America's Decorative Art Pottery

 One Day Exhibit of Roseville Art Pottery 
How often can you see great examples of all the major lines made by the Roseville Pottery? You may see a few pieces in antique malls, and a few more at pottery shows, but most of us never have the opportunity to see the entire range of Roseville’s production all at once. The Wisconsin Pottery Association (WPA) will provide this rare opportunity in a comprehensive showing of this popular Art Pottery at its August 28, 1999 Exhibit: Roseville: America’s Decorative Art Pottery.

On display will be over 300 examples of Roseville pottery, representing about 140 of  the best lines produced during the company’s 63 year history. As if that’s not enough, the Exhibit will include special displays on topics of interest to old and new Roseville collectors alike. And, as with past WPA Exhibits, Roseville: America’s Decorative Art Pottery will be held along with the WPA’s annual Pottery Show and Sale where over 75 pottery dealers will sell every type of antique and collectible pottery.

The Roseville Pottery began producing utilitarian earthenware in Roseville, Ohio in 1890. Over the next decade, it purchased factories in nearby Zanesville where production of Art Pottery began around 1900 with the Rozane line. Under the artistic direction of the English potter Frederick H. Rhead, the firm produced several great Art Pottery lines including Della Robbia, Mongol, Egypto, Woodland, Olympic, Fudji, Azurean, and others. Examples of these seldom-seen lines, as well as samples of the early utility ware, will open this year’s Exhibit. By 1910, the Roseville Pottery relocated its entire operation to Zanesville, where production increasingly turned to molded ware with raised (embossed) patterns. These served as templates for hand painted decoration of the pottery. This technique allowed less-skilled artisans to decorate more pieces, which increased the amount of ware produced, and profits. Frank Ferrell created the Roseville pottery that is most familiar and popular to antique lovers today. A Zanesville native and artist at several area potteries, he became Roseville’s art director in 1918, and continued in that position until the plant closed in 1953. Ferrell designed all of Roseville’s Art Pottery during this period, about 90 lines in all. Ferrell sculpted the embossed patterns, designed thousands of shapes, and chose the colors based on ceramic engineer George Krause’s beautiful and durable matt glazes. Frank Ferrell’s 35 year legacy at Roseville will form a major part of Roseville: America’s Decorative Art Pottery

 One of the special displays within the Exhibit will feature Roseville experimental vases. Almost all of the "Roseville experimentals" for sale at antique malls or on the internet are imposters. Many are routine production items from other potteries, while others may have been cast from Roseville pieces by unknown makers. Genuine Roseville experimentals differ in several ways from ordinary production pottery: the raised patterns were hand-sculpted rather than produced from a mold, most were done on four basic shapes, many had notes and information etched on the blank side, and as such they were either one-of-a-kind, or very limited in number. Ferrell created these experimentals to assess their potential in concrete form. Some patterns were selected for mass production, others were not.

While these rare items occasionally turn up for sale at Art Pottery shows, most are already in the hands of collectors. But it does pay to know the difference. A few years ago, two genuine Roseville experimentals were purchased for under $75 at a rural Wisconsin flea market. It remains a mystery how they got there. A selection of Roseville experimentals and trial glaze vases will be included in the Exhibit, along with some common imposters. 

 One of Frank Ferrell’s greatest creations for Roseville was the Pine Cone line. Introduced in the early 1930s in rich blue, golden brown, and soft green glazes, it was the company’s best-selling line, and may have saved the firm from bankruptcy during the Depression, just as the Donatello pattern reversed the company’s fortunes in 1915. Over 150 Pine Cone shapes were created, the largest number of forms in any Roseville line. A common misconception among beginning collectors is that Roseville lines were produced for one year only; in fact, the company continued making a line, and even adding new forms to it, until sales declined. The Pine Cone line is a good example of this. Pine Cone forms can be found unmarked (they probably had the silver or gold paper label used in the early 1930s), with an impressed mark, and, most commonly, with the raised script mark that was used from 1937 until 1953. This may be evidence that  new Pine Cone forms were continually being added to the line. Furthermore, the obvious stylistic and glaze differences in the Pine Cone "400 series" (shapes with raised script numbers in the 400s) may indicate that Ferrell revisited the line in the late 1940s or early 1950s, updating or replacing some of the earlier shapes with the sleeker, modernistic style of the period. The Roseville Exhibit will include special displays of Pine Cone and Futura, two of Ferrell’s most popular Roseville lines.

Roseville authors Nancy Bomm and Mark Bassett are scheduled to attend the Exhibit and sell at the Show where they will be available to chat with the public about their books and Roseville pottery. Mrs. Bomm and her late husband Jack wrote Roseville In All Its Splendor, an extremely useful, informative, and complete guide to the Roseville Pottery. This 1998 book is essential to anyone who wants to understand the breadth and beauty of Roseville’s work. Mr. Bassett’s book Introducing Roseville Pottery has just been published. His research documents previously unknown Roseville products, revises some of the dates commonly attributed to Roseville lines, and promises a new approach and perspective for Roseville collectors. Roseville: America’s Decorative Art Pottery will also include information on how to identify Roseville, how to tell the difference between Roseville and common look-a-likes (including the Chinese reproductions currently on the market), the company’s history, how to value Roseville, and other interesting odds and ends about Roseville and the people who made it. But most of all, there will be hundreds of beautiful and rare Roseville pots to see, tangible proof of the breadth and brilliance of the Roseville Pottery’s amazing legacy. This will be the Wisconsin Pottery Association’s fourth all-Pottery Show/Sale, and its fourth Exhibit of American Art Pottery.  The WPA is a non-profit organization formed in 1992 by collectors interested in studying and promoting collectible pottery. Meetings are held monthly and include speakers and informal discussions on pottery. For more information, write the WPA at PO Box 46, Madison, Wisconsin 53701-0046, or call (608) 251-1306, or visit the WPA website (

The WPA’s Show and Exhibit will again be held concurrently with the Ceramic Art Studio Convention, sponsored by the CAS Collectors Association. For information about this three day convention and the CAS Collectors, call (608) 241-9138.

The Pottery Show/Sale, and the Exhibit: Roseville: America’s Decorative Art Pottery, will be one day only, Saturday, August 28, 1999 in Madison, Wisconsin at the Madison Marriot West. From I-90, take Exit 142-A, Highway 12-18, and go west about 15 miles to Exit 242, Greenway Boulevard. The Exhibit and Show will be open from 9am until 5pm. Admission will be $4.


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