When I was a kid my parents had this old, chipped planter in the shape of a Chinese boat. At one one end sat a little Chinese girl and at the other a little Chinese boy. For some reason my brother-in-law became obsessed with it. So one of my sisters painted it to make it look like new and gave it to him as a joke gift. But it wasn’t a joke to him — he was overjoyed. Twenty-five years later, it is not a joke to me either.At some point in the recent past I developed a sick love for chalkware, and I’d kill to have that planter now.
Devon Ware, Favor Ware … it’s all chalkware, cheap plaster of paris figurines and wall “art,” usually painted in garish colours. Haunted by the memory of that planter, I especially love the Chinese chalkware figurines, though I’m not above buying a classic fruit wall hanger or little Dutch girl ornament.
Last year I hit gold at the Goodwill on Princess Street, in Winnipeg. A sign said “sale on Favorware.” “No way,” I thought. I investigated, and found about 30 pairs of mint-condition Chinese boy and girl figurines. They were $1.50/pair and had come directly from the Favor Ware factory (based in Winnipeg, incidentally) and wrapped in newspapers dated 1954. And the most amazing thing of all is that I only bought three pairs. Three! Now I wish I’d bought them all.
Here’s a taste – and I do mean a taste – of my chalkware collection.