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The Harmony Kingdom Reference Guide
   
  The Garden Shed Days: 1989
 

The garden shed outside of Weaver's Cottage, Martin & Corinna's former home, is where the quirky little boxes were born. Weaver's Cottage is nestled on one of the steeply sloping hillsides of Chalford, a village that dates back to 1842. The garden shed has a spectacular view of the surrounding Cotswold countryside. It is here where Martin first began to craft the box figurines. The year was 1989, and Martin's sole objective was to make a modest income to support his young family.

Martin's "assembly line" consisted of a table top that held a set number of pre-cast pieces that translated into a set amount of pound sterling once sold. The manufacturing process was too ambitious at the time so a company in Somerset did the moulding and casting, after which Martin tinted and hand-painted each piece. Martin's creations were sold in flea markets and nearby shops. His older brother assisted in the sales of these early pieces – the netsuke reproductions, animal piles, and what are now referred to as Large Treasure Jests.

With the netsuke reproductions, a mould was made from the original ivory carving. Since these pieces were hundreds of years old, they were not copyrighted. Soon Martin began to make original models, often from the designs of some of his friends. From this practice came what were called "piles," carved stacks of animals piled atop one another.

The following listing contains some of the netsuke and piles previously produced by Antiquark. The codes shown are the alphanumeric system that Martin began in 1989 and which he still uses to this day to track his moulds.

Netsuke Reproductions Animal Piles
Code Description   Description
M2 Pigs   Frog
M3 Pillar of Men   Pig
M5 Monkeys   Tortoise
M6 Cat on Catfish   Armadillo
M7 Rat in Pumpkin   Rat
M8 Frog on Lily Pad   Puppy
M9 Ducks   Hedgehog
M10 Chick in Egg   Monkey
M11 Face Pot   Seal
M12 Frogs on Tortoise   Cat
M13 Rooster   Bear
M14 Rats on Comsack  

 

During this time there were also six duck box figurines that are now referred to as Large Treasure Jests. Sculpted by Peter, four were later included in the Harmony Kingdom collection.

In October 1990 Studio Ann Carlton (SAC) approached Martin and wanted to finish and market his pieces, so he sold them white bodied castings. SAC's finishing process was similar to Martin's, but not identical so the pieces looked different glossier and less like ivory. What became of the two remaining ducks that weren't included in the Harmony Kingdom collection? "Widgeon Duck" and "Marble Duck" were shipped from October 1990 through October 1991. Approximately three hundred of each were cast, with two thirds of these finished and sold by Studio Ann Carlton. Another large box from this time was the large rooster. Only 821 of these were produced. When Martin cancelled the contract with SAC in September 1995, SAC was still only finishing and selling large boxes.

During these early days, quite a few of Peter's carvings were never produced as Martin was still learning what could and could not be done in the manufacturing process. One such experiment was Peter's "Punk Rock Hedgehog." Getting the castings out of the moulds was extremely difficult, and polishing the spines was impossible. However, a few very rare pieces are in existence, albeit somewhat flawed.

In 1992 Martin began to focus on what are now referred to as "Small Treasure Jests" as he could fit more of the smaller pieces on his worktable. The first small box figurine carved by Peter was "Forty Winks," a downsized version of "Sunnyside Up," finished in March 1992. It was soon followed by "Princely Thoughts" in April 1992, a miniature version of "Awaiting A Kiss." Soon thereafter, Peter began studying journalism, so Martin started to produce Michael Tandy's "The Ram" and "Who'd A Thought."

After Peter's one-year course was completed, Martin lured him back with the offer of a full-time job. By September 1993, Peter created five new small box designs, including "All Tied Up," "Hammin' It Up," "At Arm's Length," "Shell Game" and "Reminiscence." With these designs, Peter introduced his signature mouse.

At this time, two other companies besides SAC began to distribute Martin's pieces. The stained and painted small boxes were sold to DoZen Ltd. for sale throughout Europe and to Mascott Direct for sale in the U.S. Both distributors were modest in size: DoZen was a six-man jewellery company, and Mascott was owned and operated by one man, who has since joined with Gallo Pewter and formed "Surprise It's A Box." The listing on the next page is from an early Mascott Direct brochure and includes Martin's replicas and Traddles, Martin's first box. For Traddles, Martin used a tortoise shell to cast the piece and Corinna created the head using the family pet Traddles as model. There are no itemised sales records for Traddles, but the quantity of pieces produced is less than fifteen.

Mascot Code Description
R1
Bird in Egg
R2
Face Pot
R3
Frog Under Leaf
R4
Two Ducks
R5
Rat on Pumpkin
R6
Cat on Catfish
R7
Frogs on Tortoise
R8
Cockerel
R9
Pig Pile
R10
Armadillo
R11
Monkey Pile
R12
Puppy Pile
R13
Seal Pile
R14
Frog Pile
R15
Afterglow
R16
Rat Pot
R17
Men and Dogs
R18
Suckling Pig
R19
Tortoise Box (Traddles)
 

 

 

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