Brouwer Pottery

While it’s not one of the most well known lines of American art pottery, Brouwer Pottery has an important place in history. If you’re familiar with George Ohr pottery, you know his pieces are often quite intense, which, according to everything known about the Mississippi artist, isn’t surprising considering it mirrored his personality.

Brouwer Pottery is most often compared to that same intensity. In fact, some art pottery experts say Brouwer Pottery is an “acquired taste”. Maybe so, but for those who can appreciate the eclectic presentation, it truly is magnificent.

Theophilus Brouwer invented the open kiln glazing method. If you’re not familiar with this particular process, it includes metal tongs that were placed in the pieces as they were being fired. It became known as “fire painting” and the results are stunning. There are so many hues and color variations that come to life during this process that these artistic efforts are easy to recognize even today. Not only that but Brouwer made his own molds and did all of the casting.

Unlike other lines of American art pottery, damage isn’t necessarily a deal breaker for collectors and often isn’t a factor when it comes to the value. The stunning glaze more than makes up for small nicks, which is a good thing since the firing process didn’t bode well for hardening the pieces. That said, some believe the lighter colors consistently lacked vibrancy and as a result, were under appreciated – both then and now.

This is interesting considering some of those pieces are valued upwards of $10,000. Of course, pieces can still be found for less than $1000. The ease in which damage can be done to these pieces means those with no nicks or damage at all will likely continue to increase in the coming years.

There are plenty of stories about the eccentricities of the talent behind the pottery line and, like Ohr’s pottery, those who do know the backstory are that much more drawn to this pottery collection.

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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