The Rich Arequipa Pottery History

Located in Marin County, California, Arequipa Pottery has a very interesting history. In what began as a tuberculosis sanatorium in the early 1900s for wage-earning women diagnosed with TB was soon renowned for its unique approach in combining health care with pottery making. This approach served many purposes, including as a solution for paying the medical costs of treating the patients. More importantly, it was believed the therapeutic benefits were remarkable. What’s most interesting is that it was in business for just a few short years – between 1911 and 1918.

For whatever reasons, the massive San Francisco earthquake in 1906 affected women more than men when it came to breathing difficulties and other health-related problems, which is why the sanatorium was initially opened. And, too, because of the limitations in the medical field during that time, the only cure that was known amounted to little more than rest and relaxation. As we know, though, pottery making as its own way of keeping fine dust particles in the air, which likely and unknowingly exacerbated the tuberculosis. Still, the results of their creativity lives on in the pieces that are still available.

The vast majority of the clay used during this time was locally dug by younger boys who had the strength to handle the tasks. The patients/artists would spend a few hours a day (or less – depending on how they felt on any given day) working on their pottery. They were led in their efforts by the likes of Albert Solon, Fred Wilde and a few other respected ceramists of the day. That said, the creative efforts were 100% original to the patient; the ceramists were there strictly in a mentoring role.

Another interesting note was the introduction during this time of slip trailing, which is careful carving of leaves, vines and other decorative patterns into the damp clay.

As it happens, Just Art Pottery has one of these lovely creations on our New Arrivals page. The rare Arequipa Pottery vase stands 5 3/4″ tall and has an elegant matte greenish-blue finish. It’s in mint condition with no chips or cracks. It’s really indicative to both the attention to detail in its slight curves and lines.

This really is a fine way to collect American art pottery, especially considering the rich history behind it.


  1. I enjoyed reading your piece.
    I have 1 piece of this pottery which was given to me by my grandmother in the early 1990’s. It was made by my great-grandmother, who was a patient in the Sanatorium and worked in the Arequipa pottery circa 1912-1914 timeframe as a young woman. She had come to San Francisco to join her older sister who had survived the 1906 quake, and after she arrived she contracted TB. Her sister, my great Aunt, helped to pay the expenses while she was a patient.

    My great-grandmother passed away in 1984 at the age of 91. The Arequipa piece I was given by my grandmother was the last remaining piece that my great-grandmother had saved. I was told that she had several pieces but had given them away over the years in the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s. 🙁

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