We all like to arrange objects on the mantelpiece and quite often in matching pairs, so I can understand why these little vases were made. Look a bit closer and it becomes obvious that these matching sets were not made to display flowers but for were created for a practical reason – to contain spills.
Imagine a time when matches were expensive and everybody used open fires for heat. It was convenient to have a clutch of spills, thin strips of wood or twisted paper, stored above the fire from whence they could be lit and used to light a pipe or evening candles. They are probably the origin of the game Spillikins, or perhaps you know it as Pick-Up-Sticks. You can just see it can’t you – a bored child looks around for something to do and starts fiddling with the spills much to the irritation of the adults in the room, or perhaps delight at their child’s ingenuity.
Spill vases were made in a range of materials from metal, wood and stoneware but I like these Staffordshire porcelain animal themed sets, which, while not being to our modern taste, have a certain je ne sais quoi.