Roseville Raymor

It’s always fascinating to learn about a company’s inner-workings, and especially if an otherwise successful company hits a speed bump. It tells much about the heart of the company: the one who’s making the decisions in order to get it over the speed bump. Roseville Pottery is no different.

During one of those proverbial “speed bumps” in the early 1950s, Roseville Pottery made the decision to introduce a new line to

Roseville Raymor

sort of spruce things up. Instead of sticking with the tried and true combinations of years earlier (something most savvy business owners would do), the decision makers instead elected to introduce a couple of new lines. Enter Roseville Raymor and its young and slightly less traditional artist, Ben Seibel. His efforts included a more expensive glaze, an entirely different manner in which each piece was “power pressed” and more than a few setbacks, especially when it came to expensive repairs to the kiln. In fact, some accounts show that up to 25% of the production efforts during these days were lost because of the mechanical problems.

Still, Seibel remained determined and consistent. He had an image in his mind of how this particular line of pottery would fill a much needed space within Roseville Pottery.  It was all about a contemporary flair. In fact, for me, it’s easier to picture the various artistic efforts from this period into how they would fit into those amazing stages of homes that were so popular on television during that time. The high gloss, the slight tip to abstract and the deep vessels were something you might would find on an old episode of Betwitched or maybe I Dream of Jeanie – right during that television transition from black and white to color. The vibrancy of the blues and greens and even pinks – they’re all remarkable and used in all their glory on these sets. If he felt the heat from the cost of producing Roseville Raymor, it’s a shame because it’s one of the more decorative patterns within the entire Roseville Pottery collection.

Southern Influences on American Art Pottery

Most people equate American art pottery with those names from Ohio – Roseville Pottery, Rookwood Pottery, Weller, Owens, Zanesville Stoneware and even McCoy. When you think of southern influences, it’s likely the first, and perhaps only, pottery maker that comes to mind is Newcomb Pottery, created at Newcomb College in New Orleans. But there’s far more to be loved and appreciated from artists of the south. Some say you can smell the salt air in each piece as much of it was made along the Gulf Coast, including both Newcomb Pottery and, of course, those incredible, though eclectic, creations that bore George Ohr’s mark.

Nashville Art Pottery created an avenue or stage for students in the Nashville School of Art. Headed by Bettie J. Scovel, who’d

Newcomb Pottery (courtesy of Getty Images)

Newcomb Pottery (courtesy of Getty Images)

been trained by some of the best of the best Rookwood artists, she returned to her Nashville roots in order to share her love of clay and the magic that comes when an artist’s hands shape the clay into something spectacular. It was the late 1880s and upon her return, she quickly secured what was then known as the McGavock building and set out to bring the artists alive inside her students. Before the decade was up, there would be two lines of Nashville Art Pottery released, including Goldstone and Pomegranate. Both were high fired wares, though Goldstone was notably darker with rich browns and deep red hues while its counterpart, Pomegranate, included lighter colors, including a typical white base with pink and blue elements. Unfortunately, Nashville Pottery didn’t become as well-known as those in Ohio, but the fruits of hers and her students’ hard work can be found in Trumbull Prime Collection of The Art Museum at Princeton University.

Around this same time, George Ohr, the famous Biloxi, Mississippi artist, and Joseph Meyer (yes, that Joseph Meyer) decided to fill a void left by the bankrupt Louisiana Porcelain Works in New Orleans. They created New Orleans Art Pottery. The building they chose was an impressive three stories. Soon, the two artists secured the necessary kiln and began producing, for a very brief time, their version of porcelain ware. Unfortunately, there wasn’t room enough for New Orleans Pottery and the exciting new Newcomb Pottery, so its contribution was quite limited. Before long, Meyer would find his way to Newcomb Pottery, where he left his life’s work for many future generations to admire.

From Ohr to Meyer to Scovel – and many more, the south was the birthplace for beautiful American art pottery designs.

Pillin Pottery

Polia Pillin began her studies of ceramics in Chicago, at the Hull House, after she’d established herself as a talented painter years earlier. By the late 1940s, the artist and her husband, also an artist in his own right, set up shop in Los Angeles. It began, as many great things often do, in their garage. Make no mistake – these two were a pair and one simply could not create without the presence and efforts of the other. William was the one who appreciated unexpected finds in glazes while Polia saw what every piece should look like in her mind’s eye. Unlike other potters, whose markings vary over the years, Pillin art pottery pieces are marked with a stylized Pillin signature.

Pillin Pottery may not be as mainstream as its other artistic counterparts, but there is an elegance and sophistication found in this Polish artist’s works. Polia and William Pillin worked as a team from the moment they founded their pottery studio in 1948. While William shaped the various pots, vases and other designs, Polia hand painted each one. It doesn’t take long to realize her favorite subjects included living things – dancers, birds, fish, horses and other “women of interesting allure”.

She was inspired by Picasso. And, much like Picasso, whatever vessel was presented to her by her husband, she allowed that to define what the project would ultimately become. An odd-shaped plate or tile worked nicely as a canvas to paint an upright woman with long flowing hair with a blackbird perched on her knee. A full vase was ideal for a plump fish and the more contemporary vases that were tall and narrow were just right for her to explore shapes, lines and color combinations.

It comes as little surprise then that many experts cite the artistry, more so than the shapes, as most interesting. There’s a subdued mystery that seems to be crafted into these works of art. Part of that could be because these art potters aren’t mainstream and frankly, we don’t know as much about these artists as we do those associated with the Roseville Pottery or Weller Pottery names. Either way, though, there’s no denying the markings and when you come across one, you know you have discovered a jewel. It’s believed much of these Pillin Pottery works remain undiscovered.

The Blues and Greens of Rookwood Pottery

For Rookwood Potterylovers, there are as many reasons to cherish this line of American art pottery as there are fans. Many cite the exquisite glazes the artists incorporated while others appreciate the versatility. For many of us though, it’s the extraordinary color combinations. The blues and greens provide the perfect example of the creativity and in some cases, the risks taken that paid off in spades.

While many of us can cite the lovely hues and combinations, it’s difficult to explain past that. It’s just the total package that makes this such a wonderful line to collect and display in our homes.

Take the Rookwood Pottery 1920 Cherub Pedestal Bowl. This bowl, though not a deep one, rests easily atop a pedestal of cherubs. The base has the typical beveling and straight line/curving combination we often see in this line and the two blue glazes are simply perfect together. The lighter blue/green defines the bowl and is complemented with the darker blue base and bowl bottom. It’s detailed and timeless. It stands at 10 1/2 inches in height and nearly as wide at 9 1/2 inches.

And the greens! Those lovely, mellow greens. What’s really nice about Rookwood is it’s easily found in a high gloss finish as well as a more matted appearance. Two perfect examples are found in the Rookwood Colonial Figurine and the 1925 McDonald Vase. The former has a glossy finish, which is a nice touch considering the way it appears in the creases of the gown as slightly darker. Note that darker “hemline” along the bottom of her gown as well. The artist provided a really unique portrayal as the woman is slightly bent, arms arced back and her head drawn down – it surely adds to the dramatic presentation.

In contrast, we get a look at the matte finish via the Rookwood 1925 vase. Not as high as you might usually find in a vase, the wider vase opening flares down to the base and the inside of the vase is varied slightly, likely for contrasting purposes. Pretty artwork draws the eye down and the absence of gloss allows the eye to hone in on the artistic detailing. Both are beautiful pieces though neither have anything in common other than the Rookwood Pottery name.

And therein lies the true fascination of this company – it maintained its ability to provide beautiful American art pottery to a wide range of folks who might have been drawn to it for any number of reasons.

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.

Teco Pottery

Teco Pottery originally began as Spring Valley Tile Works in Terra Cotta, Illinois in the late 1800s; 1881 to be exact, and was a major player in the Prairie School arts and crafts movement that was later made popular by Frank Lloyd Wright. William Day Gates could often be found experimenting with different clay and glazing combinations, though the company profits came from drain tiles, finials, urns and other materials used to as fireproofing materials. Soon, though, his appreciation of the clay and glaze variations became more prominent and he cleverly named this new branch Teco Pottery – It’s a play on the words “TErra COtta”.

By 1902, Teco Pottery was introduced to the nation and that began a successful effort that resulted in more than 500 designs being released in less than two decades. While we don’t know for sure when the last pieces of Teco Pottery were actually produced, there exists documentation that suggests it continued until at least 1923.

If you’re familiar with Teco Pottery, you know that tell-tale matte green finish. What many aren’t aware of, though, is that it’s part of more than 90% of the entire pottery collection. Some of the pieces have interesting charcoaling, a darker gray, that overlays the green. The combination of these two glazing efforts is truly remarkable. Other colors you’ll find in Teco Pottery are brown, a deep red, pink and blue. Yellow is sometimes found as well. Teco Pottery is one of those collections that the more you display, the more dramatic that presentation is, and a lot of that has to do with the green glazing efforts.

Another unique look that’s part of this American art pottery collection is the abstract designs. There are a lot of clean and defined lines that are both dramatic and effective. To a lesser degree, there are pieces that aren’t as sharp-lined, but it’s most certainly those pieces that have angles that are most sought after. Many people use “architectural” in their descriptions – and that’s accurate too.

For those who love Teco Pottery as much as we do, you owe it to yourself to explore the records that are maintained at the University of Minnesota. Among those records are the original architectural drawings.

Have your own Teco Pottery collection? We’d love to see it! Drop us a line or share them on the Just Art Pottery Facebook page.

Newcomb College Art Pottery Exhibition

The Columbus Museum recently announced it will be displaying “The Beautiful and Practical: Newcomb College and American Art Pottery” exhibition. It will displayed from now until January 6, 2013. What’s so exciting is there are more than 80 selections of beautiful glazed or otherwise decorated American art pottery. While the “star” of the exhibit will be Newcomb College pottery, there will also be several metalware selections, textiles and other pottery exclusive to Louisiana. In fact, all of the pieces are from Southern collections and many of them are from the Louisiana State University Museum of Art. If you’ve not seen any of these displays before, this is a perfect opportunity if you’re going to be in or near Georgia over the holidays.

A few of those notable art pottery companies that will be represented include Cambridge Pottery, Fulper Pottery, Marblehead, Rookwood Pottery and one of our own favorites, Van Briggle Pottery. You can also expect to see several Weller pottery pieces as well. This is important for the Columbus Museum because it provides a perfect opportunity to show its own proud Newcomb Pottery vase, which was completed by the esteemed master decorator Sabina Wells.

American art pottery, especially those pieces from the turn of the century and even well into the 20th century, are handmade creations, ensuring no two are ever alike. The artists who played such pivotal roles in this amazing sector of American art were always very talented and most certainly in demand. What we’re left with here today is results of their tremendous talents.

While we typically collect art pottery for the beauty of each piece, they were often created to be functional as well. In some instances, the artistry was often a second consideration to the utilitarian purposes. Eventually, though, a shift began that resulted in a focus on the visual appeal. Lucky for us, there are still many collections and pieces for us to enjoy strictly for that visual appeal.

Of course, Newcomb College Pottery was born of a way to provide women in the southern region the opportunity to secure a trade. It was natural their jobs would be created in the arts. A lot has changed, but one thing remains true: women love a beautifully put together home and that was the draw for those seeking to learn more about opportunities in art pottery. Newcomb Pottery was founded in the 1890s at Sophie Newcomb College in New Orleans and remained in business from 1895 to 1940. For many years, it was the only educational facility for these types of trades in the entire southern U.S.

About Columbus Museum:

As an American art and regional history museum, and the second largest general museum in Georgia, the Columbus Museum offers a diverse collection to the public. The Museum houses over 14,000 artifacts and objects that tell the story of the Chattahoochee River Valley’s development, an American fine art collection from a host of renowned American artists, a hands-on gallery for children, the finest traveling exhibitions from across the U.S., and the historic Bradley Olmsted Garden.

For more information about the Columbus Museum or the Newcomb College and American Art Pottery exhibition, please visit www.columbusmuseum.com.

Cowan Pottery Centennial Celebration

There’s a lot to be celebrated in the American art pottery sector these days. The Cowan Pottery Museum is currently celebrating the 100th anniversary of the founding of this well known and beloved art pottery company. It began this spring and will run through the fall of 2013.

As Cowan Pottery fans know, this American art pottery opened in 1912 and was originally located in Lakewood, Ohio. It mainly produced architectural tiles, but also made a line of vases and bowls called “Lakewood Ware”. This continued until World War I when Mr. Cowan closed his studio so that he could serve in the Army.

Upon his return from war in 1920, he made the decision to move the studio so that he could focus on more commercial designs, which wasn’t uncommon during this period following the war. He employed students from the Cleveland Institute of Art and soon, he was back to the more creative side of American art pottery.

Cowan Pottery was soon gaining recognition and collection awards and eventually, he went international and sold to several retailers in Canada. And just as many companies focused on practical matters following the war, Cowan Party and the rest of the nation began focusing on what would become of their homes, businesses and lives now that they’d been hit by the Depression. By December 1931, the pottery had closed. Fortunately, we’re left with those same original buildings and in fact, one is a museum that houses many of Cowan Pottery pieces. One line includes Victor Schreckengost’s line of Jazz Bowls, which were originally created for Eleanor Roosevelt and can be seen in Cleveland’s Museum of Art.

Naturally, the centennial celebration is an important part of the region’s history.

Among the many celebrations, fans can enjoy events hosted by CPMA, the Cowan Pottery Museum and other regional Arts and Historical organizations. Rest assured – there are many.

August and September brings the opportunity for an art study group in cooperation with the Cleveland Museum of Art and Ingalls Library. The dates run through the end of September and coincide with the special exhibit, “Youth & Beauty: The Art of the American 1920s”.

Also, if you’re going to be in the area on September 9, you might wish to consider the Lakewood House Tour, where you’ll get to see things the public is rarely given access to.

There are also film festivals and other historical events that will coincide with the celebration. Visit the Cleveland Museum of Art’s website for more information on any of the events and exhibit as a whole. Other websites include www.lakewoodhistory.org and http://www.clevelandart.org. You’ll be able to access all of the events from either of these sites.

Trenton Makes Pottery: The Stoneware of James Rhodes

Photo: PhillyBurbs

Many avid art pottery collectors might remember the exciting find in 2000 when builders excavated part of Trenton New Jersey only to find thousands of broken pieces of James Rhodes stoneware. There were remains of gray salt glazed stoneware, including teapots, plates, bowls, cups and much more. Since then, it’s been researched and examined and the findings are nothing short of remarkable. 13,000 sherds and pieces of kiln furniture (items used to help in stacking pots in the kiln during firing) were retrieved from this particular site, where the kiln is still intact, buried beneath the tunnel roadway.

Rhodes was known for the cobalt blue glazes on his art pottery and the familiar signings that included molded faces on the bottoms of his pieces.

Several years later, another discovery was made about a mile away from the original site and it’s since been linked to Rhodes. This only further cemented Trenton’s rich history and reaffirms it was indeed one of the two epicenters of the early American art pottery movement. The first, of course, was -and remains – in Ohio.

The Potteries of Trenton Society has documented more than fifty art pottery makers and manufacturers that dotted the area by the turn of the century and for many years, there were millions of tiles, art pottery, everyday dishes and even fine china that were shipped out of the area for destinations around the country and around the world.

Now, the city of Trenton is preparing for an exciting new show that will last for months.

Beginning September 14th 2012 and running through January 13 2013, the Potteries of Trenton Society will display not only those thousands of pieces unearthed in 2000, but will also showcase more than 50 of the manufacturers that called Trenton home. The “Trenton Makes Pottery: The Stoneware of James Rhodes, 1774-1784” has much in store for area residents and visitors. The stoneware pottery of James Rhodes, one of the few known American stoneware potters of the colonial period, is the star of the exhibit that’s being curated by Richard Hunter, Rebecca White, and Nancy Hunter. Rhodes had a successful pottery-making business on a property adjoining the Eagle Tavern site, where his first boss was creating stoneware. It was all combined later s part of the tavern property.

Visitors can enjoy lecturers and speeches by some of the most well respected archaeological consultants in the nation. In fact, on September 30, Richard Hunter will be the first of those consultants who will address fans of American art pottery.

It truly is a once in a lifetime event and if you’re planning a vacation, this is certainly worth consideration.

8th Annual Potters Market Invitational

Each year for the past seven years, the Mint Museum Randolph hosts an event that brings together North Carolina’s best potters. For one day, sculptures, vessels and art pottery are offered to both collectors and non-collectors to purchase. This year, the date is September 15th. Admission begins at 10:00 a.m. and it runs until 4:00 p.m. Admission is $10 and if you arrive after 2:00 p.m., admission is $8.

It’s an outdoor event and the weather in September is usually spectacular. You’ll also find great deals on those “must have” works of art. There will be plenty of live music and we’re especially excited about the pottery making demonstrations. You’ll have the option of bringing a picnic basket or you can purchase lunch onsite from Delectables by Holly, a local caterer.

This year’s honorary chairperson is Manhattan-born Herb Cohen. This incredibly talented artist began “throwing” on the potter’s wheel at the tender age of six. Naturally, he continued his passion throughout his life. He’s a graduate from the prestigious New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University. He’s had an amazing career in some of the most respected companies, including the Hyalyn Porcelain Company in Hickory, North Carolina. By the late 1950s, Cohen was making his contribution to The Mint Museum as the exhibitions director. He’s credited with putting the American art pottery movement into gear in that regions. For these reasons, and many more, Herb Cohen was named honorary chairperson for this year’s exhibition. The fact that The Mint Museum is celebrating its 75th year is an added sentimentality.

A few of this year’s potters who have their own exhibitions at the event include:

  • Steve Abee
  • Michel Bayne
  • Cynthia Bringle
  • Josh Copus
  • Donna Craven
  • Jeff Dean and Stephanie Martin
  • Judith Duff
  • Steven Forbes de-Soule
  • Terry Gess
  • Bruce Gholson and Samantha Henneke
  • Hiroshi Sueyoshi
  • Liz Zlot Summerfield
  • Tzadi Turrow
  • Julie Wiggins
  • Joy Tanner

This is just a partial list, of course, and you can learn more about the artists and The Mint Museum here.

If you’re planning a weekend getaway, this just might be a fine event to attend. Also, for those wishing to sponsor the event, you can do so by calling Jan Durr at 704-635-7694.