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SylvaC

  • Mark Hill
  • 05 Mar 2010

Bright and quirky SylvaC ‘fancies’ are continually sought after by collectors. They were produced from the late 1920s by Shaw & Copestake, a ceramics company established in Staffordshire in 1894, which began by producing inexpensive figures for funfairs. The trade name ‘SylvaC’ – formed from the name of the factory at which SylvaC was produced, the Sylvan Works, and the C of Copestake – was coined in c1936 and used on pieces from then onwards.

SylvaC manThe company went into liquidation in 1982 and all the records relating to styles and dates of production were destroyed. Although SylvaC’s enthusiastic collecting base has gathered a great deal of information since, there may still be unrecorded versions and these rare pieces are keenly sought after by collectors.

Of course, the most popular pieces are from Sylvac’s famous animal range, particularly rabbits and dogs (of which the most collected is the ‘Terrier’).
SylvaC rabbits
The first rabbits were made in the early 1930s, after one of the partners, Richard Hull saw a similar model in France and immediately realised they would be a hit in Britain. Crouching rabbits, lop-eared rabbits, hares, and various comical rabbits were all made in a variety of colors as well as sizes. It has been rumoured that Boots the Chemist commissioned a two-foot high rabbit, however, this has never been confirmed and no examples have been found. Aside from the mythical Boots rabbit, the largest SylvaC rabbit is 9.75in (25cm) high, with the smallest being just 2in (5cm). Rabbits were produced until 1975.

Household objects, which were previously unpopular, are now rising in desirability and value, while face pots (especially fruit pots) are still extremely desirable.
SylvaC facepot
With any SylvaC piece, condition is extremely important. Be careful when you handle SylvaC as they chip very easily, and any damage at all will seriously devalue your piece. Size is also important, with larger models generally worth more, and color will affect value considerably. Fawn is the most common, followed by green; meanwhile pink is very rare and extremely desirable.

SylvaC dogVariations of both size and color will generally have different mold numbers, stamped on the base. Be aware that dates connected to mold numbers are only an indication of the date of introduction, not the date of the model itself. However, you can date figures to a period based on the type of finish it has. Early figures were painted with cellulose paint, which is very easily flaked. This was followed by SylvaC’s characteristic matt Glaze, and then later by a glossy finish. The modern glossy finish is typically not as desirable as the others, unless the model is particularly rare.

After the Sylvan works closed, Limited Production continued at Longton Ceramics, then Crown Windsor until 1989. Modern reproductions continue to be produced by the current owner of the tradename, but these are predominantly made from existing models, rather than original molds. This means they are likely to be smaller and less well detailed. Many reproductions are a subtly different color to the original with an un-crazed glaze, but finishes and appearances are becoming more similar, so watch out and always compare to a verified original.

Find out more...
'The SylvaC Story', by Susan Jean Veerbeek, published by Pottery Publications, 2002.
'Collecting SylvaC', by Mick and Derry Collins, published by The SylvaC Collectors Circle, 1998.