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Quimper Is a Folksy and Fun Collectible

Quimper is attractive to display, whether you own one piece or dozens. This charming, colorful pottery is an example of faience ware, which means hand-painted, tin enamel-glazed earthenware.

Named after the Breton town in northwestern France where it has been made for over 300 years, it has a strong following in the world of antiques.

Often the theme is peasant images, seashore or fishing scenes. Wooden shoes (sabots), bread making, roosters and cows are some of the other common images found on this pottery.

Like all folk art, it is attractive to fans of Country French decorating and Americana since fine quilts, American country and primitive wooden antiques all look great with Quimper. Value varies according to age, condition and rarity of the piece and complete dining sets of this pottery can command thousands of dollars.

The hand-painted crockery began in 1685 when Jean Baptiste Bousquet began the first pottery. Known as HB Quimper, this Quimper is one of several major potteries that produced the ware.

Others include the 1772 firm founded by Francois Eloury, known as Porquier. A third firm, founded by Guillaume Dumaine in 1778, was known as HR or Henriot Quimper. All three firms made similar work and, according to facts from Kovels Antiques and Collectibles Price Guide, two firms (Porquier and Henriot) merged in 1913, then the third one (Bousquet) merged with the other two in 1968.

Sold to a United States family in 1984, the American holding company is called Quimper Faience and is located in Connecticut and the French part of the firm is called Societe Nouvelle des Fainceries de Quimper HB Henriot since March 1984.

With this French-American connection, it is easy to see why there is a strong interest on both sides of the Atlantic. Decorated with scenes of everyday life, the colorful ware includes items like wall pockets, teapots, vases, figurines, plates and bowls.

Probably the most famous design that is found painted on Quimper faience is the “petit Breton,” a native representation of a Breton man and/or woman in traditional costume. Sometimes they are dancing, sometimes just posing. The “petit Breton” became popular around 1870 and remains the most popular design chosen by tourists today.

The people of the region are known as the Quimperois, and are of Celtic origin, according to information found on the very informative Web site, oldquimper.com.

The “founding fathers” of Brittany, immigrants from Cornwall, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, settled in the area in the fifth and sixth century A.D. Even today, they retain their distinctive Celtic culture.

If you’re really into collecting this colorful French pottery, you might want to join the international collector’s club, started in February 1999. More can be found at www.quimperclub.org.

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