The Rich Arequipa Pottery History

Located in Marin County, California, Arequipa Pottery has a very interesting history. In what began as a tuberculosis sanatorium in the early 1900s for wage-earning women diagnosed with TB was soon renowned for its unique approach in combining health care with pottery making. This approach served many purposes, including as a solution for paying the medical costs of treating the patients. More importantly, it was believed the therapeutic benefits were remarkable. What’s most interesting is that it was in business for just a few short years – between 1911 and 1918.

For whatever reasons, the massive San Francisco earthquake in 1906 affected women more than men when it came to breathing difficulties and other health-related problems, which is why the sanatorium was initially opened. And, too, because of the limitations in the medical field during that time, the only cure that was known amounted to little more than rest and relaxation. As we know, though, pottery making as its own way of keeping fine dust particles in the air, which likely and unknowingly exacerbated the tuberculosis. Still, the results of their creativity lives on in the pieces that are still available.

The vast majority of the clay used during this time was locally dug by younger boys who had the strength to handle the tasks. The patients/artists would spend a few hours a day (or less – depending on how they felt on any given day) working on their pottery. They were led in their efforts by the likes of Albert Solon, Fred Wilde and a few other respected ceramists of the day. That said, the creative efforts were 100% original to the patient; the ceramists were there strictly in a mentoring role.

Another interesting note was the introduction during this time of slip trailing, which is careful carving of leaves, vines and other decorative patterns into the damp clay.

As it happens, Just Art Pottery has one of these lovely creations on our New Arrivals page. The rare Arequipa Pottery vase stands 5 3/4″ tall and has an elegant matte greenish-blue finish. It’s in mint condition with no chips or cracks. It’s really indicative to both the attention to detail in its slight curves and lines.

This really is a fine way to collect American art pottery, especially considering the rich history behind it.

The American Art Pottery Move in its Infancy

Sometimes we can develop a deeper appreciation for things, such as American art pottery, if we know more about the history. How did it start? Where did it start? There are some interesting facts that can truly enrich a fan’s passion for art pottery; so, after looking through many of the collector’s book and reminding ourselves of some of these stories of “where it all began”, here are some little known facts you may not have known.

Most farmers collected clay from their fields in the summer and then spent their winter months creating pottery in an effort to maintain steady work year round. Ohio has an abundance of that rich clay that serves as the foundation for art

Weller Ardsley Double Wall Pocket

pottery and it wasn’t uncommon for farmers to collect whatever it was they were growing in any particular season while also digging clay. They stored it in hastily built sheds until they could get around to working their magic.

By 1840, Ohio had 99 potteries. These potters were no longer firing pottery for use in the region, but rather, they were shipping it around the country and even exported what is described as “huge quantities” down the Mississippi River into New Orleans. It’s interesting to know within just a few years, any competition to the east and south was annihilated as many of these farmers came to realize there was much more financial security in the rich clay than the cotton and potatoes that grew alongside it.

Within two decades, many potters were no longer thinking from a utilitarian perspective, but were beginning to understand the lucrative and untapped market for decorative art pottery, one that the “lady of the house” would want to showcase in her sitting room or foyer. Suddenly, it was no longer a “man’s industry”, so to speak, but the creativity and beautiful floral patterns and color combinations opened the eyes of many women.

It’s amazing to think all these dynamics came together so long ago and that they still have a place in our hearts and homes in a modern society. It sure makes you see your own art pottery collection in a different light.

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