‘Staffordshire spaniel figurines……. outdated or timeless? Chintzy or classic? Never has a decorative object so ruthlessly divided interior design camps.
I adore the little guard dogs, that I wake up to every morning on my bedroom mantelpiece. My Granny had a large one called Charlie, always festooned with holly round the neck for Christmas. He must have been one of a pair, his friend lost somewhere along the way as is common. Anyway, he was the closest I got to owning a dog, my Father always found an excuse and I’m still waiting……if he’s reading this?
In Victorian times, no middle class mantelpiece was fit to receive visitors without a pair of these canine earthenware figurines. The ultimate bourgeois style statement. And recently, they’ve become synonymous with ‘English style’ – think The Gentle Author of Spitalfields life, and Emily Sutton’s fabrics.
Inspired by the ones in the Victorian parlour of the Dennis Severs house, I started a few drawings of my own. Yes his eyebrows are squiffy – he’s handpainted. Seven year old children were paid 2 shillings a week to paint their locks gold - to put things in perspective! Some look sad, bemused, puzzled, cross even!
I love the old wives tale that Staffordshire dog figurines placed on the window sill face each other, meant the husband was away at sea and the coast was clear for her lover to visit. You see, useful and beautiful!