THE ANGEL'S STORY Chapter #25
Royal Copenhagen Porcelain and Bronze
Even when you are working full time at sculpture, sculptors are always worrying about their next job. But sometimes... magic happens in the most unexpected places. After shipping File #44 “The-Orienteer-of-Pound-Ridge” to Stockholm, there were no more jobs or commissions on the horizon, so when a neighbor invited me to exhibit some of my sculptures at a fundraiser for “Open Gate” in the Peach Lake Pavilion, I accepted. Although Open Gate is based in Somers, New York, this gala event was held in North Salem, New York. Open Gate is a non-profit residential and day program for individuals who are developmentally disabled or behaviorally challenged. There was not the least idea that this festive occasion would be good for business, but rather a pleasant way to spend an evening and perhaps a good way to meet some of my neighbors.
Earlier in the day I brought one life-sized sculpture, along with several smaller pieces to Peach Lake. I dragged File #41 “Barbara-Lee-Furbush” (about 700 pounds of bronze,) all by myself, onto an old horse trailer with a device called a “come-along.” In 1973, I was fearless! This system for moving big bronzes worked fairly well. As long as everything went well, and fortunately it did, I never had a big bronze tip over one me… Looking back, I was really stupid and just plain lucky. If one of my bronzes had tipped over, I would have been mincemeat. Sometimes you just get lucky in life. Now when I look back at what I was doing, I was on a fool’s journey but thank goodness I did not know it at the time.
I remember that there was live music being played by a local dance-band and the place was packed with people, dressed up in “after-five” cocktail clothes. Placed in the middle of the room, my sculptures were used as decorations for the evening’s festivities, along with all sorts of arts-n-crafts and donated items, no longer useful to their owners.The party’s revelers were a noisy lot as they danced, ate delicious food and drank the liquor, which flowed non-stop from the pavilion’s bar. Everyone was having a wonderful time. The guests were very curious about the sculptures and lots of questions were asked. Questions such as “Did you make that all by yourself? Who really made that? What is it made of? How much does it weigh? Is it for sale? And on and on. One of those people asking questions was a very “merry” rosy-cheeked gentleman named Ivar Ipsen. One of his questions was: How would like to come to Copenhagen with me? Whatever his questions were, I just said, “ Yes, of course, I would be delighted to go to Copenhagen with you.” I said this just to be polite in the conversation’s banter. I never thought that he really meant it! Wrong! ….
Early the next morning and still in my pajamas, a silver gray, stretch-limousine pulled up in front of the house… One that was so long, that it had to bend while driving around corners. I grabbed my trench coat as I watched several men pour out onto the driveway. All of them were formally dressed, immaculately turned out in dark blue business suits, white dress shirts, gray wool vests and silk ties. Handshakes were extended with How-do-you-do-s, followed by the clicking of heels and deep bows. Ivar Ipsen stepped forward with cheerful introductions and announced that they were from Royal Copenhagen in Denmark and that he was the Managing Director of the American Division, in White Plains, New York. He explained that his neighbor’s daughter had sold to him, two tickets to the Open Gate Gala, which is how he happened to be in Peach Lake last night. “May we come in please?”
Stunned by their presence and feeling slightly ridiculous in pajamas, I invited them in saying, “Please do come in, and while you are looking at my work, please excuse me while I change my clothes,” and then I scrambled upstairs PDQ! The Danish gentlemen filed into the house to view the sculptures and carefully examined everything in my studio. Coming down stairs, I could hear lots of chatter but it was all in Danish and I couldn’t understand a word of it. After mulling around, the “committee” gathered around Ivar. He asked me, “Could we purchase two of these little figures to take home to Denmark with us?” Naturally I was amazed and delighted. I replied, “ Wow! Why yes, absolutely! Wow!” Ivar leaned across the dining room table and wrote out a check on the spot. With a very wide smile, he straightened up and pulled from his vest pocket, an airplane ticket to Copenhagen in three weeks time. He said that, “Royal Copenhagen had been looking to find someone to create a new line of porcelain figurines for their company. In our Scandinavian countries, great emphasis has been placed on modern design in our Art schools and consequently we have to look outside of our country to find someone to make new, old time classical figurines for the factory. We have been holding competitions over a seven-year period just to find you. Now…. All of your expenses will be paid and you will be paid for your time as well. We look forward to seeing you in Copenhagen! The Gray limousine swallowed up the committee and they were gone. With a check in my hand, I couldn’t believe it! “Wow …. What just happened?” I asked myself.
Strangely, within the next two weeks I received offers of work from Royal Copenhagen’s Scandinavian competitors: Bing and Grondahl, Copenhagen Porcelain and Michelsen.
I had never heard of them but apparently they had heard of me. Somewhere there must have been a leak! It seems that competition with in the porcelains industry is rather fierce. How they found out about me, I never found out. But what an extraordinary thing to have happen! In any case, I accepted the invitation of my first suitor, Royal Copenhagen and began to prepare for the upcoming trip in May of 1973.
Three days before leaving, I was visiting my friend and sculptor, James Knowles in North Stamford and a close family friend of Jim’s named Bodil Olsen. Over coffee and Jim’s many sculptures, I told them all about the upcoming trip and how it happened to come about at a fundraiser for the mentally challenged.
Bodil piped up and said that her cousin Per Breidahl was the head of the state’s Commission for the Arts and should I need any help with anything at all, to give Per a ring. She slipped his telephone number into my coat pocket and gave me a hug. Bodil’s personality is so upbeat that you just have to love her. There are some wonderful people you meet along life’s many roads; people who invariably lift the spirits of others and make their lives a little bit better. Bodil was one of these people. I know that she missed her home in Copenhagen and wished that she were going with me. I hugged her back and promised to bring home a dinner dish for her from Royal Copenhagen’s splendid porcelain collection. We would remain friends for many years to come.
Getting ready for the trip was a big deal. Bowie took over for me but I made sure I left him with not one but two kid sitters just to make sure that he was fully covered and would not have a worry in the world. Actually it more probable, that I did not want a worry in the world myself. Bowie was fully capable of managing everything by himself but I am a worrier when it comes to care for our kidletts,and just maybe, I overestimated my own importance. Bowie drove me to the JFK Airport in New York and whoosh I was off on a flight to Copenhagen, to the home of the Little Mermaid and the land of Hans Christian Anderson’s wonderful Fairy Tales. I was off to a business meeting with a famous, two hundred year old porcelain company called Royal Copenhagen and a fairytale of my own.