The Van Briggle Story

It’s easy to sometimes forget that behind all of these glorious American art pottery pieces we love to Vanbriggle
collect are the people, with their own stories and who first aspired to bring their version of beauty into the lives of others. One of these stories is that of Artus Van Briggle, who, of course, founded Van Briggle Pottery

This incredibly talented man found himself stepping off a train at the foot of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado Springs, Colorado.  A gifted artist already, since he’d traveled throughout Europe and learned from some of the most respected teachers in the world, he laid aside his paint brushes and picked up a ball of clay.  For the next four years, until his death, he created what many believe is some of the most inspirational art pottery to be found anywhere. 

He became acquainted with a local chemistry professor from Colorado College, who helped Van Briggle familiarize himself with the various clays of the area.  He also taught him how to make the most of his long walks around the area by looking for small deposits of kaolin and feldspar, elements that were utilized in clay mixtures.  These deposits were the tell tale signs that clay was nearby.

Before long, he began sharing his artistic results with those in his community and soon, his works were winning awards both in the U.S. and abroad.  Unfortunately, he did not live long enough to enjoy the fruits of his labors of love as he lay on his deathbed even as he received news that he was winning one award after another.  His widow, Anna, opted to continue her husband’s efforts and she too began to incorporate her own talents into the business. 

Vanbrigglevase One story that’s part of the Van Briggle history is that of a local store owner who was so impressed with Van Briggle’s art pottery that she insisted he allow her to display a few of his selections in her store window.  They sold quickly and following a second request by the store owner, Van Briggle allowed 300 pieces to be displayed, in the Christmas season, no less, and the entire display was sold quickly (some reports say within a matter of a few days).  Seven months after that last Christmas, and just five years after his arrival to Colorado in late 1899, on July 4, 1904 Artus Van Briggle passed away. 

Following his death, an article appeared in the Colorado Springs Gazette and was written by Henry Russell Wray:

Van Briggle was a man with a message and he gave it to the world early in life – much earlier than is the privilege of most geniuses.  Few men have do so much for art as did this man and what he might have done had he lived can be judged by what he had already done when the death messenger called him.

We couldn’t agree more.


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