Granny’s Ornament Part One

Noun: ornament; plural noun: ornaments
A thing used to make something look more attractive but usually has no practical purpose, especially a small object such as a figurine
Noun: figurine, plural noun: figurines statuette, especially one of a human form. The photo above is the ornament.

The underside is printed “Suvesco Foreign”

Granny always called it Ken’s ‘ornament’ so, for the purpose of this story, ornament it is.

Further searching tells me it was made in Japan in the 1930s and is in the style of ‘Art Deco’ (1)

When I lived with Granny and Gramps in the late 1950s there was not much colour around her house or indeed anywhere. We were still rebuilding our city after WW2 and things were still rather bleak.

However, I do remember in Granny and Gramps’ bedroom, on the shelf above the fireplace, a small lady holding out her colourful skirts, with her head on the side, she was the only bit of colour in the house. I often admired the pretty pastel colours and ‘the ladies’ pose.

Many years later, when I was visiting Granny, she must have been in her late 90’s, she took it from her cabinet and gave it to me! She said, that she knew how much I had admired it whilst I lived with her and she knew I would appreciate it. She was right! I was thrilled!

As I grew older, I kept Granny’s ornament in my cabinet and I admired the pose and colours. Much later in life, when I was taking art courses, I painted it and called it ‘Dancing Lady’

Dancing Lady

Living with Granny and Gramps, I one day asked if the lady was old, and where and how Granny got it, she was silent for a moment, and then told me the story.

Her eldest son, Kenneth, had bought it for her with money from his very first job. I knew who Ken was, he was my Uncle the older brother by two years, of my mother. I had always seen his photo on the wall in their house, at the bottom of the stairs, a dark-haired young man, looking similar to Gramps in his first – so Gran told me – pair of long trousers! At the beach, barefoot and leaning against a cliff in shirtsleeves.

Uncle Ken about 16 years

Uncle Ken was apprenticed to Mr Henry Mallett Osborne on the 27th of October, 1937, from the age of 15 years until he was 21 years. He was to “Carry on the art trade of business of a House and Decorative Painter Glazier and Paperhanger at 20 York Street City of Plymouth”

I know this because I have Uncle Ken’s Deed.

Gran told me he was so excited and the business of “THIS DEED” gave him a feeling of being, at last, a grownup.

The Deed was large and cannot be shown in full here, as the document measures 41cm in length (16 inches) and 27cm in width (101/2 inches). However, I can show the top of the Deed and the bottom with the signatures of Gramps, his son, Uncle Ken and the ‘Master’ Mr Osborne.

Frontpage of the Deed

First Page of the Deed.

Included in the ‘Deed’ are these words…… “he will faithfully serve ‘The Master’ until the full end and term of six years shall be fully complete and ended. (Such term to expire on the 11 September 1943)

Who could have known, that full out war and destruction would have been wreaking havoc all over the world for four years by then? The United Kingdom had declared war on Germany on the 3rd of September, 1939, two days after Germany invaded Poland.

One interesting note in the Deed was Kenneth’s salary which says:

……the Master does now or shall hereafter use and practice the same and shall and will pay or cause to be paid to the Apprentice during the said same wages at the rates and in manner following (that is to say) the sum of six shillings and sixpence per week during the first year of the said term and sum of eight shillings per week during the second year of the said term the sum of nine shillings and sixpence per week during the third year of the said term the sum of Eleven shillings and sixpence per week during the fourth year of the said term the sum of Thirteen shillings and sixpence during the fifth year of the said term and the sum of Sixteen shillings and sixpence during the sixth and last year of the said term”

The last and
Signature Page

So, with the handsome salary of six shillings and sixpence, (worth approximately $2.50 in today’s Canadian dollars) during the first year of his apprenticeship, he bought Granny the lovely little lady.

Granny said that Kenneth was keen to learn the signwriting part of the Apprenticeship as he was quite a good artist. Granny kept all his paintings sketches and drawings between two large pieces of cardboard. I often got them out and looked at them. I could spend hours looking at his art.

Whilst I was still at school, I had to do a project on the City of Plymouth History. Granny let me have the Royal Coat of Arms, painted by Uncle Ken to put on the front of my project book, I was thrilled and still have the project book and Uncle Ken’s painting on the front.

Uncle Ken’s painting of the Royal Coat of Arms – not finished.

The picture below is the present Royal Coat of Arms, with the crown of Queen Elizabeth II.

The motto at the base reads: ‘Dieu et mon Droit’ (‘God and my Right’) and the shield bears the motto Hon soit qui mal y pense (‘Evil to him who evil thinks’ (2)

Two years into Uncle Ken’s apprenticeship, his life takes another turn which will be told in Granny’s Ornament Part Two.

(1) When did Art Deco start and end?

Art deco (c. 1908 to 1935) Art deco began in Europe, particularly Paris, in the early years of the 20th century, but didn’t really take hold until after World War I. It reigned until the outbreak of World War II

Of course, Art Deco covered a great many items including homes, buildings, clothing, home furnishings and sculptures.

If you Google ‘Art Deco Ladies’ many of the ladies are in similar positions and colours. Some just marked ‘foreign’ and some made in Germany and Austria.

I have no idea of value, but to me it is priceless and I hope when I have shuffled off this mortal coil, one of my sons or grandchildren will treasure it too.

(2) This symbolises the Order of the Garter, an ancient order of knighthood of which the Queen is Sovereign. Uncle Ken’s painting shows the crown of the then-King George V

11 thoughts on “Granny’s Ornament Part One”

  1. What a wonderful memory,. Be sure to put this history with the ornament. Your grandchildren will treasure it even more. Love your painting it brings her to life. Looking forward to reading part 2.


  2. Hi Marian, What an interesting story! I cannot wait to read Part 2. I’m truly wondering what happened to Uncle Ken.

    I liked your little watercolour too. Somehow, it was so long ago, that I had forgotten that you painted it.


    1. Thank you very much, Fiona! Yes, I did wonder if you would remember us doing that painting. It seemed appropriate for the story. Part Two is in April! xo


    1. That’s a lovely inheritance and the dancing lady is so colourful. You must get a price for yr ornaments. Take a picture and send details to an expert either in Canada or U.K.
      Owen works for the BBC and there’s a programme Antiques Roadshow, perhaps he could help out ?


      1. Thanks, Vanessa, that is a good idea although, I hope Molly may be interested in it, one day! I love Antiques Roadshow!


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