Artful Pottery
By Karen Parr-Moody

American Art Pottery is like lipstick: Through financial ups and downs, it has remained an nexpensive decorative touch for women from all classes. Lipstick has long added a flourish to any outfit — even those threadbare ensembles of the Great Depression. Art Pottery has always brought color into any room — whether that room was in a middle class household or in a seamstress's cottage at the edge of town.

While the earliest examples of American Art Pottery date to 1772, the most popular of the genre ranged from the late 1800s, and stayed popular until the middle of the 20th century. It was during this period that  dozens of commercial potteries sprung up and their decorative vases, figurines and other items populated American homes.

Due to its rich source of clay, Ohio became a hotbed of pottery manufacturers, including McCoy, Roseville, Weller and Hull. Others include Cash Family, from Erwin, Tennessee, and Red Wing, which was, appropriately, from Red Wing, Minnesota (where it remains today).
American Art Pottery is found throughout the hundreds of booths in GasLamp Too and the original GasLamp Antiques and Decorating Mall; it’s just a matter of deciding which names suit one’s taste.
In 1905, Addis Emmet Hull founded the A. E. Hull Pottery Company in Crooksville, Ohio. Hull eventually became known for a matte finish and a pastel color range. The vase in the photo, above right, represents what the Hull name conjures up to many: A pastel vase with charming motifs from the natural world ($60; Booth T-181 at GasLamp Too). One can tell that this piece dates to the period before 1957 because of its matte finish. After a disastrous flood and fire in 1950, the factory was rebuilt and modernized, but was left unable to replicate its previous matte finishes.

The McCoy iris vase in the photo, left, is from the company that has deep American roots ($45; Booth B-313). The first factory dates to 1848, but the J.W. McCoy Pottery Company began, officially, in 1899. For decades it was run by three generations of the McCoy family; it closed five years after the family sold it in 1985.                


McCoy produced pottery in an array of shapes and styles, including cookie jars, dinnerware, jardinières and pedestals, Loy-Nel-Art, planters, vases and flower holders. The more whimsical pieces — those trademark cookie jars — have taken various shapes over the years, including pineapples, pigs and panda bears. But there have also been more conventional forms in that mix. Bowls and vases were often embossed with Greek and Roman designs or swirls similar to Ionic columns; Martha Stewart has a large collection of such items. Soft yellows, pale blues and mint greens are the more popular of those famous McCoy colors, with apple green and apricot being among the less common shades.

McCoy planters, such as the one in the photo at right, are popular today, even when they are simple (planter, $18; Booth B-206). There are many reasons for this; among them are the beautiful McCoy colors — and this cheery yellow is sure to brighton someone's windowsill this winter.

The Roseville Pottery Company began in 1892 in Roseville, Ohio, soon moving to the adjacent city of Zanesville, and everything continues to come up roses for collectors. Rosewood is highly collectible, and it is holding value. Some items’ prices, such as lamps, can soar to the $1,000 to $2,000 range.

Roseville pottery is known for its depictions of flora, as in the case of the vase in the photo at left ($75; Booth B-310). While this vase depicts a graceful leaf, some blooms represented include apple blossom, freesia, magnolia, zephyr lily, clematis and water lily.

Samuel A. Weller began his first pottery in 1872 by turning out earthenware jugs, crocks, churns, flowerpots and spittoons for farmers, all from a one-room cabin near Fultonham, Ohio. By 1895 he had turned to statelier wares, influenced by other successful potters in the region. Within 10 years, he owned a large plant and was the largest maker of art pottery in the world.
Through the 1920s Weller was known for pottery depicting characters from Charles Dickens’ novels. The vase pictured at right is typical of another Weller style, that of a matte glaze and raised flowers ($95; Booth B-313). This vase is from the "Wild Rose" pattern and is artfully done in the Art Deco style.

Today, as always, American Art Pottery is a popular genre. And while more expensive than it once was, it is a reasonably priced genre to take up as a collecting hobby.


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