Ceramics: Funky Figurines

No Victorian parlor was complete without its whatnot crammed with porcelain curios and bric-a-brac. Potters of that day found an endless market for glossy, sentimental figures of puppies, kittens, grazing sheep and cows (sometimes used as milk pitchers). Today the ceramic gimcrack is coming back, this time destined as much for museums as for the coffee table, and in a radically different form. The current crop of gewgaws is more likely to be an eight-foot alligator, a toothbrush, or a bathroom scale with a few human toes still left in place.

Most...