I think I am developing a unhealthy predilection for Toby jugs, those vintage ceramic jugs in the form of a seated person. I love them. In the last month, I've bought three and my desire for them shows no sign of abating.
(Curious as to why they're called "Toby jugs"? So was I. Wikipedia states that they're named after Toby, the jovial drunkard from Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night.")
It all started shortly after I realized I needed to add a touch of Englishness to my kitchen windowsill. It held the requisite plants and chic porcelain cachepots, but it still lacked oomph. What could I find that would be traditional-with-a-twist, satisfy my obsession with "that sceptered isle" and not be totally ubiquitous in a month?
I stumbled upon them during an Ebay search. I was looking for Winston Churchill mementos, per usuelle, and all of a sudden, there it was. Or rather, there HE was.
I love the way he's sitting here, bemused smile on his face, cigar firmly planted in cheek. I wanted him so badly I didn't even wait for the auction to end. One "Buy it Now" click later and Sir Winnie was all mine. He arrived ten days later via the Royal Mail and has been beaming contentedly at me ever since.
My next acquisition was Mr. Pickwick, sitting here in his yellow waistcoat, his buttons strained to breaking point after one of his many merry feasts.
Buying him was a no-brainer. "The Pickwick Papers" was the novel that turned me into a raging Dickens-ophile and, even twenty years later, remains one of the funniest books I have read. Upon finishing it, I was so reluctant to part with its brilliance that I filled up a small book with my favorite passages from the novel and proceeded to memorize them one by one. (I know, I know...can you say N-E-R-D?)
Following shortly on Pickwick's heels came Mr. Pecksniff, the oily moralist and hypocrite extraordinaire from "Martin Chuzzlewit", another one of my favorite Dickens novels. When I gaze at him, I remind myself that if I do exactly the opposite of everything he would, I will lead a blameless life.
All three of my Toby jugs were produced by Royal Douton and date from around the 1940's-1950's. I have several friends who collect those vintage doll head vases and to me, Toby jugs are the masculine counterpart of those. Ebay has a great selection of them, but do a thorough check because I found the same jugs listed for various (and hugely disparate) prices.
As traditional as they are, they feel somewhat edgy and humorous to me. Placed against a stark backdrop, they take on a modern slant and remind me a bit of those porcelain Nymphenberg statuettes they sell at Moss (but for about one-hundredth of the price).
I say they're ripe for a comeback. What do you think?