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Ron & Donna Miller - Publishers

Third Book On Antiques In The Northwest
Now Off The Press


Seattle Surprise by Robin Williams

Catherine, Colin and Frank, of Regency Antiques in Vancouver, British Columbia, are off on new adventures in the latest Regency Antiques mystery by Robin Williams. Titled The Seattle Surprise, it is based on the sudden popularity of large abstract art by a previously unrecognized artist, who inexplicably goes missing right after his blockbuster sale.

While Colin is off having some adventures in England, Frank Ball, owner of Regency Antiques, is trying to figure out why anyone would be interested in such huge abstract paintings, and especially why they appeal to the Chinese. Catherine, his shop manager, does what she can to help him understand it, even while she’s trying to figure it out for herself. But business is business, and they, like the rest of the dealers in Vancouver, exert their efforts trying to find the missing artist.

At the same time, Catherine accidentally learns of an estate sale, while shopping in an antique mall in Snohomish, Washington. The estate consists of two separate homes, both filled to the brim with paintings, silver, china and other antiques. The homes are located outside Seattle to the east, and as Colin, Frank and Catherine investigate this estate, they encounter the Seattle Surprise.

This is the third book in Williams’s series, following The Road to Reno and The Portland Payoff. Williams knows the antiques and art business well, and is the managing director of Hampshire Antiques, Ltd. in Vancouver, BC. The action in his books takes place in real places, such as the Portland Expo show, and it is enjoyable to recognize these places as one reads. (And, of course, I was especially pleased when Catherine picked up a copy of Old Stuff to read while she was shopping in Snohomish.)

The Seattle Surprise, softback,(ISBN: 978-0-9919491-1-3) is priced at $19.95. It is distributed by Hampshire Antiques Ltd., 1622 2. 75th Ave., Vancouver, BC V6P 6G2,

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China Painting In The Northwest
Commanded The Interest Of Many Artists


This plate on a Limoges blank was painted by George Jeffery. It pictures the Dayton Blockhouse, in Dayton, Oregon, accented with a border of clover.

China Painters of the Pacific Northwest, by Richard N. Pugh and Harvey W. Steele, is an interesting and colorful look at what was happening in this region in the late 19th and early 20th century in the field of china painting.

When one thinks of china painting of this area, flowers (especially roses) come to mind as subject matter. This was not the case with the artists of the Pacific Northwest. Their subject matter also included mountains, trees, native flowers, buildings and even the old Columbia River highway.

China painting, almost exclusively done by women, surged in popularity across the United States following the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. For many women, it was a hobby, a way of creative expression. For a few, it became a profession. According to the authors, by the end of the 19th century, there were about 20,000 artists painting on china.

In Oregon, there were two opportunities for the artists to display their work in these early years. One was the Oregon State Fair; the second was the Mechanics Fair, which took place in Portland from 1877 to 1890.

Encouraged by an opportunity to display one’s work, the interest in china painting continued to grow, and soon there were teachers and associations available for those wanting to learn and/or share.

In the early years, the blanks which were painted will often show the marks of well-known foreign companies. Many were imported from Japan and carry the Nippon mark; others came from the Limoges region of France and many came from various parts of the Germany/­Austrian area of Europe.

However, in 1921, a porcelain company began production in Portland. The Cascade China Company produced undecorated whiteware and employed artists to decorate its blanks. It operated until 1928, and was succeeded by the Clayton China Company, which operated until 1933.

China painting was usually signed, and that adds to the interest of finding pieces. The Portland City Directory was listing teachers and artists under the headings of “China Painting” and “Artists” by the turn of the 20th century. The most prominent of the artists, and a brief biographical note of each, are included in listings in the book.

Despite china painting being a field mostly composed of women, one of the most influential painters of the time was George Jeffery. He began his painting in England at the age of 15 for Royal Crown Derby. A series of moves eventually brought him to Portland, where he opened a partnership with Alfred J. Bingham. They held many commercial commissions for souvenirs, including a whimsical trademark, the Webfoot, a pipe-smoking, umbrella-carrying frog.

Special sections of the book include a chapter on Styles, Movements & Fashion Trends; one on Blank Marks & Their Chronology; and an illustrated Tools of the Craft. (The pictures of the early kilns are especially interesting.)

China painting is still alive and well in the United States, and it is estimated that there are about 10,000 people actively involved, with Oregon being one of the most active states.

China Painters of the Northwest (ISBN: 978-1-62901-250-6) , softback, published by Inkwater Press, is priced at $19.95. It includes dozens of full-color examples of china painted pieces. The book is available from Amazon.­com, Barnes­and­, Powells.­com and

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Barbie Had Her Share Of Foreign Look-
Alikes, All Fashionably Outfitted


Petra, German Barbie-like Doll
Petra is a German doll.

Doll Junk, Collectible & Crazy Fashions from the ‘70s & ‘80s, by Carmen Varricchio, is a recent release of Schiffer Publishing. Girls of all ages needed their fashion dolls to be dressed in what was currently popular in their own peer groups, and manufacturers were eager to respond with outfits by the hundreds.

It is probably no surprise that the bulk of the fashion accessories fit a Barbie-size doll. These include a lot of accessories for Petra, according to the author “the best-known clone of Barbie you never heard of.” Petra has a huge following of fans across Europe. She was made by the Plasty Toy Company in Germany, starting in 1964, had a family consisting of Fred and Peggy, went through several modifications during the 1970s and ‘80s, and arrived in American toy stores in the late 1980s. If you have a Barbie-look-alike with a vertically somewhat squashed head, it’s probably Petra.

Another Barbie-size doll of that era was Mego Maddie Mod. Her fashion items were made from 1967 to 1978. Tanya was Italy’s answer to Barbie and Barbara was produced by the Lili Ledy company of Spain. All had fashion items to wear. These are just a few of the dozens of companies producing accessories for these dolls.

And while they are not as numerous, there were also thousands of items made for the small-size fashion dolls, such as Dawn, guy-doll accessories for Ken-size dolls, and a few items made for the 18-inch fashion dolls such as Pamela.

The more than 800 outfits shown are the non-Mattel Barbie outfits – the ones that might have been rejected by girls in the 70s and 80s as “fake” Barbie clothes. As the back cover says, “Feast your eyes on clumsily drawn fashion figures, pathetic attempts at high fashion lingo and mediocre package graphics culled from around the world!” in this colorful and entertaining book.

Doll Junk (ISBN: 978-0-7643-4812-9), soft cover, is priced at $29.99. Order from your local bookseller or Schiffer Publishing, online at

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