Archives for July 2012

The Arts and Crafts Movement in America

Most of us know the history of our favorite art pottery company; for those invested collectors, they can likely retell a particular company’s history from the moment it was founded. It’s the general history where some might disagree. For instance, the Crystal Palace Exposition in 1851 is cited by many as the “birth” of the movement towards art pottery in the U.S. The Louisiana State Museum agrees:

The reform movement took shape after the first ever international exhibition, the 1851 Crystal Palace Exposition in London. Toward this end, institutions were established to teach principles of good design. The Arts and Crafts movement roared into American cities through new educational programs, international fairs, lectures and writings. The National Art Training Schools program was launched in South Kensington in 1852…and several potteries took advantage of the talented students and formed cooperative efforts in the 1860’s and 1870’s.

Before long, the “women’s movement” was in high gear. There were what the museum refers to as “English training programs” that were developed specifically to assist women in learning a trade or craft that would allow them to “make an

Collection of Roseville Baneda

honorable living”. Of course, Newcomb College was one of the first – and in contemporary society, one of the most well-known, programs. The New York Society of Decorative Art was also a popular choice for women who were in that area of the country.

The goal, of course, was to ensure a bit of independence, even if it wasn’t officially cited as a reason. The education and earnings opportunities were an added bonus, especially considering what lie ahead in the upcoming years – the financial crisis on the late 1920s which led to the Great Depression and, of course, World Wars I and II. Women soon had made a significant mark on the collective American art pottery scene.

In late 1884, the World’s Industrial and Cotton Centennial Exposition made its way to New Orleans, which was also considered part of the arts and crafts movement. Soon, Tulane University was offering free evening and Saturday courses for would-be potters. It would have been the educational resource for more than five thousand people – mostly women, but some men – over a ten year period. Interestingly, women’s art classes were offered twice a week – but only to women – as part of the Tulane Decorative Art League. Men who enrolled in any of these courses most often chose wood carving or metal work as they left the more artistic aspects to the women.

If you’ve not toured the Louisiana State Museum, there’s a website that offers the next best thing. It offers many historical records, old photographs and images that define the American art pottery movement. Fair warning – expect to be drawn in and don’t be surprised if you realize you’ve been exploring the virtual museum for a couple of hours. It’s also a fine educational resource for the little ones, too.

William Henry Grueby & Grueby Pottery

Born in 1867 in Boston William Grueby was a businessman first and a potter second for many years. After forming the Grueby Faience Company in 1894, his love for American art pottery soon took center stage.

Before he was able to move on with the business of doing what he was passionate about, he had to secure financing for this new company. He’d found an ally of sorts in Allan Marquand, who was a professor of Art and Archeology as well as the director for the art museum on the Princeton University campus. He’d provided Marquand with an intricate model of what he wanted to do. If he was hoping to appeal to Marquand’s own passion for art pottery to link them, it worked; however, the proposal Grueby provided Marquand lacked specific information for really important aspects of establishing a new company in any sector, such as what the needs might be for heavy machinery or how many employees he might have needed to hire in the beginning. As Susan Montgomery writes in The Ceramics of William H. Grueby, “Grueby attached a typewritten resume, written in the third person, which summarized his technical achievements…” Despite the proposal’s shortcomings and the setbacks, Grueby was able to move forward and soon had two partners on board.

Two well-recognized companies contracted Grueby for inclusion in their various offerings. Tiffany Studios, known for its spectacular lamps, used Grueby’s art for more than a few of its lamp bases. Meanwhile, Gustav Stickley began using Grueby tiles in its tables, benches and even a few of its vases.

Soon, Grueby art pottery was winning awards and being recognized around the world at various exhibitions, including the Architectural League of New York, 1895, the Exposition Universalle in Paris- where he was awarded two medals in 1900, and the Buffalo Pan American Exhibition in 1901. All of the company’s submissions were hand thrown and surprisingly, many were decorated by art students within Boston’s art community.

To this day, Grueby remains most known for the lovely green glazes that many say put it on the map and ensured it would be remembered as one of the country’s most beloved art pottery makers.