.

 

Here’s an unusual special-event bust that was issued in 1979 shortly before the departure of Diane and Terry Lewis. This Bust of Elgar was commissioned for the 50th anniversary of the Malvern music festival in a run of 100 pieces.

Terry Lewis departed from Boehm of Malvern under complicated circumstances during the late 1970s and, along with his wife Diane and several other Boehm of Malvern artists, went on to form Connoisseur of Malvern. Rick Lewis left not long after, to first launch Hereford porcelain in Worcester; that studio will be profiled in a future Lost Porcelain Studios post. Only Keith Bufton remained of the original three directors of Malvern Boehm, and he expended all his energies toward keeping the studio going in the face of the ever-increasing changes in the art porcelain market. Unfortunately, the challenges both within and without became too large for even superhuman dedication to overcome, although Boehm of Malvern did continue to operate until the early 1990s. I have not found any backstamps showing an issue year after 1992, in spite of the fact that the company was filing annual reports until 1996.

Other posts in the Boehm of Malvern series

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: