Rookwood Pottery Gray Tinting

Fans of Rookwood Pottery likely have several pieces that have a unique tinting that is unlike any other American art pottery. The gray tinting found on some Rookwood Pottery shapes was incorporated from around 1915 through 1932. There’s been some debate about whether or not it was actually used before 1920, though in recent years, it’s not been questioned as much by modern collectors. Either way, it is a superb decision to opt for the semi translucent and glossy finish. The hazy appearance in many pieces is due to what’s described as a “thicker glaze pool”.

The markings are often indicated with a “D.G.” incision, which stands for “dark gray” and there are some pieces that are simply marked with the word “gray”.

It’s also interesting to note that this glaze was used in Starkville, Mississippi, where much of the commercial ware was made.

Remember, Rookwood Pottery also brought the exceptional yellow tinted glaze. It is stunning, especially on one of the Rookwood vases from 1923. The lovely yellow serves as a striking background to the dainty red flowers and green vines. At the opening of the vase, there’s a deep bluish-gray that extends into the vase itself. Meanwhile, the bottom is a perfectly coordinated green. If the crisp colors within the yellow glaze pieces are cheerful, then the gray tinting pieces are more dramatic, even if many of them have floral patterns.

If you’re a collector of these particular Rookwood Pottery lines, odds are, you’ll find these pieces with either painted artist initials or incisions with the initials. As with many companies in the 1930s, the Great Depression would soon serve as a devastating inhibitor for all things artistic. In fact, the pottery produced during the depression was strictly for utilitarian purposes versus decorative ones.

Needless to say if you run across anything with the dramatic gray tinting, you’ve indeed found a spectacular item that’s worthy of any collection.

For a company with a rich history dating back to the late 1880s, many collectors treat their efforts as investments and with Rookwood Pottery, it’s a sure thing. The company ceased production in 1967.

Rookwood Pottery Aerial Blue

Produced for just one year, between 1894 and 1895, the Aerial Blue pattern has a beautiful translucent gloss with grayish-blue hues throughout. What’s so surprising about these patterns is often, the blue that comes through isn’t a result of the painting, but rather, the blue found naturally in the clay. Of course, it’s accentuated, but rarely is a pottery piece created with its natural elements as part of the design process. It’s truly a remarkable collection and even more surprising is it was discontinued after just three months. While there aren’t any definitive dates, it’s believed production began in November or December and by January or February of 1895, it had been discontinued.

It’s important to keep in mind that there was a lot going on with Rookwood Pottery during this time. It had already been considering, and indeed experimenting, with the Cameo ware with the goal of creating lighter design colors to pair with those thick, glossy and translucent glazes. In the middle of all this, the facilities – the entire company – relocated to a better area. So, between the ongoing new product development and the physical move, it could have been the Aerial Blue line got lost in the process.

Other factors included the introduction of the Sea Green Iris glaze lines, simultaneously offered with the Aerial Blue. Also, because the Aerial Blue was at least partially inspired by another company’s line, Royal Copenhagen, the two could have been in an informal competition with the competitor’s offering winning customer loyalty. Either way, this simply wasn’t a popular line. Perhaps it was just ahead of its time because it’s one of the most sought after Rookwood Pottery glazes today.

If you’re looking for markings, you should know most of the pieces include those exclusive to Joseph Bailey, the company’s long time ceramics engineer. They’re described as “an impressed number – usually three digits – bracketed by incised crescent moons, found usually on the bottom of these pieces”.

If you’re a Rookwood Pottery fan, this is truly one line that is indicative of what the company was always about: beauty, elegance and attention to detail.

Rookwood Pottery’s Mississippi Connection

Rookwood Pottery is truly one of those American classics – not only in terms of art pottery, but in its totality as a business model. It survived the Great Depression when companies around the nation were folding. It’s undergone many changes in ownership, barely missed being sold to international buyers and through it all, the talent that is Rookwood Pottery continued to turn out some of those most beautiful collections the art pottery community has ever known.  What many people don’t know is that Rookwood Pottery temporarily relocated to Starkville, Mississippi in 1959. The ownership had just changed hands once again and even though the company had survived those difficult years in the 1930s, it struggled for many years after the Depression. The move to Mississippi was designed to put the company back at the top of its game. Unfortunately, it was unable to do so and as a result, folded (albeit temporarily) in 1967. At the time, no one knew for sure whether this American pottery company would be able to make a successful comeback.

Rookwood Pottery now calls Cincinnati home. It was purchased in the early 1980s by an in Ohio physician. Upon learning that Rookwood might be relocating to another country, Dr. Arthur Townley made his decision. He moved fast and indeed, invested all of his savings, in a bid to keep the company here in the U.S. This was in 1982. More recently, Rookwood Pottery was moved yet again to the Cincinnati area – on Race Street to be specific -and in 2006, Dr. Townley agreed to sell his assets, which included trademarks and even glaze recipes. This was surely a difficult decision for the dentist, but for the same reasons he purchased the company all those years ago, he believed it was the right thing to do.

Regardless of what ultimately happens with this company, there is no denying the indelible mark it left on the art pottery world as a whole and our society. Rookwood Pottery continues to increase in both its value and the number of those who are just beginning to see what many have known for decades.

Rookwood Pottery: Standard Glaze

If you’re looking for a great way to break into the Rookwood Pottery sector, you might want to consider the Standard Glaze ware line.

It’s not hard to find a Rookwood Pottery line that’s elegant, with depth and extremely detailed. The Standard Glaze (also known as the Brown Glaze) line is a perfect example of what embodies the collective Rookwood Pottery brand. It’s recognized most often by the “Standard Brown” glaze that gives off rich, deep orange hues and various shades of brown that meld together flawlessly. You might also notice deep green hues, too. The colors are indicated in the shading efforts that go from darker to lighter, usually from the top down. It’s often described with adjectives such as “hard”, “clear” and “fine” and all are perfectly true.

The line itself is predominantly decorated with floral and/or leaf patterns, including dogwood blossoms. Also, there are a precious few that had portraits of important people of the times, animals, Native Americans and believe it or not, ghosts were sometimes used, which surely added quite the dramatic tone, especially considering the time period.

Speaking of dramatic tones, there were very interesting shape elements, too. The Two-Handled Chalice Vase, included in the 1895 line, is aptly named. The matching dual handles, circular and narrow, only added to the beauty of the design as a whole. They’re almost always marked with the artist’s name, the year it was produced, the type of clay and glaze used as well as the size marking.

You’ll find candlesticks, smaller cabinet vases, floor vases, tea sets and even umbrella stands in the Standard Glaze. Considered quite affordable, it’s a great investment for those who collect Rookwood Pottery.

Rookwood Pottery Flowing Glaze

“Translucent” is one adjective used to describe the Rookwood Pottery Flowing Glaze finish. It’s rich, glossy and doesn’t overwhelm the piece. It incorporated many colors and while they were allowed to flow together (hence, “Flowing Glaze”), one color never overwhelmed the other – they co-existed in glorious and beautiful harmony.

Interestingly enough, there were those pieces where the glazes covered the hand painted images in their entirety, though the end result was always worth the sacrifice. This particular Rookwood Pottery glaze was used “officially” between 1897 and 1901 though some historians believe it could have been used as late as 1904. This reasoning comes from the showing of the glaze line during the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition, which was held in St. Louis.

One reason many collectors appreciate lines such as this is because there is virtually no way to duplicate a previous effort. Each is its own unique masterpiece. Another reason is because of the short time duration it was used. It’s been suggested it was influenced by Asian trends, which sounds reasonable. There’s no denying the dramatic effects and the glossy look only adds to the depth.

Another lovely Rookwood Pottery glaze is found in the Pink Tinted glaze line. A bit more feminine, and absolutely stunning, the pinks and even deep plums certainly hold their own next to the Flowing Glaze. Regardless of which of the glaze lines you’re drawn to, it’s not until you hold it in your hands and see the detailing and artistry that no photo can ever do justice to. The textures, the way they easily meld together – it’s truly an experience.

Be sure to visit the Just Art Pottery Rookwood Pottery page for more of these beautiful glaze lines. If you’re new to Rookwood Pottery, it’s certainly going to become one of your favorites due to its versatility and flowing elements. Also, check our new arrivals page too. This is where you’ll find those recently added Rookwood pieces.

Rookwood Pottery Finds

Fans of Rookwood Pottery might not agree on which particular lines rein supreme, but they do agree that Rookwood Pottery as a whole is a remarkable collection and a testament to the true artists who defined the pottery line. Take a look at some of the exciting Rookwood Pottery pieces we’ve recently added:

The Rookwood Pottery 1887 Dull Finish Vase 238 Bookprinter is a rare find and is in mint condition. The low gloss finish is perfect against the beautiful golds and blues is simply stunning. Note the gold ribbed banding around the smallest dimension of the neck and the unobtrusive blue flowering and vining. The vase is 11” tall and measures 4 1/4” at its widest point. Truly, this is a beautiful addition to any Rookwood Pottery collection.

Another rare find is the Rookwood Pottery 1914 Baldwin Piano Tray. This detailed piece combines shades of browns and offers both a sleek and textured feel. It’s an advertising tray that was produced for Baldwin Piano. It’s in excellent condition with two small pinhead-sized nicks to the piano. It’s marked “Baldwin” on the tray and on the bottom, you’ll find the Rookwood Pottery logo, the date and “THE BALDWIN PIANO CO. CINCINATTI USA”. It measures 1 3/4” height and 5” wide. It’s another great addition for your Rookwood Pottery collection.

For many of us, the more detailed a piece is, the more extraordinary it becomes. That’s the case with the Rookwood Pottery 1914 Scenic Vellum vase. The detailing in the tree trunks and limbs, along with the hues of gold found in the bushes and ground scenes add to the beauty of this vase. With an easy light pink background, along with a bluish-gray backdrop in the artist’s efforts, this is an easy color combination that flows seamlessly throughout the vase. The crazing in the glaze can be seen in the photos and for many of us, that certainly adds to the texture and personality of the piece as a whole. It measures 11” high and is 5 3/4” wide. Another beauty, courtesy of Rookwood Pottery.

These are just a few of the wonderful Rookwood Pottery pieces you’ll find. Browse them all and as always, keep checking back as we have new additions quite often.

Rookwood Pottery History

**Note: A few of our readers mentioned the link to the Cincinnati Historical Society was broken. It should be working now.  Thank you.**

As much as a contemporary society thrives on its digital photography and impressive tricks a computer can make happen, I think sometimes we forget the rich history and tales of those classic black and white photos of years past. I was reminded of that today as I was leafing through Rookwood Pottery: The Glaze Lines by Anita J. Ellis.

There are many of those great black and white photos of the people who made the Rookwood Pottery line the spectacular collection it is today. Not only that, but it’s what’s caught in the background of some of these photos that will cause you to really look deeper to see how different things were then than what are today. Before long, I realized the photographs were included in her book courtesy of the Cincinnati Historical Society. You can see the entire collection of Rookwood Pottery photos here.

There is a photo of the decorating department in its then-new building in Mt. Adams. Usually, we think of these “departments” as brightly lit with no shortage of impressive machinery to ensure profitability and exact replication abilities. Of course, that’s the beauty in American art pottery – we never have to worry about an exact replica of anything. There is a long row of tables in a room with exposed beams and a center dividing shelf between the artists who face one another. The chairs are the traditional slat back chairs we clamor to find today in order to add a bit of texture and dimension into our “modern” homes. Instead of a series of computers lining those tables, you see potters wheels, along with artists hard at work. While I’m sure the area was well-lit, the absence of fluorescent lighting makes it appear not so.

In another telling photo, Decorator E.T. Hurley is shown carefully paining vines on a vase. It rests atop his own wheel and to his left is a window that provides natural light and behind the vase is a painting I’m sure he’s pulling his inspiration from. Along the window ledge are two containers holding various sized paint brushes and tacked next to the window, at eye level, is a pocket watch hanging by its chain along with what looks like a thermometer. That wouldn’t surprise me since temperature control was a consideration back then with all of the paints and glazes.

Of course, the women all have their hair pulled back. The last thing they’d want to scramble with is pulling hair out of their works of art or to have to constantly push it behind their ears to keep it out of their line of vision. They’re all wearing skirts and comfortable shoes and in every single photo I looked at, there’s not one set of eyes looking anywhere than at the task at hand.

Taking a walk in history, via photographs, is a great way to gain new perspective on American art pottery and today, I certainly have a new appreciation for the beauty that is Rookwood Pottery.

Price Guide to Rookwood Pottery Wall Plaques

Larry Koon is considered one of the leading experts in Rookwood Pottery. He’s authored several books and price guides on antiques, sports memorabilia and of course, American art pottery. His latest release, Price Guide to Rookwood Pottery Wall Plaques, covers those beautiful Rookwood plaques made between 1910 and 1940. The book itself, a total of 158 pages, is a beautiful work of art in its own right and features many photos of the various Rookwood wall plaques as well as the artists themselves. In fact, there are twenty five artists showcased including Mary Denzler, Lorinda Epply and Ed Hurley. Readers are treated to each of their biographies, too in this rare work. It offers as much of an an all-inclusive approach as anyone could hope for.

The book includes auction prices, values and of course, the back story for many of the plaques and how they came to be. This is certainly a must-have for anyone who appreciates art pottery and certainly those who are drawn to Rookwood Pottery.

Koon, born in West Virginia, also spent time as a newspaper columnist and is a recording artist. He was the first writer to ever publish a book on specialized auction markets and his deep passion for art as a whole is evident regardless of whether it’s an article or a book he’s writing. One conversation with Koon and you’re likely to learn the world’s record for the fastest sale of an antique or pottery piece – he’s that good.

If you’re interested in adding Larry Koon’s Price Guide to Rookwood Pottery Wall Plaques to your personal library, you can find it on Amazon and if you’d like your copy autographed, you may send it to Koon Publishing Company, PO Box 5221, Vienna, WV 26105.

Rookwood Pottery – The Iris Collection

 

Iris
Iris

Rookwood Pottery created stunning collections between 1880 and 1967. During these years, there were many extraordinary releases. One of those releases was the favorite Iris line. Rookwood Iris, for many, is the most vivid and in fact, the most beautiful, of any Rookwood collections, and if you’re a fan of the Sea Green glaze line, odds are, you certainly are drawn to Rookwood Iris.

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Hurricanes and Art Pottery

In a recent Just Art Pottery post, we discussed ways to securely store your art pottery collection.  Vase Soon after, we received feedback from a woman who, in many ways, is an expert’s expert.  She knows too well the disappointment and really, the heartbreak, of losing things during a hurricane.  She tells us she managed to save much of her prized art pottery collection, but did lose a few pieces during Hurricane Katrina in 2005.  She also provided a unique perspective on safely protecting your investment – whether it’s your Rookwood art pottery or your grandmother’s china collection.  And for those of us who live along the Gulf Coast, we spend six months of each year in hurricane season – protecting our investments is second nature.  Keep reading for Martha’s tips – I too learned a few new tricks for keeping my own art pottery pieces safe.

One of those tips that Martha provided that I hadn’t done in the past was to fill the interior of your vases, jardinières, umbrella stands, etc. with eco-friendly peanuts before wrapping with bubble wrap.  She also suggests using storage bags.  The bigger you can get is better; perhaps gallon size? Martha recommends ZipLoc freezer grade bags.  Use one bag for each art pottery piece.  Don’t forget to squeeze out all of the air before sealing.  There are a few good reasons for using storage bags.  One, you can easily label them and two, you can reuse them season after seasons but as Martha points out, one of the biggest reasons to use these plastic zip bags is to prevent water damage.  Some homes along the Louisiana and Mississippi Gulf Coasts were completely underwater.  In Pascagoula, MS, my hometown, the water lines in some homes were as high as where the walls met the ceilings.  Water damage is always a potential with any kind of tropical system. 

There also exists the potential of the water being polluted with various chemicals and oils that could potentially ruin your piece, even if it isn’t broken – better to play it safe.

It’s this last tip, courtesy of Martha, that really was an eye opener.  She explains that she doesn’t use cardboard boxes to store her collections.  Her reasons?  The cardboard, if it gets wet, collapses.  That defeats the purpose.  Instead, she has invested in “Snap Boxes”.  They are made of sturdy plastic, they interlock and stack and the best part is that they collapse when you’re not using them.  This takes up a lot less room.  The Snap Box has vents – which as she explains, “water in, water out”.  This is a much better option!

As we gear up for the peak of hurricane season on September 10th, this is the ideal time to get organized for your prized Rookwood Pottery collection or your Teco Pottery vases.

Many thanks to Martha for her great ideas – and here’s to a continued 2010 hurricane season that’s not resulted in any landfall!

Have tips of your own and you'd like to share?  We'd love to hear from you!  Drop us a line and don't forget to sign up for the Just Art Pottery newsletter!

 Donna McGill – Just Art Pottery