Archives for June 2012

Van Briggle Pottery Special Lines

Throughout the history of Van Briggle Pottery, there have been unique lines, known as “special lines” that incorporate all the beauty and attention to detail the art pottery company is known for, but also provides collectors another opportunity to add to their collection a truly unique piece.

Over the years, items such as candlesticks, plaques, plates and even bookends are made in limited numbers. One example are the Siren of the Sea plates. It’s believed Anne Van Briggle created these as part of her final efforts before selling the company. Each piece has a mermaid in various positions, though usually draped over the design. In one, the mermaid sits on the rim of the plate, leaning on one arm. She’s finished in the same color glazes as the plate or bowl.

Women in general seem to be a common theme in these special lines. Between the mid 1930s and mid 1940s, there were a few pieces including Daydreamer, where a woman is wearing a cape and with her head bent, appears to be looking down. Lady of the Lake, finished in a matte blue glaze, is kneeling on her knees looking into a pond or lake with a turtle that appears to be looking in her direction. Yet another bowl includes a woman with calla lillies and there’s even a Native American woman depicted in one of these designs.

They’re truly lovely and are often quite detailed. There are very interesting vases with the openings depicted as bears that appear to be peering into the vase opening. There are a series of American Indian busts, too.

The glazes run the gamut and to suggest there’s a common theme would be inaccurate. Beautiful and dramatic bronzes, the matte blue in the mermaid series, greens, golds – there are many. There are high gloss pieces, plenty of flat or matte pieces and even a few with an iridescent finish.

To be sure, this is quite the varied showcase. Many are kept in a museum, though there are plenty in private collections as well. They’re prized possessions and little wonder so many Van Briggle fans are always on the lookout.

Passing on the Roseville Pottery Appreciation

I never thought I’d look at people younger than me and think of them in terms of the “younger generation”. That’s what

Roseville Azurean

grandparents do! But, after hanging out with my best friend’s sixteen year-old daughter this weekend, I’m beginning to differentiate the generations.

After getting completely flustered with only half of her attention for the most part of the afternoon (those pesky cells and their texting features!), I finally said, “OK, sunshine…here’s what we’re going to do. Put that phone away and let me show you a few things that you just might appreciate one day.” Of course, that was met with a roll of the eyes and a reluctant and rather drawn out “OK”.

I pointed to a few pieces of my favorite Roseville Pottery patterns. “What do you see, Sam?” After a pause, she said, “I don’t know. A bowl with a bunch of holes in the top of it.” Taking a deep breath and resisting the urge to roll my own eyes, I began explaining to her what a flower frog is. I explained how they’ve traditionally been used to hold flower arrangements in place. Before long, I had her attention and began telling her different “Roseville stories”.

I showed her a few wall pockets I have arranged on my living room wall. She asked what purpose they served. I think her exact words were, “Yeah, it’s pretty. But what does it do?” She’s a lovely girl who appreciates lovely jewelry, so I used that to my benefit. I said, “Wouldn’t this be pretty hanging on the wall just above your jewelry box to hold the rings you wear every day?” She particularly liked the Roseville Freesia.

From there, we moved on the different glazes and beveling efforts that really set Roseville apart. I explained to her what a jardiniere and pedestal were and before long we were on the Just Art Pottery website going over window boxes, vases and candle holders.

Two hours later, she had sweet talked me out of one of my favorite wall pockets and had an understanding of the importance of American art pottery. I wasn’t the least bit surprised when she announced Roseville Azurean is her new favorite. That kid loves blue. Her bedroom is blue, blue is the primary color of the high school she attends and I have a strong sense that I’m going to be investing in pieces from this beautiful line for birthdays and Christmas – and I couldn’t be happier.

What was most important, though, is I started out with a typical teen who could care less about a flower frog and by the time it was over, texting was the last thing on her mind and she walked away with the seed planted and a new appreciation for art – specifically, Roseville pottery. Will this be an everyday thing with her? Of course not. What I hope, though, is that it will encourage her to broaden her horizons, develop her own passion for the real beauty in the world and hopefully, serve as something that she equates to time spent with me when she’s older.

Roseville Pottery Trivia

Think you know everything there is to know about Roseville Pottery? It’s often the details that get lost in our minds. For instance, did you know Roseville Pottery’s first line was Rozane? And did you know it was developed to keep pace with two competing lines, Weller’s Louwelsa and Owen Pottery’s Utopian?

Roseville Pottery, based out of Zanesville, Ohio, had to compete with at least twelve more American art potteries within Zanesville. Still, its business model, ability to recruit some of the best known artists and commitment to quality was the driving force behind its reputation.

Roseville Pottery’s incorporation papers were filed in Zanesville on January 4, 1892. Among those signing them were J.F. Weaver, Thomas Brown, G. Young, Charles Allison and L Kildow. A depression during the 1890s resulted in Roseville Pottery being forced out of business.

As it was seeking to regroup, the company decided to put its wares in A&P grocery stores – it proved quite successful, too.

These days, we’re accustomed to marketing efforts by companies via Facebook and email. While technological opportunities didn’t exist during Roseville Pottery’s heyday, it did have a familiar marketing plan. A brochure from 1905 offered customers a free Rozane paperweight that would be a part of a customer’s first shipment – but only if the customer provided at least three names of friends, neighbors and family members. There is one interesting statement in this particular ad that states the company only wanted those prospects “whose purses might permit them to purchase Rozane”. That’s not common in today’s contemporary ads. We never hear a salesman say, “Give me the names of those whose credit can pass”.

Sometimes, a trip down memory lane is all that’s needed to remind us why we appreciate the beautiful American art pottery that was so carefully created more than one one hundred years ago. With the rich history serving as the foundation, Roseville Pottery provides a truly inspirational story.

Weller Pottery: Sicard

Often, when the name Weller Pottery comes up, it’s equated with the the Lonhuda or even Louwelsa lines. Both included hues of brown, striking high gloss finishes and compelling shapes. Plus, these were two of the biggest lines within Weller Pottery – in the Louwelsa line alone, there were more than 500 shapes and sizes.

But it was the Sicard line, made between 1902 and 1907 that many insist was the crown jewel within the Weller Pottery family. What many aren’t aware of is this was developed by Weller in an effort to keep up with two competing potteries – both of which were bigger and more well known. To up the ante, Weller Pottery met the demands of the artist of whom the line is named after. Jacques Sicard was approached by Weller with a request to develop the line. Sicard agreed to do so, but only if the pottery company would also hire his assistant, Henri Gellie.

Weller Pottery agreed to bring both men on board and even offered a bonus if both met the terms of a five year contract. It was a deal seemingly made in heaven if one’s judging by the divine pieces found in the Sicard line. There is a certain mysterious aura surrounding this line – and it’s due to the nature of the artist. Whether it was a sense of not wanting anyone critiquing the art in its developmental phases – the decorative methods were ones Sicard created – or some mischievous nature meant to increase curiosity, Sicard often locked himself and his assistant in their studio. When the two were in a group, they often spoke in French, leaving those within ear shot slightly paranoid that they were the topic of conversation.

There were several color combinations and it’s the iridescent glaze that sets this collection apart. The artist made jewelry boxes, candy dishes, vases and even plaques and the line in its entirety has only increased in value over the years. Some Sicard vases are valued at $12,000 or more. The heights in the vases vary greatly, which, for collectors, makes for perfect display presentations.

The five years Sicard and Gellie spent at Weller Pottery were well spent. Once the contract was up, however, the pair returned to France.