American Art Pottery

By Karen Parr-Moody


American Art Pottery is, like America, a beacon of originality that embraces slight nuances and tiny differences. And collectors find that magical.


Art pottery is decorative or ornamental ware that, unlike “pottery” alone, supplements its clay ware with vitreous porcelain or china as well. In the strictest sense, the earliest examples date to 1772. But in a popular sense, American Art Pottery became the rage from in the late 1800s, and stayed there until the middle 20th century. Decorative vases, figurines, and the like, populated American homes as dozens of commercial potteries sprung up.  


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, appropriately, was from (and remains in) Red Wing, Minnesota.


Pottery of this style is found throughout the 120-plus booths of 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 (one of a pair, $157; Booth B-204). However, this vase has a gloss finish. Why? It dates to 1957; after a disastrous flood and fire in 1950, the factory was rebuilt and modernized, but left unable to replicate its previous matte finishes. 


Hull made some of its best work from the late 1930s through 1950s. Its most popular line, by far, was Red Riding Hood. The figural cookie jar was produced first in 1943, and was so popular that other themed items followed, from banks to butter dishes.


The discovery of natural clay bodies near Red Wing, Minnesota by German potter John Paul in 1861 ultimately led to pottery as beautiful as this yellow compote, in the photo at left, by industrial designer Belle Kogan.


Red Wing Potteries produced glazed art pottery between about 1929 and 1967. This 1960s ceramic compote was from the Prismatique line, created by Kogan, who was internationally known in a field that was scant on women. The story goes that Kogan was inspired by the faceted geometry of a tooth’s roots. Cast in 15 shapes in five different glazes, Prismatique was the most popular of Kogan’s Red Wing Potteries designs (Red Wing footed bowl; Booth S540, $49).







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. Roseville 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 floral depictions, as in the case of the two pieces in the photo at right (each vase, $95; Booth B-234). Some blooms represented include apple blossom, freesia, magnolia, zephyr lily, clematis and water lily. 


In 2004 a Rookwood vase by Kataro Shirayamadani sold for $350,750 at Cincinnati Art Galleries, breaking the record for the price paid at auction for a piece of Rookwood ware.


Rookwood has a storied lineage that puts it in a rarefied league for art pottery. Maria Longwood developed Rookwood ware in Cincinnati. It was on Thanksgiving, 1880, that she pulled the first piece out of her kiln, making Rookwood the first female-owned manufacturing company in the U.S. local artists from the Cincinnati Art School.


From its start, Rookwood pottery's production and quality standards exceeded virtually every other manufacturer. The vase pictured at left is characteristic of Rookwood’s graceful lines ($55; Booth B-17).


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 form Charles Dickens’ novels. The vase pictured at right is typical of another Weller style, that of a matte glaze and raised flowers. Popular with collectors, even Barbra Streisand had two similar vases in an auction held in Beverly Hills in 2009; the duo went for $500. There was probably some stardust involved, as similar items at GasLamp go for significantly less.


Right here in Tennessee, there is a heritage of Blue Ridge pottery, with its expressive hand-painted designs and colorful patterns. Its roots reach back to 1916-17 in the town of Erwin, which was clay rich and also had a railroad stop. The first factory established was Clinchfield Chinaware, which ultimately became the highly collectible Southern Potteries.


The Cash Family label ultimately was born of this Erwin, Tennessee pottery hotbed. Beginning in 1945, Ray and Pauline Cash started making pottery from a small building behind their home in Erwin, TN. The vase shown in the photo at left is known as a “buttermilk pitcher,” and it is one of five sizes made ($65; Booth B-234).

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