Maintaining the Quality & Appearance of Your Art Pottery

Baneda Vase At Auction

If you’ve ever happened across a beautiful and rare piece of art pottery and seen damage due to neglect or carelessness, you likely felt a sense of frustration and loss. Unlike some other art forms, each and every piece of American art pottery has its own unique place in history and is symbolic of its respective era – and it simply cannot be replaced.

It’s for this reason that collectors are extremely cautious and it’s also why any collector worth his salt will encourage others to incorporate as many safety precautions as possible – especially when they’re handling or cleaning their collection. Here are a few other tips that will help you protect your investment while keeping it dust free and clean.

First things first – if you’re considering cleaning damaged pieces, you should first allow a dealer to examine it to ensure your efforts won’t result in further damage. In fact, it’s always a good idea to get a second opinion from someone in the industry before cleaning any pottery. There are few things worse than knowing your careful packing and other protective measures over the years are now irrelevant because you chose the wrong cleaning method.

There exists credible literature that says the brand Spic and Span is the best choice for cleaning most art pottery. That said, there are those who strongly discourage immersing any of your pieces in water. These divided mindsets are nothing new, but they’ll definitely take on new significance if you find yourself wrestling with the options. Often, a soft cloth that’s slightly dampened will remove the dust and other particles that’s accumulated on your collection. This is generally a safe option. A small amount of dish soap should also achieve the results you’re looking for if you wish to add it. Be sure to dry it with a soft towel. Naturally, you don’t want to add any harsh chemicals such as bleach into your pottery bath as it could damage the glaze.

Finally, before you get down to the business of cleaning your collection, it’s always a good idea to have everything you need within reach. Towels, damp cloths and a small bowl of water should be all you need. Some collectors will use heavy padding on their counters or work benches as an added security measure.

Regardless of how you choose to keep your pieces looking great, don’t underestimate the importance of treading lightly. And again, you can’t go wrong by seeking out the advice of experienced collectors and dealers before you risk losing value.

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

Quick Tips for Safely Packing and Shipping Art Pottery

MP900438677 From time to time, we put tips and other helpful ideas for properly packaging art pottery for shipping.  Sometimes, new packing materials become available – which is happening in greater frequencies these days due to more companies becoming eco-friendly and other times, we’re reminded of just how important this process is when we receive a delivery that’s been damaged in transit.   So with that in mind, we thought it’d be a good time to see what’s new and which traditional methods still serve their purpose in the world of shipping.

The newest products on the market include those that are not only recyclable, but also incorporate sustainable soy inks and dyes.  Everything from boxes with 100% post consumer recycled fiber to soy based eurathane foam are now easily located in nearly any office supply store in the country.  These allow for safe shipping while also protecting the environment.  These boxes are also found with water resistant adhesives that are eco friendly as well.

The fact is, there’s very little these days that does not offer at least some degree of recycled material.  Even tape – specifically rubber tape – that you use to seal a box is recycled as is the plastic bubble wrap that’s been a favorite for years.

Still, that doesn’t lessen the need to take every precaution to prevent damage.  You always want to choose the smallest box possible that will safely store your art pottery investment during its journey.  Always add a layer of eco-friendly peanuts or other padding to the bottom before your valuable.  From there, ensure the sides are properly padded and then apply padding – peanuts or air bags, for instance, to the top.  After you’re satisfied with it, you’ll want to be sure the corners and Pottery openings on the shipping box are reinforced.  If you’re concerned that the box isn’t sturdy enough to serve its purpose, your best bet is likely to find one that is.  The last thing you want to worry about is whether it’s being damaged in transit.

Following these tips, along with a bit of common sense, will serve you well in all of your shipping efforts.

Is Insurance Really Necessary for Your Art Pottery?

Ewee The short answer to the question of whether insuring your art pottery collection is necessary, you should know that it is absolutely encouraged. That’s not going to do you much good, though, if you’re not sure why you’re insuring it – especially in this economy when we’re still watching every penny.  As many collectors can attest, there is nothing more heartbreaking than investing your time and money over the years and then lose it to a natural disaster or some other accident  – only to discover you were underinsured or recognizing that you weren’t insured at all.  Suddenly, your Plan B for retirement is no longer an option and your investment lost value faster than the subprime mortgage sector.

Another misconception many have is that their homeowner’s policy will cover art pottery losses.  The truth is, very few, if any allow American art pottery as part of a traditional homeowner’s policy.  This means, of course, you’ll likely need to purchase a separate policy or at the very least, find out for sure what is and is not covered.  That way, you can make better decision and won’t be so shocked should the unimaginable happen. 

If there is one piece of advice that you should take away from this article is the importance of keeping an accurate inventory and documenting every detail – including dates, how much you paid, who the seller was and other details.  Pictures go a long way should you ever have to file a claim and in fact, your insurer will likely want his own photos when the policy is taken out.  Videotaping is also another good idea.  Just remember to keep your documentation filed off site, if at all possible.  Ewer It’s just always a good idea to keep the records and documentation in a different location than where your art pottery collection is.    Many opt for a safety deposit box at their local banks while others simply keep it stored at a friend’s or family member’s home. 

As with most things in life, you’re always far better off when you take a proactive approach instead of reacting to worst case scenario.  Remember, too, Just Art Pottery offers an online appraisal service so that you can be sure all your bases are covered. 

Storing Your Art Pottery Collection

Fulper Avid collectors of art, regardless of whether it’s rare paintings or American art pottery, discover the need to store their investments from time to time.  Those who live in the southeast U.S. face the possibility of hurricanes six months out of the year and know all too well the damage a home and its contents receives.  As a result, most of us stay on high alert and have our routines down to a science if a tropical system threatens the Gulf or East coasts.  After photos and important papers are safely put away, it’s on to the Roseville art pottery collection and then to my sister’s house to pack up her McCoy collection.  And too, those who live in the Midwest know the potential for tornadoes is ever-present.  It’s not always inclement weather, however, that dictates storing our valuables; regardless, the methods remain the same and the goal is to protect our Rookwood pottery or other art pottery collection we’re fond of. 

Ideally, you already have a supply of eco-friendly packing materials.  If not, opt to purchase these environmentally friendly supplies; they’re inexpensive and far better for our environment.  Easy to find, eco friendly bubble wrap and peanuts are easily located online or in your local office supply store.  Newspapers also make excellent filling material and a great way to recycle.    Regardless of what you choose to protect your art pottery, you’ll want to carefully wrap it so that it’s properly insulated from potential damage that occurs when boxes are moved around.  Further, you’ll also want to pack the boxes with insulation between the contents. 

If you have smaller items that you’re storing, be sure to find a way to mark the outer wrapping or even use a grocery bag to keep it from getting lost in all the packing materials once you’re able to unpack.  Boldly mark the outer box itself so that anyone who handles the box knows there are fragile items inside.  Secure the box top to keep your valuables safely inside and remember to save those packing materials for the next time that’s always lurking around the corner. Vanbriggle

A little caution now ensures your investments remain safe and undamaged.  Do you have any great storage tips?  We’d love to hear them!  Drop us a line and tell us what works best for your art pottery.

Cleaning Art Pottery

We are often asked for advise on cleaning art pottery and removing everything from darkened crazing, mineral deposits, silver marks, paint drops, oil stains, to common dirt.  Here is a good source for information on various methods to clean art pottery.  If you have information on other successful cleaning methods please contact us and we will add them to this post.

Greg Myroth –