More than 40 years ago, an artist friend pointed out the differences between a polychrome (lots of colors) transfer printed souvenir plate and others that were monochrome (one color). The artist, Miriam Kaye, was known for reuse of images from history in her own work, along with reclaimed material collage. I don’t recall the image on the plate but I do remember her introduction to the subtle variations of surface, under and over glaze, printed imagery, and the quality of the plates themselves. Depending on the time period when they were produced, each decade built upon a prior narrative to commemorate idealized versions of historic events, portraits of “founders,” man-made monuments and the buildings built, some named for and intended to honor this history. These plates were created as souvenirs with clues to their origins on the backs of plates through merchant stamps, or maker’s marks, and sometimes additional narratives with lengthy written text. This information, further emphasized by titles and relationships with the visual imagery, was quite literally whitewashed of any human struggle that came before, during, or after. Some commemorated foot soldiers who fought for independence, others were generals and represent what we now view as white supremacy by glorifying slave owners and the confederacy. 

These images were created and put on plates using illustrations, sometimes copies of well known paintings and entered popular culture as countless multiples. They used powerful stereotypes and caricatures, added to historical fictions and resonate today as we consider how we came to believe what we do. 

— Leslie Ferrin, Director & Collector


Collection of Leslie Ferrin/Ferrin Contemporary


From the mid-70’s on, I collected, was given and sent more than 100 plates, figurines, and small objects in glass and ceramics. This started casually. Like others of my generation who hunted and gathered vintage materials, we sought cultural objects that reminded us of a past that many of us never actually experienced but for which were nostalgic without fully understanding the depth of that past. We saw the irony and displayed these objects in our homes, naive and unaware of their toxic power to continue the original message conveyed and widely distributed through commercial reproduction.

Vaseline Glass Tomahawk, Arrowhead, Toothpick Holder

green vaseline glass
varying sizes
year N/A

Aunt Jemima Syrup Bottle

year n/a
10 x 3.5”

Collection of Leslie Ferrin/Ferrin Contemporary

Aunt Jemima Syrup Bottle White Face

year n/a
glass, paint
8.5 x 3”

Uncle Remus and Little Boy Created by the Federal Art Project, Works Progress Administration

Ceramic sculpture (Ohio clay mixed with 25% flint)
5.5 x 4”

Collection of Leslie Ferrin/Ferrin Contemporary


Hidden in plain sight, illustrations on porcelain and ceramic ware have, throughout history, transformed functional objects into message-bearers for a wide range of political and propagandistic causes, whether exchanged by heads of state or acquired for use or display in domestic settings.

Our America: Southern Plantation

Vernon Kilns “Our America”, bread and butter plate with Southern Plantation, designed by Rockwell Kent, plate design by Gale Turnbull, Manfucturer, Vernon Kilns

c. 1940-1943
transfer printed earthenware, glaze
7.5 x 7.5 x 0.75”

Manhattan Vernon Kilns “Our America” Rockwell Kent (Brown)

transfer printed earthenware, glaze
10.5 x 10.5 x 1”

Chicago Red Vernon Kilns “Our America” Rockwell Kent dinner plate

transfer printed earthenware, glaze
9.5 x 9.5 x 1”

Hoover Dam Vernon Kilns “Our America” Rockwell Kent (Brown)

transfer printed earthenware, glaze
14 x 14 x 1”

Collection of Leslie Ferrin/Ferrin Contemporary


At first, most of the souvenir plates I purchased were produced by English potteries like Johnson Brothers and Rowland & Marsellus who operated in the early 1900s, commissioned by merchants to offer for sale to tourists at the sites depicted. The plates I purchased showed monuments and architecture flanked by their namesakes, generals and politicians; scenes copied from famous paintings such as the landing of Europeans – Roger Williams, Henry Hudson; portraits such as Pocahontas/Matoaka depicted as an Englishwoman copied from an engraving by Simon van de Passe; geographically significant landscapes tamed by Europeans such as Plymouth Rock with 1620 carved into it and Mount Rushmore with the faces of the founders, Niagra Falls now accessible by boat and generating electricity. These images are about American identity which led me to seek out others, plates and figurines made in America and Occupied Japan drawn as I was to how they represented and portrayed race, positions in society, and through popular culture continue to infuse tropes, maintain stereotypes and deliver messages “hidden in plain site.” 

Collection of Leslie Ferrin/Ferrin Contemporary


“Tiny Indians” Made in Occupied Japan

varying dimensions

Vintage Mohawk Trail, Mass. Souvenir Hand Painted Made In Post War Japan

7.5” radius

Laundry, Black Child Ashtray Made in Occupied Japan


Made in Occupied Japan (Black Child, Watermelon, Chamberpot)

cast porcelain, glaze

Made in Japan (Male and Female Native Americans Figurines)

cast porcelain, glaze,
Woman: 4.25 x 2 x 1.25” , Man: 4.25 x 2 x 1.25”

Collection of Leslie Ferrin/Ferrin Contemporary


Paul Scott

Paul Scott is a Cumbrian based artist with a diverse practice and an international reputation.Creating individual pieces that blur the boundaries between fine art, craft and design, he is well known for research into printed vitreous surfaces, as well as his characteristic blue and white artworks in glazed ceramic.

Garth Johnson

Garth Johnson’s works celebrate the history of ceramic objects and their ability to convey status. He often juxtaposes common vessel forms like plastic containers and soap bottles with gold or silver handles taken from fine silver coffee and teapots.

Sheila Bridges

Named America’s Best Interior Designer by Time magazine and CNN, Sheila Bridges is considered a creative visionary and design tastemaker. Residing and working in Harlem for more than 25 years, Bridges is recognized for her classic yet versatile design aesthetic and critical eye. She is sought after to create thoughtfully inspired and narrative rich interiors because of her profound sensitivity and appreciation of timeless design and quality craftsmanship.

Elizabeth Alexander

On her series, A Mightier Work is Ahead – I have been collecting Confederate commemorative plates since 2016 in response to the rise in white supremacist pride in contemporary culture. I imagine these objects as Trojan horses hanging innocently among family photos. These plates were printed long after the Civil War with romantic illustrations, and created for people to hang in their homes, to pass dangerous values down to future generations aided by collectable marketing.