Hagen-Renaker, maker of ceramic statues in California, USA, is bringing us a brand new mold this spring! This is exciting news, as this is the first time in 13 years that a new horse mold has joined the HR line-up, and he's a beauty!
An employee at Hagen-Renaker fills molds that will become beloved statues
Hagen-Renaker has been in business for over 75 years, and most of us have at least one of their horses in our collection, if not a whole herd of them. Their work ranges from nearly Traditional-sized horses with riders that sell for many hundreds of dollars, to the 1" minis on paper cards that most of us have. They were the employer of Maureen Love, whose sculpts became well-loved by Breyer collectors when Breyer licensed them for production in plastic. Many of Maureen's pieces are still in production at Hagen-Renaker, and still look great after all these years.
The new sculpture is a Spanish Horse. We're in love with this handsome stallion! Check him out:
Isn't he gorgeous?!?
and was made by none other than amazing sculptor Kristina Lucas Francis. If that name sounds familiar to Breyer collectors, it's because she sculpted the first model in Breyer's Premiere Collection: Desatado. I chatted with Kristina about the new Hagen-Renaker Spanish Horse, and about the Hagen-Renaker Collectors Club, which she runs. She was a delight to talk with, and I really appreciated the opportunity to share her thoughts on this new mold with you:
Meet Kristina! She took this picture for us, saying she loves how green everything is outside right now. Here in Maine, we've just finally gotten to the beginning of green season ourselves, so we loved this! Thanks, Kristina!
Eleda: We're excited about your new sculpt. He just arrived, and he's beautiful! Did Hagen-Renaker ask for a Spanish Horse, or was this breed your idea?
Kristina: It came up during a discussion about potential future HRCC (HR Collectors Club) Special Runs. I mentioned that it was a horse that HR had not made before (the Pura Raza or Andalusian), and that it was fitting for a California pottery to salute a horse that carried California history and culture on its back.
Eleda: Is it a sculpt you had already produced, or did you make it specifically for them?
Kristina: This was sculpted to order for HR.
Eleda: Does it have a name, other than "Spanish Horse?"
Kristina: It does not have a character name. The title was intended to define it as different from the other horse models HR has made. The Lipizzaners are technically Austrian sporthorses. Until now, HR had never covered the popular Iberian breeds. Even the models that some collectors assign the "Spanish Mustang" breed were Maureen's contemporary portraits of Morgans and partbred Saddlebreds.
Eleda: Sue at Hagen-Renaker mentioned there were unanticipated production problems when they first began producing him, which caused delays getting him to dealers. Do you know what the production problems were and how they were overcome?
Kristina: I know that the very first casting mold poured through the chest. HR did not like the result of that method, and made new molds with the pour-hole in the belly. All of the production models were poured through the belly. The next change was to make the production molds' exteriors less bulky. None of these changes altered the inner horse.
Eleda: Is this the first piece you've made that HR has produced?
Kristina: No, I also sculpted the Miniatures Guinea Pig #A-3221, released in 1996. That animal choice was John Renaker's idea, and I sculpted it at his prompting.
Eleda: How did you choose the Spanish Horse's lovely grey coloring and how did you instruct them to copy it accurately? (Sue tells me her artist was given very specific instructions!)
Kristina: Familiar with the current HR horse underglaze palette as a collector, I could pick colors in my own underglaze selection to approximate them. Because these would be made in a factory setting, I chose a real horse color that had a body plan or map that accepted reasonable handmade variations. Gray is one of the more variable and yet forgiving colors. Gray also happens to be a defining color of the Andalusian breed. In both breed and getting through QC, it had to be a realistic rendering, through the variations, to satisfy today's collectors and exhibitors. For example, the vintage HR bays and buckskins didn't consistently have black stockings over the knee, which might cause judges to DQ them in Breed for a color fault.
I did the same thing that I did to instruct the Hagen-Renaker Collectors Club Special Run in 2016. Any time a new pattern or color is developed, it needs to be in both 3D and 2D samples. I have my own pottery studio, so I physically produced tests and shipped them to HR. I took progress photos of how I gripped and sprayed my own test castings, and PhotoShopped in arrows and spray width, with my airbrush nozzle pointing in frame. These step-by-step photos were used to bridge the miles and the language barrier. HR's airbrush artist, Irma, produced a better countersample than what I had mailed to them! My gray underglaze was too pale and weak.
My goal was to design a product with shelf appeal for retailers, that would also serve the fans. Not everyone *just* collects, or *just* shows their models, so I was trying to hit a happy and affordable medium. If you'd like to collect more new Specialties horses, see new breeds in the HR world, tell HR and your dealers! There are certainly more horse and animal possibilities out there, and I'd be happy to translate them for the collectors and the exhibitors. Now that I have seen my original model translate into their product, I have some idea of the angles and the decoration techniques they can reproduce.
Thank you for collecting HRs, and for supporting their trying out new things, like new poses and new colors. It takes a big a leap of faith to invest in new molds and new spray patterns, especially after you've been making pottery for over 70 years. HR will grow for collectors, if the orders are there to show them that you like their efforts.
Eleda: I totally agree, and I know I speak for many collectors when I say we'd love to see HR continue to move in this direction of more realistic sculpts and colors. We appreciate the intricate directions you provided them, and the result is a lovely model that everyone will want to add to their collections.
Kristina also runs the new Hagen-Renaker Collectors Club, which puts out an annual print magazine. If you have Hagen-Renaker models, you'll love this: