Van Briggle Pottery – Mountain Crag Brown Glaze

Below is a guest post from noted Van Briggle author and collector Kathy Honea

Described in Van Briggle early literature as a glaze containing the browns and greens found in a mountain crag, this glaze consists of a rich honey-brown with over spray of a medium-bright green.

Although certainly numerous shades of brown and green glazes were produced within the first decade of Van Briggle pottery production, this particular combination of these specific colors was prevalent in the 1920s until the mid-1930s period. Historically, the story has been repeated that the formulas for these colors were lost in the flood of 1935; which destroyed the east side of the Van Briggle Memorial Pottery building, and swept pottery, molds and written documents into the adjacent river.

Two different Van Briggle sales postcards, dating to the early 1920s; depict Van Briggle design examples, and list the glazes available as: Mulberry, Turquoise Blue and Mountain Crag Brown. These same three glaze colors were also listed in early brochures.Van Briggle Mountain Crag Brown

A few pottery examples from the 1950s have mysteriously surfaced in the Mountain Crag Brown glaze. This has been explained by Fred Wills, Van Briggle potter from 1947 to 1988, who corroborated that a potter who had worked in the 1930s and remained at Van Briggle Pottery into the 1950s, did prepare the Mountain Crag Brown glazes once and fired some pieces for sale. Fred Wills explains that potters preparing glazes multiple times, would have the formulas memorized and it would not be unusual for them to be able to reproduce them years later.

For some unknown reason, the name of the Mountain Crag Brown glaze was later incorrectly repeated as “Mountain Craig Brown” and stories even surfaced that the glaze may have been named after the Colorado painter, Charles Craig. Two previous Van Briggle authors have agreed that the perpetuation of the “Mountain Craig Brown” name has been in error.

Although commonly, but incorrectly, still referred to as “Mountain Craig Brown” we can definitely state that the early literature named the popular glaze “Mountain Crag Brown” and even elaborated the rationale for the glaze, as representing the colors found in a mountain crag.

Kathy Honea
Van Briggle Notes & More, page 168

Van Briggle: Hues of Green and Blue

Each art pottery line includes a “favorite” of any collector. There’s no shortage of Van Briggle fans who appreciate the magical hues, especially the blues and greens, found in many of this pottery company’s lines.

Van Briggle Color Plates

Those who have mastered the glaze colors, especially in the Van Briggle collections, certainly know the distinctions behind every single one of those glazes. These glaze colors not only identify the various pieces, but also gives some clue as to any piece’s value. This is especially important in those pieces where the markings no longer exist and therefore can’t tell the history of a piece.
Many Van Briggle Pottery pieces are labeled in groups: “Plate 174” or “Plate 183”. Within these groups are the pieces. The blues and greens are striking- and that’s an understatement!

Plate 187 and Plate 184

I’ve paired these two because of the very distinct differences. Within Plate 184, you’ll discover very light hues of blue or green (some say blue, others insist they’re very light variations of green). The pieces were made in the early 1900s, around 1905-1906. They’re most often marked with “VB” for Van Briggle, along with “stp” for “stamped”.
The Plate 187 collection has much darker shades of blue. When you put any of the pieces of the two collections together, it’s almost magical. It truly is a remarkable contrast. These pieces will have similar markings, including the “VB” and “stp”. The one difference might be these pieces will have “CS” for Colorado Springs.

Plate 203

This collection of vases have a nice combination of various shads of blues and greens. The vases will often have several shades that begin in a really light blue around the neck of the vase and get darker closer to the base or vice versa. They will often incorporate the “VB”, the number associated with the vase and the “stp”.

Plate 207

I wanted to include this collection because of a specific bowl. If you’ll notice in the photo, the
outside of the bowl is a nice almost “sea foam” green while the bowl itself is a pretty sky blue. They contrast beautifully and the absence of any etchings or other decorative elements lends to its character. It’s the simplicity that defines it.
These are just a few of the many Van Briggle pottery pieces you’ll discover in the hlue and green glaze lines. If you’re a Van Briggle collector, you surely know how remarkable the presentations are. If you’re new to Van Briggle, you’re in for a treat as you discover those hues. A good place to start your research efforts is by exploring the very detailed information in the Collector’s Encyclopedia of Van Briggle Art Pottery: An Identification and Value Guide. It’s chock full of information on everything you need to know about this revered line of American art pottery.

Van Briggle Tiles

There’s no denying some of the most beautiful art pottery tiles came from the Van Briggle pottery lines. From the subtle grays and blues to the riveting golds, greens and rich browns, collectors appreciate this line for its eclectic offerings and general appeal.

It’s interesting, but the company likely never manufactured these tiles until after the death of its founder, Artus Van Briggle in 1904. Every tile used at the Memorial Pottery Plant was made at the “home base” of Van Briggle, located on Nevada Avenue in Colorado Springs, Colorado. With the success of their use at the new plant, it was a natural progression that the pottery company would begin producing and selling these tiles to the general public.

The production included incorporating a dry press tile machine and the glaze used was courtesy of “waste” glaze that had been saved from other Van Briggle pottery pieces. Decorative elements included incisions along with the use of many colors. They were advertised as ideal for kitchens bathrooms and interestingly, porches. Lovely flowers adorned these tiles as well as abstracts, leaves and textures.

The Memorial Pottery plant was located in Colorado Springs, as well. It was a grand red brick building with no shortage of “A” frames (perhaps inspired by the double “A” enclosed in a square that became the Van Briggle trademark?). Easily identified by the massive twin chimneys emerging from the center of the large building, some of the most distinctive tiles of the time period emerged from this location. They continue to inspire and strike awe to this day.

Be sure to take a look at our Van Briggle Pottery offerings. You’re sure to notice the unique presentation of this remarkable line of American art pottery. And if you have your favorites, we’d love to see your photos.

Van Briggle Tile

It’s long since been established Artus Van Briggle was a big contributing factor in what’s known as the Art Nouvea movement. Those who appreciate the Van Briggle Pottery style can easily see it replicated in contemporary pottery efforts. It’s what happened following his death that some may not be aware of, however.

The production of the Van Briggle tiles did not even begin until after Artus Van Briggle’s death in 1904. Of course, the tiles used during the construction of the Memorial Pottery Plant were made by Van Briggle pottery; that said, this information was not made public until after the Memorial pottery opened.

Artus Van Briggle

These titles were created using dry-press tile machines along with leftover glaze that had first been used to glaze other pottery pieces. Interestingly, the pottery company advertised how the various tiles were created: either as hand-pressed or machine-pressed. That kind of disclosure simply isn’t found in today’s marketing and advertising efforts. Another way of distinguishing the machine from hand pressed pieces is by looking at the colors and finishes. Machine pressed tiles have a single color with a matte finish. Those that are hand pressed will be decorated with several colors and sometimes with incised designs. Speaking of marketing efforts, the company made suggestions in its advertising that the tiles would be ideal for use on one’s porch, laundry rooms, kitchens, fireplace mantles and even as wall coverings. To help further their efforts, many public buildings had (and many still do have) Van Briggle tiles installed.

These tiles were offered at the Memorial plant, which was designed by the famous architect Nicholas Van den Arend, on Uintah Street in Colorado Springs. It should be noted, too, that few of these tiles were ever marked, so discerning tile numbers can be a bit tricky, unless, of course, you stumble across one of the rare ones with incised letters and numbers.

A Loss in the Van Briggle Pottery Family

STEVENSON09292010.tif_012650 Bertha Ellen Stevenson, who found herself at the helm of Van Briggle Pottery after her husband’s death in 1990, passed away on September 25, 2010 in Denver, Colorado.  She was a true visionary with an artistic ability few have ever possessed.  Passionate about the beauty that is synonymous with Van Briggle Pottery as well as classical music and a love for animals, Mrs. Stevenson will be remembered for her generosity, her kindness and her open heart.  She and her husband’s mission was to continue Artus Van Briggle’s dream; they succeeded ten-fold.  When Mrs. Stevenson’s husband, Kenneth, took the reins at Van Briggle, they were only beginning to embark on those new trends and more contemporary designs, including glossy glazes that are indicative of the 1950s and 1960s.  The company thrived under the couple’s direction.  The Stevenson’s son, Craig, remains with the pottery as its chief designer.

Mrs. Stevenson is survived by her three children, a sister and eight grandchildren.  If you wish to honor her, the family has requested donations be made to the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region, where she volunteered regularly.  She was laid to rest October 2nd, 2010 and will be missed by all who knew and loved her.  Our condolences and prayers go to the Stevenson family.


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.


The Top 10 Pottery Searches for August, 2009


Below are the top ten most searched pottery collections for August, 2009.  The searches reveal consistency with few changes.  Clearly, the trends for Roseville are still strong, as it dominates four of the ten spots.

Roseville Pottery- Patterns A-E – Some of the patterns in this group include the incredibly sought-after Roseville Apple Blossom, the delicate Roseville Azurean and the ambitious designs in Roseville Capri.

Roseville Pottery – Patterns F-L – This group includes the Roseville Juvenile and the Roseville Laurel.

Weller Pottery – Beautiful and deep coloring with lean lines define Weller Pottery.  A perfect example that defines the Weller Pottery themes is the Camelot Vase.

Roseville Pottery – Patterns S-Z – Look for the Roseville Savona with its rich gold coloring and the vivid reds that define the Roseville Silhouette.

Roseville Pottery – Patterns M-R – This group has the unique shaped Roseville Pottery Magnolia Brown Cider Pitcher.

Rookwood Pottery – If you've not seen the Rookwood Faience Pottery Pears on a Branch Tile, now's the time.  This exquisite tile measures 10" in height and is 6 ¾" wide. 

Van Briggle Pottery – Known for its many markings, this collection has something for everyone.

McCoy Pottery – Look for any of the McCoy Pottery Vases.  Each is beautiful in its own right.

Newcomb Pottery – The blues and greens set this collection apart.

Fulper Pottery – Elegant and refined are commonly used to describe Fulper Pottery.

Despite the foothold Roseville Pottery maintains, Grueby's arts and crafts style, and the contemporary styles of Ephraim and Door Pottery just missed the Top 10.

Donna McGill

Van Briggle Pottery Symposium 2008

The Van Briggle Pottery & Tile Company will host the 2008 Van Briggle Symposium September 11-13, 2008.  The symposium is in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the dedication of the Van Briggle Memorial Pottery on December 3, 1908.Pict1100a

Highlights of the event will include:

  • Van Briggle Pottery & Tile Company firing of the K108 commemorative kiln.  Attendees will receive copies of the earliest known Van Briggle design records from the Van Briggle Pottery archives.
  • Bus tour to the Chico Basin Ranch which was the early residence of Artus Van Briggle and the site for the design of shape 1, "The Chalice".
  • Guest speakers Scott H. Nelson, author of "A Collector’s Guide to Van Briggle Pottery" and Fred Wills, Van Briggle potter between 1947 and 1987. Mr. Wills will discuss early employees, installation of the new kiln, glaze and design experiments, etc.  Mr. Wills has also offered to sign any Van Briggle Pottery FW original pieces that attendees bring to the event.
  • Tour of the Colorado Springs Pioneer Museum’s collection of Van Briggle pottery with Curator/Assistant Director Katie Davis Gardner.
  • Show & Tell, Buy & Sell.  Collectors can bring Van Briggle Pottery to discuss, buy, sell or trade.   
  • Tours of the Memorial Pottery with George Eckhardt and Colorado Springs Van Briggle tour of vintage tile and fireplaces

Greg Myroth – Buying and Selling Van Briggle Pottery

Van Briggle Pottery – Journal of American Art Pottery Association

Collectors of Van Briggle Pottery will definitely want to check out the May/June 2007 issue of the Journal of American Art Pottery.  The issue is exclusively about Van Briggle Pottery and includes many never before seen photos of vases and tiles and the following featured articles:

  • Van Briggle Tiles: Their Art, Craft, and Commerce -Part II by Richard D. Mohr
  • A 1904 Legacy: The Collection of Van Briggle Pottery in the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum by Katie Davis Gardner, Museum Curator
  • Anne Van Briggle: Three Newly Discovered Photographs by Laura Gilpin by Mary Sue Garay
  • Van Briggle in Europe by Richard D. Mohr

The Journal of American Art Pottery Association is published six times a year by the American Art Pottery Association

Greg MyrothVan Briggle Pottery

Van Briggle Pottery – Form or Design (Part 4)

The form or design has a significant impact on the value and desirability of a particular piece of Van Briggle pottery.  Van Briggle produced over 900 distinct designs between 1900 and 1912.   Of the more than 900 designs produced by Van Briggle pottery, over 200 are attributed to Artus Van Briggle before his death in 1904 and a similar number to Anne Gregory Van Briggle prior to 1912. Dsc6997_2

As new designs were created each year, less popular shapes or forms were eliminated from production.  Van Briggle vases or forms would also be taken out of production as molds became less detailed over time. 

By necessity, only a limited number of designs could be produced each year.  For example, Scott Nelson reports in "A Collectors Guide to Van Briggle Pottery" that a catalog from around 1914 showed only twenty-six available designs.  Of the twenty-six designs available in the catalog, only two were Van Briggle designs created during the 1900-1907 time period. 

Vases or forms that were particularly popular were sometimes remolded or redesigned.  An example of this is form 645 which is shown in the photo above.  The Van Briggle 645 cabinet vase was designed by Emma Kinkead and was introduced in 1907. The vase remained very popular over the years and was produced in larger quantities and over longer time periods (well into the 1940s and 1950s) than probably any other Van Briggle design.

Many of the early pre 1912 Van Briggle forms are rarely seen and when good example comes to market they often sell for multiple times what a similar sized example of a more common vase form will bring. 

Greg MyrothShop for Van Briggle Pottery