A Ridiculous Bench and Other Follies: A Mackenzie-Childs Collection
Little Miss Muffet, sat on her Mackenzie-Childs tuffet… but was that tuffet designed by the company’s founding artists, Victoria and Richard Mackenzie-Childs, or by the uninspired creative team they were replaced with after the company's takeover and simply “in-the-style-of”?
Victoria and Richard Mackenzie-Childs began their careers as struggling ceramic artists with a family to feed. Together they grew their upstate New York business into a nationwide movement which expanded to not only include high-end handcrafted dinnerware but imaginative household furnishings as well.
In 2005, the couple was bought out by Pleasant Co. (maker of the American Girl dolls) and forced to leave the company. One can argue that the creative free spirit left with Victoria and Richard, as many of the classic Mackenzie-Child’s designs have remained unaltered since the company changed hands. Current offerings demonstrate little progression or innovation in design development, being fixed at the point in time which Victoria and Richard relinquished creative direction. Adding to consumer confusion is the fact that there was little rebranding, the same products are being produced, and these objects are still signed "Mackenzie-Childs" even though Victoria and Richard have no hand in the design process.
Victoria and Richard Mackenzie-Childs have since reentered the ceramics and housewares market. They are now operating in a much smaller scale under the corporate name “V R Emprise”. But even this endeavor was fraught with legal tumult as they have been sued by the Pleasant Co for the use of their first names (and even their initials) in their commercial branding, the plaintiff claiming that rights to the couples birth names were sold along with the company. In a YouTube video entitled “The Truth about Victoria and Richard Mackenzie-Childs” uploaded to the couple’s channel in July of 2021, Victoria proclaims from her treetop perch (yes, you read correctly, she addresses the audience from the branches of a tree) that “nothing that is truly ours, could be taken from us”.
Victoria and Richard Mackenzie-Childs currently reside on the oldest existing Ellis Island ferry boat, which they have lovingly restored with their distinctive artistic touch and consider their "biggest masterpiece yet". The Yankee Ferry, built in 1907, was used for a time to carry immigrants from Ellis Island to their new lives in America, now it functions as the couple's home and floating studio.
Our September 28th Fine and Decorative Arts Catalog featured many original, founder-designed pieces purchased by a single owner collector in the 80’s and 90’s, at the height of Victoria and Richard’s success. Represented whimsy ranged from side chairs with backrests of landscape painted fish, to a rattan floor lamp with a thistle fringed shade resting on a quartet of white ceramic rabbits, to an aptly named “ridiculous bench” with reversible cushion and gilt detail. These pieces garnered much attention (how could they not?) and hefty realized prices in our sale. Here are some exceptional examples from this collection: