A stoneware jar with lid, stamped with the name of South Carolina potter Thomas Chandler Edgefield, sold in January for $18,160. Image courtesy Case Auctions, Knoxville, Tenn.

Southern pottery: Collectors display loyalty to Dixie

A stoneware jar with lid, stamped with the name of South Carolina potter Thomas Chandler Edgefield, sold in January for $18,160. Image courtesy Case Auctions, Knoxville, Tenn.

A stoneware jar with lid, stamped with the name of South Carolina potter Thomas Chandler Edgefield, sold in January for $18,160. Image courtesy Case Auctions, Knoxville, Tenn.

In the South, regional pottery is cherished as an important part of a distinctive artistic legacy. Collectors supply the enthusiasm. Historians, archaeologists and genealogists provide answers to crucial questions about the potteries that made the surviving redware and stoneware.

Their research has shed light on the types of pottery produced in the South, the source of basic materials and fuel for firing, and histories of the potters who set up the workshops.

When skilled potters emigrated from England and Europe, they often set up first along the Atlantic seacoast. Later some craftsmen – along with the apprentices they trained – followed the country’s expansion into the southern and Midwestern states.

Southern pottery is often more highly valued because less has survived from regional workshops there compared to their counterparts in New York or Pennsylvania. The market for well-documented Southern examples is highly competitive; five- and even six-figure prices are common.

Regional auction houses often focus on the pottery of their area, and the sales run by Case Antiques in Knoxville have captured the attention of collectors devoted to East Tennessee redware and stoneware. Information on the upcoming Oct. 16 auction can be found at www.caseantiques.com .

“People expect pottery from me,” said John Case, company president, who has become an expert on the local potteries. “We have three or four sales a year, getting people together, spending the day. It’s an opportunity for sharing information, for learning. I think that’s a really healthy thing for the business.”

Case’s most recent sale on May 22 produced some notable results. A rare redware pitcher marked by Greene County, Tenn., potter Christopher Alexander Haun (1821-1861) sold for $9,988, double its $3,500-$4,500 estimate even though it lacked a handle.

As the catalog entry explained, the potter had a colorful history: “Haun was a Union sympathizer during the Civil War and participated in burning a Confederate railroad bridge. … In 1861, Confederate forces captured Christopher Haun and put him to death by hanging.”

“I get excited when I think about Christopher Haun,” said Case. “He’s kind of like the Paul Revere of pottery – a well-known figure in history who also happened to be an artisan.” The auctioneer wonders at “the incredibly sophisticated stamp-decorated forms we find in East Tennessee, when there wasn’t the wealthy population to support such advanced potters.”

Case pointed out the complex glazes used by Haun on the pitcher: “The copper oxide is the green and then this is a kind of iron oxide contamination, and then you’ve got these manganese streaks.” Watch for another marked Haun piece coming up in the October auction, a two-handled jar with dramatic decoration in copper oxide.

East Tennessee also had important workshops that made salt-glazed stoneware. A Knoxville collector paid $2,610 in May for a 4-gallon jar attributed to Charles Decker’s Keystone Pottery in Washington County, Tenn. The attribution was based in part on the cobalt tulip decoration. Case said, “We have examples of Charles Decker’s tulips with flaring petals that are distinctive to him.”

Like many other potters, Decker (1843-1914) came from Germany as a teenager, worked for another stoneware maker in Philadelphia, and then established his own Keystone Pottery there in 1857. The artisan moved south around 1870, worked briefly in Virginia, and eventually settled in an area of Tennessee with rich clay deposits.

Stephen D. Cox of the Tennessee State Museum detailed Decker’s diverse production: “Decker and his sons produced the usual kitchenware, including crocks, jugs and churns. They also made pitchers, flower pots, paving blocks, stoneware drainpipes, chicken fountains, chamber pots and decorated inkwells.”

“Distinctive tombstones and large yard ornaments of gray, salt-glazed pottery decorated with deep blue lettering and designs, as well as grotesque face vessels and sculptural pieces, established Charles F. Decker as a leading Southern folk potter.”

Highlights from previous Case auctions have included an ovoid two-handled jar by East Tennessee potter J.A. Lowe sold for a record $63,000 in a September 2008 sale, and a redware pitcher attributed to the Cain Pottery of Sullivan County, Tenn., sold for $22,500 in May 2007.

Carole Wahler is an excellent example of a scholar/collector of Southern pottery who is passionate about her subject matter. She is currently preparing an exhibition of regional pottery scheduled to open at Knoxville’s Museum of East Tennessee History in next spring.

“The exhibition will include pottery – both earthenware and stoneware – from roughly 1800 to 1900 that was made in East Tennessee,” said Wahler. Collectors will be able to purchase a catalog of both the 2011 exhibition and a previous exhibition in 1996.

Wahler continues, “A few museums will be asked for pieces but it’s not principally a museum show. The loans will come from private collections, pieces that would not be seen if we didn’t have a show like this.”

Scholarly research in the South has resulted in books, articles and tightly focused museum exhibitions. Good examples of the latter are Made in Alabama (1995) and The Art of Tennessee (2003); both were accompanied by catalogs with informative chapters on pottery. References designed for Carolina collectors include such classics Turners and Burners: The Folk Potters of North Carolina (1990) by Charles G. Zug and Great and Noble Jar: Traditional Stoneware of South Carolina (1993) by Cinda K. Baldwin.

Collectors interested in building a reference library in this field can visit the Web site of the Southern Folk Pottery Collectors Society based in North Carolina (www.southernfolkpotterysociety.com . Their bookshelf offers a wide selection of specialized works on regional potteries.


ADDITIONAL LOTS OF NOTE


A Tennessee stoneware jar by William Grindstaff brought $1,702 at Case’s auction in May. Image courtesy Case Auctions, Knoxville, Tenn.

A Tennessee stoneware jar by William Grindstaff brought $1,702 at Case’s auction in May. Image courtesy Case Auctions, Knoxville, Tenn.


This simple pitcher with lead glaze enhanced by loops of manganese or copper oxide surpassed its estimate to reach $9,988. The rare form was marked by Christopher Alexander Haun, a Greene County, Tenn., potter who was executed in 1861 for being a Union sympathizer. Image courtesy Case Auctions, Knoxville, Tenn.

This simple pitcher with lead glaze enhanced by loops of manganese or copper oxide surpassed its estimate to reach $9,988. The rare form was marked by Christopher Alexander Haun, a Greene County, Tenn., potter who was executed in 1861 for being a Union sympathizer. Image courtesy Case Auctions, Knoxville, Tenn.


A charming miniature stoneware jar decorated with cobalt cloverleafs was found near the Kentucky-Tennessee border. It sold recently for $850. Image courtesy Case Auctions, Knoxville, Tenn.

A charming miniature stoneware jar decorated with cobalt cloverleafs was found near the Kentucky-Tennessee border. It sold recently for $850. Image courtesy Case Auctions, Knoxville, Tenn.


Charles Decker worked in Pennsylvania and Virginia before opening his Keystone Pottery in Washington County, Tenn. Attributed to Decker, this stoneware 4-gallon jar with cobalt tulip design sold in May for $2,610. Image courtesy Case Auctions, Knoxville, Tenn.

Charles Decker worked in Pennsylvania and Virginia before opening his Keystone Pottery in Washington County, Tenn. Attributed to Decker, this stoneware 4-gallon jar with cobalt tulip design sold in May for $2,610. Image courtesy Case Auctions, Knoxville, Tenn.


Whimsical face jugs were a specialty of folk art potter Lanier Meaders (1917-1998) of White County, Ga. This signed example with painted eyes, rock teeth, and a dark olive glaze brought $1,475. Image courtesy Case Auctions, Knoxville, Tenn.

Whimsical face jugs were a specialty of folk art potter Lanier Meaders (1917-1998) of White County, Ga. This signed example with painted eyes, rock teeth, and a dark olive glaze brought $1,475. Image courtesy Case Auctions, Knoxville, Tenn.


Georgia folk potter Edwin Meaders made this lively rooster, which sold for $908. Image courtesy Case Auctions, Knoxville, Tenn.

Georgia folk potter Edwin Meaders made this lively rooster, which sold for $908. Image courtesy Case Auctions, Knoxville, Tenn.


The value of this salt-glaze stoneware ring bottle was enhanced by the stamped mark of North Carolina potter W.H. Hancock (1845-1924). The example in excellent condition brought $2,384. Image courtesy Case Auctions, Knoxville, Tenn.

The value of this salt-glaze stoneware ring bottle was enhanced by the stamped mark of North Carolina potter W.H. Hancock (1845-1924). The example in excellent condition brought $2,384. Image courtesy Case Auctions, Knoxville, Tenn.


This 19th-century redware jar, made in the workshop of East Tennessee potter Christopher Haun, will be offered in the Oct. 16 sale at Case Auctions in Knoxville. Dramatic streaks of green copper oxide decorate the curve of the body. Image courtesy Case Auctions, Knoxville, Tenn.

This 19th-century redware jar, made in the workshop of East Tennessee potter Christopher Haun, will be offered in the Oct. 16 sale at Case Auctions in Knoxville. Dramatic streaks of green copper oxide decorate the curve of the body. Image courtesy Case Auctions, Knoxville, Tenn.


This large two-handled redware jar – clearly marked on the neck by Tennessee potter J.A. Lowe - sold to a private collector for $63,000 at a Case Auction in September 2008. Image courtesy Case Auctions, Knoxville, Tenn.

This large two-handled redware jar – clearly marked on the neck by Tennessee potter J.A. Lowe – sold to a private collector for $63,000 at a Case Auction in September 2008. Image courtesy Case Auctions, Knoxville, Tenn.

‘Crocks, Jugs and Jars: Decorated American Stoneware,’ an exhibition at the Brandywine River Museum through July 10, includes examples on loan from public institutions and private collectors. Attributed to Philadelphia maker Richard C. Remmey, this cobalt decorated coin bank, circa 1880-1890, is topped with a fanciful bird finial molded by hand. Image collection of Winterthur Museum.

Decorated stoneware: easy on the eye, perfect for purpose

‘Crocks, Jugs and Jars: Decorated American Stoneware,’ an exhibition at the Brandywine River Museum through July 10, includes examples on loan from public institutions and private collectors. Attributed to Philadelphia maker Richard C. Remmey, this cobalt decorated coin bank, circa 1880-1890, is topped with a fanciful bird finial molded by hand. Image collection of Winterthur Museum.

‘Crocks, Jugs and Jars: Decorated American Stoneware,’ an exhibition at the Brandywine River Museum through July 10, includes examples on loan from public institutions and private collectors. Attributed to Philadelphia maker Richard C. Remmey, this cobalt decorated coin bank, circa 1880-1890, is topped with a fanciful bird finial molded by hand. Image collection of Winterthur Museum.

American stoneware pottery was created to serve a purpose, but the charming decoration – often in cobalt blue – was added to please the eye. Auctions and shows offer pieces at a wide range of price points for beginning and advanced collectors.

“Stoneware has maintained a strong collector interest, especially for the better pieces,” said Ron Pook of Pook & Pook Auctions in Downingtown, Pa. “It’s still very sought-after.”

The production of utilitarian stoneware was an early success story for American potteries. The newly united Colonies along the East Coast emerged from the Revolution still dependent on imports from across the Atlantic to fill basic needs.

Fine porcelain table services for the upper classes were shipped from Europe or China. Germany and England were supplying basic types of pottery for domestic and commercial use. George Washington had Chinese Export porcelain for best, and a good grade of white English stoneware for his “everyday dishes.”

International business practices that still annoy economists today were also common in the past. Ceramics expert William C. Ketchum Jr. wrote in his American Antiques volume on Pottery & Porcelain: “Periodically, British manufacturers ‘dumped’ large quantities of high quality ceramics on the American market, offering them at prices local craftsmen could not profitably match.”

Immigrant craftsmen had brought the necessary potting skills with them to this country. But before citizens could “buy American,” entrepreneurs needed to establish financially viable potteries near a good source of the proper clay. Small redware workshops, making simple dishes for local families, sprang up first. Collectors still prize these fragile but desirable pieces.

Clay to make more durable stoneware was harder to find. Deposits were eventually located in the Mid-Atlantic states and in Ohio. This production also required a larger operation with a more sophisticated kiln setup. Pioneering potteries were established in the 18th century, and stoneware manufacturing was flourishing in the country by the 19th century.

Better transportation made it easy to move raw materials to the factory and finished products to the consumer. The majority of forms for sale were various storage vessels, such as crocks, jugs, pitchers and bottles. Until the 1880s, most basic pieces were thrown on the wheel. Hard-to-find rarities, such as coin banks and figural pieces, were shaped by hand.

To create an impervious surface, most stoneware is salt-glazed. Ketchum described the process: “Quantities of salt were thrown into the kiln when the heat was most intense; the salt vaporized and combined with the outer layer of the pottery to form a clear, vitreous finish that is characteristically pebbled, resembling an orange peel.”

Modern collectors, however, do not crave stoneware simply because it comes in useful shapes and keeps the water out. Pursuing a creative whim, decorators often hand-painted whimsical patterns – flowers, animals, people – that add great value to individual pieces. Buyers also look for incised information about the name and location of the pottery and for dates, which were sometimes added by hand.

Ron Pook noted, “The market today is for the more unusual pieces. I go for the uniqueness of a piece. I look for brighter color, a deeper cobalt blue, and highly developed decoration or an unusual form. The appeal of stoneware lies in its folkiness. We had a water cooler in the April sale that was rather vibrant.”

This spring auction lot, a 19th-century salt-glazed stoneware water cooler, sold for $17,550. The piece bore a clearly stamped maker’s mark that read “Wells & Richards Reading Berks Co PA” which had strong regional interest to Pennsylvania collectors. Furthermore, the curved sides of the storage piece were covered with a cobalt tulip pattern painted freehand by the decorator.

Figural decoration commands the highest prices. During the auction of the Shelley Collection three years ago, Pook & Pook sold a 6-gallon water jug painted with a long-necked goony bird for $48,800 and a smaller jug with a rare lady with parasol figure for $53,820.

Museum exhibitions are excellent way to examine important examples of this pottery. Through July 10, the Brandywine River Museum in Chadds Ford, Pa., is offering Crocks, Jugs, and Jars: Decorated American Stoneware, a loan exhibition from public and private lenders. Many of the exhibits come from the excellent permanent collection at the Winterthur Museum and Gardens, just to the south in Delaware.

Two excellent references on the subject, both still available through used book services are Decorated Stoneware Pottery of North America by Donald Blake Webster (1971) and American Stoneware by William C. Ketchum Jr. (1991).

Although collectors are most familiar with the salt-glazed stoneware featuring cobalt designs that was produced in New England, Pennsylvania and Ohio, other types of stoneware with alternative glazes and decoration was produced in the South during the 19th century. More on this subject will appear in the next Ceramics Collector devoted to Southern pottery.


ADDITIONAL LOTS OF NOTE


A clearly stamped mark by a Berks County maker added value to this decorated water cooler, which sold for $17,550 in an auction in April. Courtesy Pook & Pook.

A clearly stamped mark by a Berks County maker added value to this decorated water cooler, which sold for $17,550 in an auction in April. Courtesy Pook & Pook.


Rare and whimsical, a Philadelphia stoneware face pitcher accented with cobalt sold for $81,900 in October 2008. Courtesy Pook & Pook.

Rare and whimsical, a Philadelphia stoneware face pitcher accented with cobalt sold for $81,900 in October 2008. Courtesy Pook & Pook.


A hip flask with the owners initials, dated 1853 and decorated with flowers, brought $17,720 in a September 2007 sale rich in stoneware. Courtesy Pook & Pook.

A hip flask with the owners initials, dated 1853 and decorated with flowers, brought $17,720 in a September 2007 sale rich in stoneware. Courtesy Pook & Pook.


Stoneware figural examples are a rare breed. This stag, probably western Pennsylvania, circa 1875, soared to $111,150. Courtesy Pook & Pook.

Stoneware figural examples are a rare breed. This stag, probably western Pennsylvania, circa 1875, soared to $111,150. Courtesy Pook & Pook.


The appealing character of this cobalt-painted pig flask, attributed to an Illinois pottery, took the final price to $37,440 in 2007. Courtesy Pook & Pook.

The appealing character of this cobalt-painted pig flask, attributed to an Illinois pottery, took the final price to $37,440 in 2007. Courtesy Pook & Pook.


Stoneware collectors crave unusual designs. This 6-gallon water jug, marked ‘M.Woodruff Cortland,’ has a lively goony bird. It sold for $48,800. Courtesy Pook & Pook.

Stoneware collectors crave unusual designs. This 6-gallon water jug, marked ‘M.Woodruff Cortland,’ has a lively goony bird. It sold for $48,800. Courtesy Pook & Pook.


This small jug is decorated with a highly desirable human figure. The fine lady with a parasol took bidding to $53,820 in 2007. Courtesy Pook & Pook.

This small jug is decorated with a highly desirable human figure. The fine lady with a parasol took bidding to $53,820 in 2007. Courtesy Pook & Pook.

Colored slips, applied in a variety of ingenious techniques, produce the abstract patterns on the English pottery called mocha or dipped ware. Image courtesy Skinner Inc.

Make mine mocha: English pottery features eye-popping graphics

Colored slips, applied in a variety of ingenious techniques, produce the abstract patterns on the English pottery called mocha or dipped ware. Image courtesy Skinner Inc.

Colored slips, applied in a variety of ingenious techniques, produce the abstract patterns on the English pottery called mocha or dipped ware. Image courtesy Skinner Inc.

Long a favorite with Americana collectors, colorful mocha ware goes equally well with period antiques or modern furniture. Now new fans are buying the pottery for its bold graphics, which add dramatic punctuation to eclectic interiors.

Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, furniture, silver, and glass made on this side of the Atlantic were used side-by-side with imported English ceramics. American consumers demanded many popular products made in British potteries, such as salt-glazed stoneware, blue and white transfer prints, gaudy china, and mocha. This demand was filled by traders in East Coast cities who received regular shipments from England.

Skinner’s March 7 auction of American Furniture & Decorative Arts in Boston was particularly rich in mocha ware. The back cover of the catalog featured an eye-popping array of mugs, jugs and bowls decorated with the bright bands, checkers, marbling and slip splotches that characterize the pottery. The four-figure prices achieved by many lots demonstrate collectors’ passion for desirable forms and patterns.

At first glance, the array might be mistaken for the output of a particularly creative modern studio potter. But the pieces were actually produced on factory worktables at English potteries in the late 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries. Most designs were achieved through the clever application of tinted slips while the pieces were manipulated on an engine-turned lathe.

Stephen Fletcher, director of the Americana department at Skinner’s, was not surprised by the sales results. “As much as we’ve handled over the years, I never tire of mocha. To me it always has this fresh appealing quality about it. I love the colors. I like the manner in which the designs are applied. There were several of the bowls that looked like Jackson Pollack had dribbled slip glaze on those. And other pieces have a kind of formal quality to them,” he said.

The expert can testify to its popularity in past centuries. “I own an old house on Cape Cod,” he said. “When we did some excavating while repairing the foundations, we found all sort kinds of shards, including chunks of mocha ware in the most beautiful colors. It’s small wonder that Americana people like mocha so much because it’s been a part of New England décor for a long time.”

Fletcher said the buyers were a cross section of dealers and collectors who appreciate the vivid appeal of the wares. “You find different approaches to collecting it,” he continued. “There are buyers who like mocha with chips, cracks, stains and all – in ‘as is’ condition. Some people who collect mocha ware will accept flaws, as well they should – it doesn’t ruin a piece if it’s chipped or stained. There are other people who like mocha that has been professionally repaired and restored.”

Even more important to collectors are the desirability of certain patterns and the rarity of certain forms and sizes. Fortunately, Jonathan Rickard has written an authoritative reference, Mocha and Related Dipped Wares, 1770-1939, which explains in detail the variety of techniques used to decorate the ware.

With a background in fine art, Rickard said he was immediately attracted to this pottery because he saw “the shapes of Bauhaus and a decoration of abstract expressionism.”

Rickard begins his book by defining the subject: “lathe-turned refined utilitarian earthenware whose principal decoration has been achieved with slip.” Although he knows he can never change common usage, he points out that the term “mocha” properly designates only those pieces decorated with the dark dendritic tree or “seaweed” motifs on lighter bands of slip. He recognizes that collectors now use mocha ware to refer to all the slipped and dipped designs that he covers in the book.

In addition to the delicate trees noted above, collectors seek out pieces that feature looping “earthworm” trails and circular “cat’s-eye” patterns. Both were produced by the deft use of a multichambered slip pot applied as a piece was rotating. The reference book also explains the methods used to create pieces with variegated surfaces and banded pottery.

Rickard has collaborated with craftsman Don Carpentier of Eastfield Village in upstate New York. The potter has been able to recreate the designs on mocha and related slipwares, a process that has added new information about the techniques involved.

Since this was utilitarian pottery, certain shapes predominate – straight-sided mugs, jugs of various sizes, pepper and mustard pots, and bowls. Less common are coffeepots, teapots and flowerpots. The ceramic bodies are mostly described as creamware or pearlware, with base colors ranging from white to cream and tan.

Rickard has also worked with archaeologists excavating at pottery sites in England. “We are pretty well convinced that there are a few different potteries that produced the bulk of the stuff that came to America,” he said. “And each one of them has its own handwriting basically. If you’ve seen enough of the stuff, you can recognize the work from one factory.”

One pottery involved was Wood and Caldwell, later Enoch Wood & Sons, located in Burslem in the Staffordshire area. More makers are listed in his book. Such factories worked in an assembly line fashion, making multiple example of the same shape with the same design. But the capricious techniques involved in the decoration ensure that each piece differs slightly from its fellows.

The serendipity of slip application produces individual compositions that seem like masterpieces of abstract expressionism. Strong design, harmonious color schemes and elegant forms bring the highest prices at auction. A good example from the March Skinner’s sale is a 2-quart pearlware mug circled with looping earthworm and cat’s-eye motifs. Its final price with premium was $2,844.

As Rickard states in his book, “It was the striking appearance of dipped wares that first intrigued me and so many other collectors. These pots will continue to enthrall those whose eyes are charmed by their colors and patterns.”


ADDITIONAL LOTS OF NOTE


A lot of two banded quart mugs, one with cat's-eye decoration, brought $1,541 in a March sale of American Furniture and Decorative Arts at Skinner's. Image courtesy Skinner Inc.

A lot of two banded quart mugs, one with cat’s-eye decoration, brought $1,541 in a March sale of American Furniture and Decorative Arts at Skinner’s. Image courtesy Skinner Inc.


This English quart mug, circa 1830, has a reeded rim and base framing bold cat's-eyes on a blue and tan ground: $1,007. Image courtesy Skinner Inc.

This English quart mug, circa 1830, has a reeded rim and base framing bold cat’s-eyes on a blue and tan ground: $1,007. Image courtesy Skinner Inc.


A baluster form pepper pot, made around 1800, has a pearlware body circled by an engine-turned pattern filled with dark slip: $948. Image courtesy Skinner Inc.

A baluster form pepper pot, made around 1800, has a pearlware body circled by an engine-turned pattern filled with dark slip: $948. Image courtesy Skinner Inc.


Mustard was an essential condiment on English tables in the 19th century. Less than 4 inches high, this small covered pot is ringed with geometric bands: $474. Image courtesy Skinner Inc.

Mustard was an essential condiment on English tables in the 19th century. Less than 4 inches high, this small covered pot is ringed with geometric bands: $474. Image courtesy Skinner Inc.


This large 2-quart mug features two designs popular with collectors: circular cat's-eyes and looping “earthworm” trails. In spite of a crack, the boldly decorated piece sold for $2,844. Image courtesy Skinner Inc.

This large 2-quart mug features two designs popular with collectors: circular cat’s-eyes and looping “earthworm” trails. In spite of a crack, the boldly decorated piece sold for $2,844. Image courtesy Skinner Inc.


A small late 18th-century jug alternates marbled panels with green-painted reeded bands:  $2,370. Image courtesy Skinner Inc.

A small late 18th-century jug alternates marbled panels with green-painted reeded bands: $2,370. Image courtesy Skinner Inc.


Dark branching patterns resembling trees or seaweed are the classic decoration on mocha ware. This 6-inch jug sold for $1,067. Image courtesy Skinner Inc.

Dark branching patterns resembling trees or seaweed are the classic decoration on mocha ware. This 6-inch jug sold for $1,067. Image courtesy Skinner Inc.


Great graphics - cat's-eyes and earthworm trails on the interior and undulating lines of slip on the exterior - add value to an early 19th-century bowl, which brought $2,607 at the March auction. Image courtesy Skinner Inc.

Great graphics – cat’s-eyes and earthworm trails on the interior and undulating lines of slip on the exterior – add value to an early 19th-century bowl, which brought $2,607 at the March auction. Image courtesy Skinner Inc.


Cat's-eye and earthworm patterns on a slate-blue ground decorate this lot, which brought $2,252. The baluster form jug also features molded designs on the shoulder band, spout and handle terminal. Image courtesy Skinner Inc.

Cat’s-eye and earthworm patterns on a slate-blue ground decorate this lot, which brought $2,252. The baluster form jug also features molded designs on the shoulder band, spout and handle terminal. Image courtesy Skinner Inc.


An 8-inch jug, circa 1820, has a broad black band with large scrolls and dots in white slip: $1,896. Image courtesy Skinner Inc.

An 8-inch jug, circa 1820, has a broad black band with large scrolls and dots in white slip: $1,896. Image courtesy Skinner Inc.

A soft-paste Sevres Waterleaf ewer and bowl, 1759-1769, is one of the stars in the ‘Sevres Then and Now’ exhibition at the Hillwood Museum in Washington, D.C., through May 30. Courtesy Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens.

Sevres Porcelain: the yes, the no and the maybe

A soft-paste Sevres Waterleaf ewer and bowl, 1759-1769, is one of the stars in the ‘Sevres Then and Now’ exhibition at the Hillwood Museum in Washington, D.C., through May 30. Courtesy Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens.

A soft-paste Sevres Waterleaf ewer and bowl, 1759-1769, is one of the stars in the ‘Sevres Then and Now’ exhibition at the Hillwood Museum in Washington, D.C., through May 30. Courtesy Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens.

“Widely imitated, rarely equaled” could easily be the motto for Sevres porcelain. Serious collectors began buying the exquisitely decorated forms shortly the French factory started production in 18th century. Enthusiasts continued to snap up examples for public and private collections throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. For connoisseurs with the best taste, Sevres was at the top of the ceramics collecting food chain.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Collectors can buy well-documented examples of Sevres at the best auctions and antiques fairs, but catalogs are filled with lots hedged by qualifying phrases such as “Sevres-style” or “in the fashion of Sevres.” Other French, European and English factories made quite similar wares, sometimes very fine in their own right. Hands-on experience and critical thinking are needed to sort out the real Sevres from the rest. Many collectors focus on period Sevres, but there are also wealthy buyers for showy late-19th-century porcelain that only pays stylistic tribute to the original French factory. Each to his own.

Truth be told, the European porcelain-making world of the mid-18th century was a battle of competitive copyists. When the French works – established at Vincennes in 1740, moved to Sevres in 1756 – began, the enterprise was most anxious to compete with the products of the Meissen factory in Germany. And Meissen had been desperately trying to reproduce the qualities of Chinese porcelain. Meanwhile, independent makers around Paris and factories across the channel in England geared up to challenge Sevres.

What makes collecting Sevres so compelling is its development of a unique style, determined by the texture of the porcelain and the creativity of its decorators. To better understand the development of Sevres in its first 100 years, plan a pilgrimage to one of the great collections. Queen Elizabeth II has the best, thanks to an acquisitive ancestor. “The Royal Collection boasts the finest collection of 18th-century Sevres porcelain in the world,” states the official guide. “It was largely formed by King George IV who began collecting when he came of age in 1783.”

George was not really buying “antiques” but new luxury goods ranging from useful table services to ornamental vases. What makes the collection so special was his selection of objects: “He liked the unusual and the rare, the exotic and the extravagant. He was not deterred by price.” While some pieces are on view in the State Rooms or Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace, see them all in French Porcelain in the Collection of Her Majesty the Queen by Geoffrey de Bellaigue, issued by Royal Collection Publications in 2009. Although a hefty $1,000 for the three volumes, it will be a staple of ceramics reference libraries. More affordable from the same publisher, French Porcelain for English Palaces by Joanna Gwilt costs around $30.

The choice pieces in the Royal Collection include examples of both soft-paste and hard-paste porcelain. The factory experimented with different formulas when trying to achieve the right balance between beauty and durability. Sevres is celebrated for the vivid colored grounds applied to the forms – rose, green, lavender, dark and light blue, brick red. Reserved white areas contain delicate paintings of flora, fauna and scenery. Both table and decorative wares are lavishly accented with gold; gilding was a high art form at Sevres.

If you make the trek to London, see more 18th-century Sevres as well as Italian maiolica and other decorative arts at the Wallace Collection in Hereford House on Manchester Square, free of charge, seven days a week. Sevres, including the famous Service Egyptien. is also on display at Apsley House, the residence of the Dukes of Wellington on Hyde Park Corner. Time your visit to coincide with Art Antiques London, the successor of the long-running International Ceramics Fair, June 10-16. The show features an excellent lecture series on ceramics, including a talk on Sevres by the director of the Wallace Collection.

On this side of the Atlantic, view one woman’s personal collection of Sevres in the intimate setting of the Hillwood Estate, Museum and Gardens in Washington, D.C., once the residence of heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post (1887-1973), now a house museum. Sevres Porcelain at Hillwood by Liana Paredes, the museum’s Curator of Western Art, contains information on the formation of the collection and an outline of production at the factory. View publications available from the Museum Shop at www.hillwoodmuseum.org.

“What we have here is what Mrs. Post collected, and she really collected very prime examples of Sevres,” said Paredes. “She was a lover of porcelain and she gave it a lot of exhibit room in the house. She made it one of her primary collecting areas. This is a private home with specifically designed spaces to showcase porcelain.”

Paredes organized the current exhibition, Sevres Then and Now: Tradition and Innovation in Porcelain, 1750-2000, which runs through May 30. The show brings together more than 90 objects from the collection and numerous lenders including the Smithsonian and the Musee National de Ceramique at Sevres, France. As the title promises, the exhibition and its accompanying catalog covers the entire history of Sevres production. The curator said, “This is the biggest loan show that Hillwood has ever done. It was quite a bit of work for an institution our size and a great collaborative effort.”

Paredes stressed that Sevres was always in the vanguard of style: “While previous museum exhibitions have focused on a particular period or century of production, this exhibition will be the first to reveal the sustained creativity and unparalleled innovation that unifies the factory’s output over time, from its inception in 1740 all the way into the 21st century.”

Among her favorite pieces in the show, Paredes points out a Waterleaf ewer and bowl, 1759-1760, which she calls “an explosion of Rococo design.” From the 19th century, she cites the tea and coffee set decorated with almost photographic views of Egypt that Napoleon presented to the duchesse de Montebello, 1810-1812. She said, “It speaks to the connection of Sevres with the politics of the moment and the main historic events of the time.”

Most viewers will be less familiar with the 20th-century material. A pair of plates made in 1913, which depict characters from the Russian ballet, was spotted by Paredes at an antiques fair in London and secured for Hillwood’s permanent collection. From recent production, the curator likes the boldly geometric Reform vase, a 1995 work in soft-paste by artist Richard Peduzzi with facets of bright contrasting color.

Collectors just beginning to enter the Sevres market rely on offerings from reputable dealers and auction houses, which take pains to accurately describe porcelain offered for sale. In any given sale of French porcelain, the offerings will distinguish between well-documented genuine Sevres pieces, items “in the Sevres style,” Sevres-type forms with “spurious” marks, and lots described as “later-decorated.”

In the first half of the 19th century, the Sevres factory sold off undecorated, often-outdated porcelain blanks from their warehouse to raise cash. As Liana Paredes explained in a catalog chapter called “A Word About Fakes,” “Decorators and dealers bought these blanks by the wagonload and proceeded to decorate them in the Sevres manner, often giving them spurious marks to deceive the public even further. … As early as the 1840s confusion between real Sevres pieces and counterfeits was well established.”

As curator for Decorative Arts at the New Orleans Museum of Art and as the porcelain cataloger for the New Orleans Auction Galleries, John Keefe faces the yes, no and maybe of Sevres production every day. He explains the problem with these “later-decorated” blanks: “Although they were plain white, they were marked – and the buyers had their top decorators paint them. Some of the painted designs are fabulous – you’re really hard-pressed sometimes to distinguish them from the originals. But when someone is doing that kind of copying, inevitably the taste of the era doing the copying gets in.” For example, real 18th-century Sevres birds differ slightly from those painted by the fakers in the 19th century, and it takes considerable experience to tell them apart.

Supply struggled to keep up with the growing demand for this imitation French porcelain. Keefe says, “These pieces getting out on the English market and the American market and the antiquarian market started what I call the ‘robber baron’ taste for Sevres. Everybody who had any pretension to high fashion wanted Sevres porcelain, particularly in this country.

“Then you have the Bohemian factories – clever boys that they were – making those things that I catalog as ‘Sevres style.’ Those great big covered vases with the gilt brass or bronze mounts decorated with portraits of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI and Madame Pompadour and Napoleon I. There was that enormous late-19th-century craze for it, and everybody who had an entrepreneurial instinct started to produce that stuff.”

Keefe was fortunate enough to catalog a group of fine Sevres lots for the January and March sales in New Orleans that had an impeccable provenance. They bore small handwritten labels that the curator traced back to the owner of the Antique Porcelain Co. in London, founded in 1946. These objects from an anonymous consignor also bore labels indicating that they had once belonged to well-known collectors Leo and Doris Hodroff, who had probably acquired them from the London dealer.

One of the pieces, a Sevres covered bowl, or ecuelle, with its underplate sold for $2,280 in January at the New Orleans Auction Galleries. Bearing the date letter for 1767, the porcelain set was decorated with panels of putti against an aqua and dark blue ground. Keefe says, “A lot of good stuff is still flowing through this part of the world.”


ADDITIONAL LOTS OF NOTE


On display in the ‘Sevres Then and Now’ exhibition, this covered cup and saucer from a tea service displays a combination of green and pink grounds fashionable when it was made in 1759-1760. Courtesy Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens.

On display in the ‘Sevres Then and Now’ exhibition, this covered cup and saucer from a tea service displays a combination of green and pink grounds fashionable when it was made in 1759-1760. Courtesy Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens.


On display in the ‘Sevres Then and Now’ exhibition, this covered cup and saucer from a tea service displays a combination of green and pink grounds fashionable when it was made in 1759-1760. Courtesy Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens.

On display in the ‘Sevres Then and Now’ exhibition, this covered cup and saucer from a tea service displays a combination of green and pink grounds fashionable when it was made in 1759-1760. Courtesy Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens.


The exhibition ‘Sevres Then and Now: Tradition and Innovation in Porcelain, 1750-2000’ runs through May 30 at the Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens in Washington, D.C. The catalog by Liana Paredes, senior curator, is an important reference for collectors. Courtesy Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens.

The exhibition ‘Sevres Then and Now: Tradition and Innovation in Porcelain, 1750-2000’ runs through May 30 at the Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens in Washington, D.C. The catalog by Liana Paredes, senior curator, is an important reference for collectors. Courtesy Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens.


This Sevres covered bowl and underplate decorated with putti bears the date letter for 1767. The porcelain set, which once belonged to ceramics collectors Leo and Doris Hodroff, sold for $2,280 at the New Orleans Auction Galleries in January. Courtesy New Orleans Auction Galleries.

This Sevres covered bowl and underplate decorated with putti bears the date letter for 1767. The porcelain set, which once belonged to ceramics collectors Leo and Doris Hodroff, sold for $2,280 at the New Orleans Auction Galleries in January. Courtesy New Orleans Auction Galleries.


Sevres began making their famous pink ground in the mid-18th century. These squared bowls with flowers and birds date to around 1790. Ex-Hodroff Collection, the pair sold for $1,140 in January. Courtesy New Orleans Auction Galleries.

Sevres began making their famous pink ground in the mid-18th century. These squared bowls with flowers and birds date to around 1790. Ex-Hodroff Collection, the pair sold for $1,140 in January. Courtesy New Orleans Auction Galleries.


Small covered cups, referred to as pots a jus or pots a crème, were part of large Sevres dinner services. This 1768 pair with blue celeste ground and painted cherubs, also ex- Hodroff Collection, brought $1,020 at the New Orleans Auction Galleries sale in January. Courtesy New Orleans Auction Galleries.

Small covered cups, referred to as pots a jus or pots a crème, were part of large Sevres dinner services. This 1768 pair with blue celeste ground and painted cherubs, also ex- Hodroff Collection, brought $1,020 at the New Orleans Auction Galleries sale in January. Courtesy New Orleans Auction Galleries.


This elegant footed cup and saucer made at Sevres has a blue celeste ground and reserves painted with flowers and birds. The lot sold in New Orleans on March 27 for $420. Courtesy New Orleans Auction Galleries.

This elegant footed cup and saucer made at Sevres has a blue celeste ground and reserves painted with flowers and birds. The lot sold in New Orleans on March 27 for $420. Courtesy New Orleans Auction Galleries.


International demand continues for ornate objects decorated with Sevres-style porcelain, and they command high prices. This gilt bronze clock with a portrait of Louis XVI, second half of the 19th century, sold at a Leslie Hindman auction in January for $31,720. Courtesy Leslie Hindman Auctions, Chicago.

International demand continues for ornate objects decorated with Sevres-style porcelain, and they command high prices. This gilt bronze clock with a portrait of Louis XVI, second half of the 19th century, sold at a Leslie Hindman auction in January for $31,720. Courtesy Leslie Hindman Auctions, Chicago.


A circular table, or gueridon, ornamented with gilt metal attachments and inset Sevres-style portrait medallions, was sold by Leslie Hindman in January for $20,740. Courtesy Leslie Hindman Auctions, Chicago.

A circular table, or gueridon, ornamented with gilt metal attachments and inset Sevres-style portrait medallions, was sold by Leslie Hindman in January for $20,740. Courtesy Leslie Hindman Auctions, Chicago.

This rare large-scale bowl (D. 15 inches) was designed and carved by Walter Anderson and glazed by his brother Peter around 1930. Decorated with bacchantes and grapes, the example sold for $23,900 at the Louisiana Purchase Auction in November. Image courtesy Neal Auction Co.

Shearwater Pottery reflects natural beauty of Gulf Coast

This rare large-scale bowl (D. 15 inches) was designed and carved by Walter Anderson and glazed by his brother Peter around 1930. Decorated with bacchantes and grapes, the example sold for $23,900 at the Louisiana Purchase Auction in November. Image courtesy Neal Auction Co.

This rare large-scale bowl (D. 15 inches) was designed and carved by Walter Anderson and glazed by his brother Peter around 1930. Decorated with bacchantes and grapes, the example sold for $23,900 at the Louisiana Purchase Auction in November. Image courtesy Neal Auction Co.

When the Antiques Roadshow stops at Biloxi, Miss., collectors will be visually reminded of the region’s great legacy of art and studio pottery. The ceramics made at Newcomb College in New Orleans and by Biloxi’s own “Mad Potter” George Ohr are well known, but many people are less familiar with the beautiful creations of the Shearwater Pottery in nearby Ocean Springs.

Several variables distinguish Shearwater’s output from other wares. The pottery was founded in 1928, decades after the beginning of local firms like Newcomb and Ohr or of national companies like Grueby and Rookwood. Unlike classic art potteries, however, Shearwater continues to function more than 80 years later. And this continuity has been maintained because the workshop remains a family affair, run by descendants of the founding Anderson brothers.

Amanda Mantle Winstead, pottery expert at the Neal Auction Gallery in New Orleans, said, “The Shearwater Pottery was not part of the Arts and Crafts Movement. It’s all about the Anderson family. They’re an incredibly talented and creative group of people – they still are. The subsequent generations are also artists. Ocean Springs is a charming town, and the Walter Anderson Museum is absolutely wonderful. Next door is the Ocean Springs Community Center which is decorated with Walter Anderson’s amazing murals from the 1950s.”

Shearwater Pottery was founded by Peter, Walter and Mac Anderson in 1928. The brothers were inspired by their mother Annette McConnell Anderson, an artist who had studied at Newcomb College. The eldest brother, Peter, studied pottery-making techniques with various masters and at Alfred University in New York state. He learned how to throw on the wheel, make molds and create the colorful glazes used on the vessels. Younger brothers Walter and Mac decorated the pieces with carved patterns and painted designs.

Today Walter Inglis Anderson (1903-1965) is by far the best-known of the three siblings, because he was also a prolific watercolor and mural artist, noted for depicting the colorful wildlife and environments of the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Plagued by mental illness from the 1930s on, Anderson often retreated to islands off the coast with only survival gear. His intensely original and stylized depictions of marine life, birds and animals are highly sought-after by collectors.

His work has been the subject of major retrospectives, and both the paintings and family pottery have a permanent home in the Walter Anderson Museum in Ocean Springs. These works also appear on the national art market and in local auctions in New Orleans. As far as the pottery is concerned, Amanda Winstead noted, “If you can connect Walter Anderson to it – if you know he decorated the piece – that is what pulls it into the next level.”

At Neal’s Louisiana Purchase Auction in November 2009, such a work – a circa 1930 bowl with a carved decoration of grapes and dancing bacchantes – sold for $23,900. Winstead points out, “For Shearwater, that was an exceptionally large piece in a form they had not been known to have existed before. The owner of it showed it to the family and they were very excited about it. The museum wants to borrow it. That was a piece that Walter Anderson had designed and carved.”

Douglas Myatt, director of Collections and Exhibitions at the Walter Anderson Museum of Art, agrees, “That’s a phenomenal piece. We have a sister piece in the collection. It’s the same shape, but it was carved by their youngest brother Mac. It’s reticulated – he carved filigree around the edges – it’s pretty outstanding.

“We have quite a collection of pieces from the very earliest days – probably even before Shearwater actually opened, when Peter was doing test firings – to current things. It runs the gamut.”

In addition to the examples with carved decorations, the pottery produced charming bowls and vases painted with naturalistic motifs similar to those found in Walter Anderson’s paintings.

Collectors can learn more about the pottery and its output in two references. Dreaming in Clay by Christopher Maurer and Maria Estrella Iglesias is a comprehensive history of the pottery and its artists. The couple also provide information and a timeline at the Web site dreaminginclay.com. Shearwater Pottery by Dod Stewart with Marjorie Anderson Ashley and Earl Lamar Denham is filled with magnificent illustrations of the range of wares produced in Ocean Springs.

Stewart has a lifelong interest in Shearwater: “We used to spend our summers on the Gulf Coast, and I’ve been going over there since I was a little kid. We collected the figurines of baseball players and fairy tale figures which appealed to the kids.” The pottery’s line of figures also included a series of birds and animals.

Values for Shearwater pieces vary widely from five-figures prices for Walter Anderson’s early work to $100-$200 for later works and small figurines. Stewart stresses that every piece – from the pottery’s foundation to the present day – is an individual creation: “I think Shearwater Pottery is very under-appreciated – people don’t understand its history. It’s never been cheap because it takes a lot of time; it’s an expensive process.”

Although the museum was spared, the family compound and pottery were severely damaged by Hurricane Katrina. Production was disrupted for several months, but the works and its salesroom have been rebuilt and reopened. Douglas Myatt confirms, “They’re probably making more pottery now than in the last 20 years.

Learn more about Shearwater Pottery, the Anderson family, and life in Ocean Springs at the museum website walterandersonmuseum.org or call 228-872-3164.


ADDITIONAL LOTS OF NOTE


Walter Inglis Anderson (1903-1965) is best known as a watercolorist who sensitively captured the natural world of the Gulf Coast. This landscape triptych painted on Horn Island, his favorite retreat, recently brought $26,680. Image courtesy Neal Auction Co.

Walter Inglis Anderson (1903-1965) is best known as a watercolorist who sensitively captured the natural world of the Gulf Coast. This landscape triptych painted on Horn Island, his favorite retreat, recently brought $26,680. Image courtesy Neal Auction Co.


A 1981 bowl thrown by Peter Anderson and decorated with a band of figures by Mac Anderson sold in December 2005 for $3,840. Image courtesy Neal Auction Co.

A 1981 bowl thrown by Peter Anderson and decorated with a band of figures by Mac Anderson sold in December 2005 for $3,840. Image courtesy Neal Auction Co.


Wrapped with swimming fish, this Shearwater lamp base is signed by Mac Anderson and dates to around 1930. The rare form sold for $12,925 in Neal's December 2008 auction. Image courtesy Neal Auction Co.

Wrapped with swimming fish, this Shearwater lamp base is signed by Mac Anderson and dates to around 1930. The rare form sold for $12,925 in Neal’s December 2008 auction. Image courtesy Neal Auction Co.


Walter Anderson used many of the same naturalistic themes for pottery decoration that are found in his watercolors. This shallow bowl, thrown by brother Peter Anderson, is decorated with a duck motif. It sold at auction in 2007 for $9,400. Image courtesy Neal Auction Co.

Walter Anderson used many of the same naturalistic themes for pottery decoration that are found in his watercolors. This shallow bowl, thrown by brother Peter Anderson, is decorated with a duck motif. It sold at auction in 2007 for $9,400. Image courtesy Neal Auction Co.


A 6-inch-high vase, decorated around 1940 with the ‘Sea, Earth and Sky’ relief pattern designed by Walter Anderson, sold in 2006 for $5,875. Image courtesy Neal Auction Co.

A 6-inch-high vase, decorated around 1940 with the ‘Sea, Earth and Sky’ relief pattern designed by Walter Anderson, sold in 2006 for $5,875. Image courtesy Neal Auction Co.


Cast by Peter Anderson circa 1950, this vase was incised and painted with a marine pattern by Walter Anderson. The Shearwater piece sold in February 2009 for $2,115. Image courtesy Neal Auction Co.

Cast by Peter Anderson circa 1950, this vase was incised and painted with a marine pattern by Walter Anderson. The Shearwater piece sold in February 2009 for $2,115. Image courtesy Neal Auction Co.


A Shearwater art pottery bowl with bold black and white decoration by Mac Anderson brought $3525 at auction in 2006. Image courtesy Neal Auction Co.

A Shearwater art pottery bowl with bold black and white decoration by Mac Anderson brought $3525 at auction in 2006. Image courtesy Neal Auction Co.

This rare horizontal Grueby tile features an incised and embossed scene of a family of elephants, covered in polychrome matte glazes. The example, mounted in a period Arts and Crafts frame, sold in June 2009 for $26,400. Courtesy Rago Arts and Auction Center

Ceramics Collector: Green grows the Grueby, ripe for picking

This rare horizontal Grueby tile features an incised and embossed scene of a family of elephants, covered in polychrome matte glazes. The example, mounted in a period Arts and Crafts frame, sold in June 2009 for $26,400. Courtesy Rago Arts and Auction Center

This rare horizontal Grueby tile features an incised and embossed scene of a family of elephants, covered in polychrome matte glazes. The example, mounted in a period Arts and Crafts frame, sold in June 2009 for $26,400. Courtesy Rago Arts and Auction Center

During the Arts and Crafts period at the turn of the 20th century, Grueby in Boston produced elegant and organic handmade pottery that won medals at home and abroad. Now that the art pottery market has settled back down to earth from the extremely high prices of five or 10 years ago, excellent examples of Grueby vases and tiles are once again affordable acquisitions for collectors.

Although the vases made later in his career have received the most attention, William Grueby (1867-1925) started out as a manufacturer of glazed tile and architectural elements, established in 1894 as the Grueby Faience Co. Glazed terra-cotta tiles, brick, and revetments were a popular building material for interior and exterior use at the time. The material was colorful, durable and “hygienic,” or easily cleaned. Grueby had learned tile production and glazing while working for the J. & J.G. Low Art Tile Works in Chelsea, Mass.

Read more

This trio of transfer-printed plates, auctioned for $300 in February 2008, features a view of the “Park Theater New York” with oak leaf and acorn border, by Ralph Stevenson & Williams. Courtesy Skinner Inc.

Ceramics Collector: American Historical Staffordshire Wares

This trio of transfer-printed plates, auctioned for $300 in February 2008, features a view of the “Park Theater New York” with oak leaf and acorn border, by Ralph Stevenson & Williams. Courtesy Skinner Inc.

This trio of transfer-printed plates, auctioned for $300 in February 2008, features a view of the “Park Theater New York” with oak leaf and acorn border, by Ralph Stevenson & Williams. Courtesy Skinner Inc.

Throughout human history, commercial considerations can quickly trump political differences. Economic prosperity seems far more important in the long run than clinging to old enmities. In the 20th century, Americans were purchasing excellent cars from Germany and Japan only a few decades after the battles of World War II.

In the 18th century prior to the Revolutionary War, colonists had imported English stoneware and creamware because it was well made and fashionable. The expertise of the British potteries in mass production made their products a good value even when the long sea journey was factored in.

In the early 19th century, it is no surprise that newly independent Americans once again clamored for British china. Marketing entrepreneurs at pottery firms in the Staffordshire district and elsewhere actively designed patterns that would appeal to American patriotic fervor. Read more

Bright as flowers in a meadow, many of Cabat's glaze colors are unique to her pottery. Vivid lapis and lavender alternates with subtle shades of cream. Courtesy Bruce Block.

Ceramics Collector: Cabat’s ‘feelies’

Bright as flowers in a meadow, many of Cabat's glaze colors are unique to her pottery. Vivid lapis and lavender alternates with subtle shades of cream. Courtesy Bruce Block.

Bright as flowers in a meadow, many of Cabat’s glaze colors are unique to her pottery. Vivid lapis and lavender alternates with subtle shades of cream. Courtesy Bruce Block.

While some modern studio pottery is intellectual or even angst-ridden, the work of Rose Cabat (b. 1914) expresses pure joy in its design and decoration. The rounded thin-walled vases, thrown on the wheel, are covered with vivid glazes that mimic the best hues from the natural world.

“Her vases are all about the uniqueness of the shape and the glaze,” said Don Treadway of Treadway Gallery in Cincinnati. “They’re aptly called ‘feelies’ because they are so inviting to actually touch. They transcend normal pottery collectors and appeal to people who just collect objects.”

Read more

This large 17th century Japanese Imari plate – over 21 inches in diameter – is decorated in underglaze blue and overglaze enamels. The central medallion is decorated with a stylized lion and peonies. Image courtesy Seattle Art Museum.

Ceramics Collector: Imari Style

This large 17th century Japanese Imari plate – over 21 inches in diameter – is decorated in underglaze blue and overglaze enamels. The central medallion is decorated with a stylized lion and peonies. Image courtesy Seattle Art Museum.

This large 17th century Japanese Imari plate – over 21 inches in diameter – is decorated in underglaze blue and overglaze enamels. The central medallion is decorated with a stylized lion and peonies. Image courtesy Seattle Art Museum.

For ceramics collectors, Imari is a porcelain, a palette, and a passion. The style gets its name from the town of Imari on the coast of Japan’s largest island, Kyushu, which served as the primary shipping port for porcelain made in the nearby city of Arita.

Imari’s decorative style and bold color scheme became popular immediately with aristocratic collectors in Europe. The colorful designs were copied and interpreted by Chinese, European, and English factories. Even today, Imari porcelain brightens collections around the world.

Read more