Cheap, kitschy chalkware

This is a piece of chalk ware that hangs on the wall. It's of a Chinese peasant girl wearing a green and red pajama suit and a rice picker's hat.

I bought this for $5 at the Sally Ann. I got up early on a Saturday morning so I'd be the first customer there when the store opened. I just had to have it, you know?

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.

This is a 1950s chalk ware lamp. The Chinese figurine is ceramic. The lampshade is fiberglass.

OK, she is not actually chalkware - she's ceramic - but how cute is that lamp? Seriously.

This is a chalk ware figurine of a Chinese boy wearing a rice picker's hat and white pajama suit. Made by Favor Ware, of Winnipeg, Manitoba.

I have like three of these. Don't ask me why.

A piece of chalk ware by Devon Ware that hangs on the wall. Shows a male Asian ballet dancer sitting on a stool.

This one's hanging in my bathroom.

This is a 1950s chalk ware wall hanger. It shows a female Asian ballet dancer wearing a tutu. By Devon Ware.

Her partner's hanging on a different wall.

This is a pair of 1950s chalk ware bookends. One is a Chinese boy and the other is a Chinese girl. They are both wearing green trousers and black pajama jackets. The boy wears a rice picker's hat.

I LOVE these! Definitely my favourite pieces.

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2 responses to “Cheap, kitschy chalkware

  1. Nice items. I live about 150 miles south of you. I used to buy chalkware in Winnipeg every chance I got. You can see my collection at mid-centurian.com.

  2. Um, WOW. You have some seriously cool stuff. Curious: I have the pair of figurines that adorn your TV lamp in this photo. No lamp, just the figurines (got those in Winnipeg, brand-new). I also have this man figure in this pic, but he’s not chalk ware, but ceramic.

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