This month’s brooch is by the Florida artist Olive Commons. Olive was already an established artist when she moved to Florida with her husband Arthur in the early 1930s. The story goes that Olive’s new house had windows on all sides looking out over the iconic Florida landscape. As a present for a friend Olive painted one of these views onto a small porcelain medallion. She soon found herself commissioned to paint further scenes as Christmas presents for various friends. It was not long before she had a flourishing business painting and selling jewellery. Olive described her jewellery as ‘her little cameos’, each scene is painted by hand and each one is different, depicting swamps, oceans and sunsets. They were painted twice to give a depth of colour and softness of tone, and then fired to ensure permanence. The plaques vary in shape and size, my cameo is a mere 5cm by 4cm, and the detail is remarkable in such a small painting. Olive and her husband soon saw an opportunity and her cameos could be found in many stores throughout Florida. As far as I can tell she only made brooches.
In 1949 the Miami News wrote an article about Olive Commons.
Miami News, Sunday 16th January 1949, page 56
Following the success of her jewellery range Olive branched out into more general ceramics. Her Platinum Palm Ware continued with the themes begun in her jewellery. She used platinum which does not tarnish, so examples seen today are as bright as they were when made 70 plus year ago.
An example of Platinum Palm Ware by Olive Commons
At the 1939/40 New York World Fair, Olive Commons was awarded a medal for her Platinum Ware. On the back of the medal it read ‘House of Commons, Highest Award of Merit’. Given the date of the World Fair it is amazing to note the range of countries with exhibiting pavilions; they included Britain, France, Poland, USSR and Jewish Palestine.
The British Pavilion from the New York World Fair