Mat-Su-No-Ke Rose Bowl – Or, Is It?
by Graham, Helen and Jim

Fairy Lamp Club Newsletter, Issue XXIII, May 2002

This article contains updated information (shown in red) provided by Mr. Dilwyn (Dil) Hier.  August 2002

This article from Graham and Helen requires a little explanation. What began as a simple inquiry turned into a very fortunate discovery of original Stevens & Williams pattern design books. The original designs show various styles of decorated bowls, sometimes referred to as rose bowls, and how they were adapted for use as fairy lamp bases.

This article began as a simple question related to a certain style of Stevens & Williams bowl decorated in what is known as "Mat-Su-No-Ke." Specifically, could this decorated bowl have been designed as a fairy lamp base similar to the ones illustrated in the Stevens & Williams design book?

In the process of preparing the article for the newsletter, I discovered some interesting and perhaps important information that we may find helpful in understanding how Stevens & Williams marketed their decorated bowls and adapted them to fairy lamps.

Graham and Helen's original article was to have been changed to include a better example of a Stevens & Williams Mat-Su-No-Ke bowl used as a fairy lamp base. However, in order to illustrate the subtle differences in the bowls, I have decided to print their original inquiry as it was written and add the new information for comparison. In this way, we all can learn together and perhaps form our own opinions better.

Following is Graham & Helen 's original inquiry with their original photo.

Stevens & Williams Mat-Su-No-Ke Bowl – Is it or is it not a fairy lamp base?
by Graham & Helen

Last year we met a friend at a glass fair who told us he had obtained access to some of the original Stevens & Williams pattern books while he was doing some research for a project he was working on.

Mat5and4.jpg (59448 bytes)It transpired that in the pattern books he had come across several drawings of fairy lamps and he asked us if we had ever seen bases with "branches for feet and with the branches scrolling up the side of the bowl with little flowers or blossoms on the end." Obviously, we had not and our curiosity was aroused. So we asked him if he would send us pictures. Which he duly did.

Then over Christmas we were surfing the web, visiting various antique web sites, when we spotted a yellow bowl/base with rather striking branch like feet scrolling up the side to flowerets or blossoms. The bowl was described as a Stevens & Williams Mat-Su-No-Ke bowl. From the picture on the website it was difficult to say if a lamp cup would fit or interfere with the little flowers around the rim. A quick email to the seller ascertained the diameter of the opening and that a fairy-sized lamp cup would fit nicely.

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We decided to take a gamble and buy the bowl. Even if it turned out not to be a fairy lamp base, it was still an extremely fine and rare example of art glass from the Victorian period.

When it arrived it was pure quality as you would expect from one of the UK's finest glassmakers of the 19th century. We put a fairy lamp on it and it looked pretty good. You make your own minds up. Is it or isn’t it?

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We then emailed our friend a copy of the pictures and gave him the registration number that was etched on the base.

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Rd 15353 registered by Stevens & Williams
18 October 1884

GorseYellow.jpg (47528 bytes)A few days later he emailed us back, with the original pattern drawing showing that it was indeed a rose bowl and not a fairy lamp base.

He also stated: "That as it was not a fairy lamp base. Can I buy it from you? "No, not just yet." was our reply. How about a swap for your painted Burmese epergne or your Wee-size Burmese?

Never mind, we still like our Mat-Su-No-Ke rose bowl!

Now that you have the benefit of Graham & Helen's original inquiry, lets look at some additional information they have provided, including additional information from Stevens & Williams design books.

In Graham's defense, I asked him to show the Stevens & Williams crimped dome on this base, even though the colors do not match exactly. He originally had a yellow satin dome decorated in a lace pattern similar to R-95. It looked very nice but I thought it better to show it with a Stevens & Williams shade instead. In addition, Graham indicated that the rosettes on the bowl do not interfere with the fairy lamp cup. The cup rests entirely on the crimps. That said, Graham does not believe this particular bowl was intended for use with a fairy lamp and many agree with him. But, there is more to this story.

Stu, a Fairy Lamp Club member and avid rose bowl collector, provided another example of the same bowl only in a slightly different color.

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As you can see, this color matches Graham's dome much better and the rosettes are placed slightly lower on the bowl. So, the question remains, is it a rose bowl or fairy lamp base? I do not think there is a wrong answer for this example. But, there is more.

Several weeks after Graham provided the article, he sent me another example of a Mat-Su-No-Ke bowl.

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Graham believes this is a complete Stevens & Williams Mat-Su-No-Ke fairy lamp base. The base is much smaller than the yellow version and the bowl only has six single applied flowers, unlike the yellow bowl that has several groupings of flowers.

The Blue shaded lamp is not Matsu-no-kee, but is what is often referred to as "Blackthorn."   Apart from the detail of the "flower" Matsu-no-kee is always in flint, applied in clusters, and is therefore easy to differentiate in the pattern books. However, I have not found this term in the pattern books. It is used in the S&W book The Crystal Years and by John Northwood II in his book on his father. (Courtesy Mr. Hier)

Before I go much further, I think some definitions and explanations would be helpful.

In 1885, while at Stevens & Williams, John Northwood I (Harry Northwood's father) patented a set of spring pincers and a stamping device which allowed for the quick application of flowers and rosettes, notably on the Mat-Su-No-Ke vases and bowls. Influenced by Japanese decorative styles, the name translates as "The Spirit of the Pine Tree."

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The pincers ensured that the applied flowers were held away from the surface of the glass giving a more natural and lifelike effect.

The device illustrated and patented by John Northwood I was used for producing this type of applied flower. The "pincher" arrangement was used for cutting and pressing out the petal shape and by changing "dies" they were able to impress different designs for the stamen, etc. The central plunger device was also used for creating these designs and could, with a different insert, be used for Matsu-no-kee, however the random shape of Matsu-no-kee indicates that it was done with a simpler tool similar to that used for raspberry prunts, a device similar to that used with sealing wax. The description by my good friend Charles Hajdamach is a liberal extract from the John Northwood II precis of the patent. These flowers were produced in flint and colored whereby the colored flowers often have an opal core cased in colored flint. They were either "matted" as illustrated or left bright i.e. the natural finish. (Courtesy Mr. Hier)

There have been several references to Stevens & Williams's design book. Below is a photo that will help you understand what the design books are like.

We gratefully acknowledge the
Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council Archives
for access to this material.

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As you can see, it is a "ledger-like" book with pencil drawings and notations. It also includes a pattern number, dimensions of some items, colors, dates, and pricing information. I have selected a few items related to fairy lamps that will provide some insight into how Stevens & Williams marketed their fairy lamps and decorative bowls. The "blue" captions are actual notations obtained directly from the design book. The information in the design book was, for the most part, in the form of column entries, such as design number, price, and date. Other information about the item was made in the margins as explanatory notations.

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Design number 9.260 – Gorse yellow with three sprays – October 11, 1886 – 8" wide by 5" tall – 25 shillings – In ruby, 22 shillings. This design appears to be Helen and Graham's yellow bowl. Notice the flower groups and how high they are applied on the bowl.

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Design number 11.405 – Ruby shaded from top and green from bottom – May 2, 1886 – 8 shillings/6 pence – with lamp shade 12 shillings. The reference to the "lamp shade" is assumed to be an optional fairy lamp dome. Notice the shading and the unusual combination of colors. Is this a drawing of Stevens & Williams's ribbon MOP satin?

This item is S&W "Verre-de-soie." Those with color combinations are sometimes also labeled "Pompeiian Swirl" and this term is often used in America as well as your more generic description, spiral air trap mother of pearl satin glass. The color combination is one of the various two color shaded combinations to be found with Verre-de-soie. Some of the color combinations listed are: Brown – Blue; Ruby – Brown; Blue – Ruby; Ruby – Green and Brown – Green, whereby the colors are either from the top or bottom e.g. brown from the top, blue from the bottom or vice versa. (Courtesy Mr. Hier)

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Design number 11.408 – Blue shaded – 6 shillings. Note that the fairy lamp dome is not illustrated with a lamp cup. Unless the cup sits completely within the bowl, this is possibly an artist error. Or, is this bowl designed for a pyramid-size fairy lamp? In addition, the spray of single rosettes appears similar to Graham's blue version, which he indicated was smaller than the yellow. Now, the logical question is, "Did Stevens & Williams make pyramid-size fairy lamp domes?" I am not aware of any. How about you?

Your reference to the missing lamp cup is, I think, a "recordist's" error; since there are as many shown in the pattern books with as without the cup. Once more we have here Verre-de-soie with "Blackthorn" applied decoration. I guess the patterns need to be looked at more carefully to identify any pyramid sizes. This might come from entries about the candles e.g. some records state "candles 1 shilling per dozen;" I would need more knowledge on candle prices to tell. There is also reference to Clarke cup No. 13; again I do not know what size this refers to.  (Courtesy Mr. Hier)

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Design number 11.411 – Brown shaded with single flowers and handle. Notice that this example has a lamp cup resting on the crimps and a handle for carrying. Does the handle suggest that this bowl was made specifically for a fairy lamp? Or, is it equally logical to put a handle on a rose bowl? Also, notice that the decoration has single rosettes.

The text should read: "Brown shaded. Flint flowers and stems." Once more the "Blackthorn" design. The handles were made for carrying; some even had two handles.  (Courtesy Mr. Hier)

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Design number 11.741 – Blue shaded six crimps. Bottom – 2 shillings/6 pence with lamp fitting – 3 shillings/6 pence, complete – 6 shillings. This is clear evidence that Stevens & Williams bowls were "multi-purpose" and the buyers could purchase exactly what they wanted for their own purposes.

 

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For the exception of the color, this fairy lamp and bowl combination appears to be what is described and illustrated above. (Photo courtesy Mr. Lloyd Graham)

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Design number 11.777 – Blue shaded over ivory. Crimped (words not legible) same size as 11.234 only opening through base for fairy lamp with 11.138 shade completed. – 9 shillings/6 pence complete. It would be very interesting to see the two additional designs referenced with this lamp. It would appear, however, that another Stevens & Williams piece was modified to accommodate the fairy lamp.

The illegible text reads "…. through end for fairy lamp ….". I will need to look at design number 11.234 to see what it is, but they do have "flower saucers" where the center is pushed in like a volcano to hold a posy.   The design number 11.138 is your standard S&W fairy lamp shade with crimped top as in the illustration above.  (Courtesy Mr. Hier)

Now, as you can see, we have learned a great deal about how Stevens & Williams designed and marketed its products. It is clear from the information in the design books that several of its bowls, decorated and undecorated, were either specifically made for fairy lamps or were adapted to suit the whims of the consumer.

So, now what? I think there is considerably more to learn about Stevens & Williams fairy lamp production. Certainly, a careful review of the complete design book would be very beneficial considering what we have gleaned from the few pages we have seen. If only we could get access to the rest of it. Any ideas?

Explanatory Notes:

  • All material derived from the original S&W design books was courtesy the Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council Archives.
  • The spelling of Mat-Su-No-Ke is derived from British Glass – 1800-1914 by Hajdamach. Other common spellings include: Matsu-No-Ke and Matsu No Ke.  In addition,  it is spelled "Matsu-no-kee" in the original S&W design books. (Courtesy Mr. Hier)
  • The drawing of the John Northwood's "spring pincher and stamping device" was obtained from British Glass – 1800-1914, Charles R. Hajdamach, p. 304.
  • Verre-de-soie translates from French to "Glass-of-Silk."
  • The Golden Gorse is a conspicuous plant throughout Great Britain. It has spiny branches and bright yellow flowers.
  • Twelve pence in a shilling and 20 shillings in a GBP.

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