Queen of Fairyland

By Louise Irvine

Betty Issod is acclaimed as the “Queen of Fairyland” by collectors of Wedgwood’s fabulous luster wares. In a career spanning more than 40 years, Betty sold Wedgwood ware at antique shows around the USA and became internationally renowned as an expert, collector, and dealer. Over the years, she held back some of her finest pieces for her personal enjoyment and they are now being offered at auction by the Lion and Unicorn on February 19.

Wowed by Wedgwood

Betty traveled the world to find Wedgwood treasures and her dealer’s inventory included Fairyland Lustre ware as well as Queen’s ware, Jasper ware, and Black Basalt ware. Betty was first introduced to Wedgwood in the 1950s at the former Buten Museum in Merion, PA. Her mentor was the museum’s volunteer curator, Muriel Polikoff, whose extensive Wedgwood research library was donated to WMODA in 2018. Betty was captivated by a shimmering piece of Fairyland Lustre and the encounter changed the course of her life.

Betty and her late husband, Leonard, ran a fashion boutique business in Wisconsin while raising their family but in her spare time, Betty determined to find out all she could about Wedgwood’s Fairyland Lustre. She was no stranger to research having graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1947. She was a Knapp Scholar the first year the award was established to support academically gifted minority undergraduate students majoring in business.

Chasing the Rainbow

Fairyland Lustre was designed by Daisy Makeig-Jones and produced in 1915 with Wedgwood’s new liquid luster glazes. The decorating process was complex with up to six firings required to achieve the glimmering rainbow effects. Daisy’s fairy folk cavort in a Celtic twilight of fantasy forests with trees and cobwebs intricately outlined in gold. The iridescent glazes of Wedgwood’s Fairyland Lustre have dazzled collectors since the 1920s. There are lots of exquisite scenes to collect on a variety of shapes with different colored skies suggested by background colors, including daylight mother of pearl, blue moonlight, black simulating night-time and flame sunset.

Betty joined the International Association of Wedgwood Dealers and began acquiring examples of Fairyland Lustre. She advertised her first collection in the Antiques Trader and it sold out in a day. As her passion grew, she became a member of the Buten Museum of Wedgwood, the New York Wedgwood Society, and the Washington DC Wedgwood Society. She gave lectures to fellow collectors and shared personal stories of her friendship with Barbara and Hensleigh Wedgwood who wrote a fascinating book about the Wedgwood family circle.

Betty was an unorthodox dealer as she would limit the number of pieces her collectors could buy at any one time. She knew from experience how hard it is to find Fairyland Lustre. Over the years, she helped build many of this country’s finest Fairyland collections, including the Wiener collection. Many of Betty’s prized possessions, such as the monumental Dragon King vase, went on display to the public when the Wiener Museum of Decorative Arts opened in 2014. Betty became a regular visitor and regularly entertained audiences with her fascinating stories in the stunning Fairyland Lustre exhibition.

Classic Black

Betty also drew the attention of WMODA visitors to Wedgwood’s Black Basalt ware which she appreciated. The classic black stoneware has tended to be overshadowed by Wedgwood’s more famous Jasper ware and Queen’s ware but a splendid book and exhibition produced by the Mint Museum in Charlotte, NC have revived interest among discerning collectors. As Josiah once proclaimed, “Black is sterling and will last for ever.”

Josiah Wedgwood perfected his fine-grained vitreous body in 1768 and named it basalt after the volcanic rock. The black finish was produced by mixing a reddish-brown clay with manganese and iron-rich carr from coal mines. Basalt became popular for teapots at after dinner tea parties hosted by aristocratic ladies. Many ornamental wares, including black basalt urns, statuettes, and plaques, were inspired by ancient Greek and Roman works of art and enhanced the Neo-classical interiors in vogue during the Georgian era. Black basalt busts of famous authors and philosophers were considered the perfect adornment for libraries and gentlemen’s studies.

Celebrating Betty

WMODA was delighted to celebrate Betty’s 90th birthday in 2015 with a cake inspired by the Imps on a Bridge pattern from one of her favorite chargers. It’s harder for Betty to get around these days but she still has lots of great tales to share about her life and work. We wish Betty many more years of happiness as the reigning Wedgwood queen and we look forward to welcoming her back to see the Wedgwood exhibitions at WMODA when we reopen in the summer.

See the Lion and Unicorn catalog of Betty’s amazing collection.


Read more about Black Basalt

Read more about Fairyland Lustre

Firing Miss Daisy
Phenomenal Fairyland Lustre
Blowing Bubbles