Monday, October 28, 2013

Pretty Women

     We have been displaying flowers in a variety of containers for centuries, including vases, urns, buckets, jars, and glasses, but one of the prettiest containers of all originated in the 1950s and 1960s. Head vases were made in both the United States and Japan, and florists gave them away with their arrangements or occasionally sold them with sachets as gift items. The semi-porcelain ladies were made with either a high glaze or matte finish, and they were stylized in popular dress of the time, down to their miniature pearls or imitation gems.

 Many wore hats, gloves, or ornaments in their hair, and if you think you see a resemblance to Jackie Kennedy or Lucille Ball in some of the ladies, you’re right. Their glamorous look was never compromised with a smile; head vases bear an aloof, almost haughty look.

Most early head vases directed their gazes downward with heavily lashed eyes, but later styles include open eyes or upward glances. Many ladies have an uplifted hand cupped in the air or daintily touching their cheeks.

     Head vases had amazing detail and color considering they were mass produced. Collectors began finding head vases in second hand shops in the 1970s, and one can still find them in antique stores and flea markets today. Mint condition, rare vases can command several hundred dollars, but more common vases can still be found for as little as $10. Most head vases are marked with makers’ information. Several companies made the vases including the National Pottery Company of Cleveland, Ohio (Napco), Enesco (a Japanese paper label), and Betty Lous, produces by artist Betty Lou Nichols whose style included detailed ruffles, curls, and hand painted marks on the base of the vase. Women also purchased lady head forms to take home and hand paint, so one might find vases with signatures of the painter on the bottom. Those vases will be one of a kind.

     Collectors can’t seem to stop just at one or two head vases. Some collectors have amassed hundreds of heads and are constantly hunting for a rare, unique vase they can add to their treasures. You can display your head vases in a cabinet or lined up on shelves, but consider scattering them through the house on mantels, bookshelves, dressers, or even in the bathroom to hold hair or tooth brushes.

 They can contain pencils, paperclips, and sundry items in the office, and they will add a touch of glamour to any room. If you choose to display them en masse, consider using suitcases, books, cake stands, or satin covered blocks to vary heights and vantage points.

Head vases are a lovely way to reflect on a slower, more genteel time…a nice reminder in our busy, hectic lives.

For more information, go to, or refer to The Encyclopedia of Head Vases by Kathleen Cole or Lady Head Vases by Mary Zavada. A beautiful gallery of head vases can be seen at
Information source: "Lady Friends," Romantic Country, 2011.