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June 1, 2013
Wisconsin Pottery Association Sale and
The Wisconsin Pottery Association (WPA) will hold its 18th annual Show and Sale on August 24, 2013. Fifty of America’s best pottery dealers will be selling a range of antique and contemporary art pottery. As always, experts will be on hand to identify and evaluate your “mystery” pottery (limit 2 per admission).
This year’s Exhibit is Roseville: America’s Decorative Art Pottery. On display will be over 120 examples of Roseville pottery, representing many of the best lines from the company’s 63 year history.
In 1892 the Roseville Pottery began producing utilitarian cooking vessels, flower pots and spittoons in Roseville, Ohio. George F. Young was the company’s secretary, treasurer and general manager. The firm went out of business after a few years, and Young bought the business and assumed the role of president, as well as continuing on as general manager. The Young family owned and managed the company continuously from 1896 until it closed in 1954.
In addition to continuing its utilitarian products, Young also made the first decorative art pottery at Roseville. The so-called Vase Assortment line featured brightly colored vases with molded floral designs that were given away by A&P Grocery Stores as premiums to customers. In 1898 Young purchased a second factory eight miles away in Zanesville, Ohio in order to expand his art pottery production and take advantage of the growing commercial market for art ware. The Rookwood Pottery in Cincinnati was the pioneering Ohio art pottery maker, and along with various New England firms, had created and dominated the new market. Other Zanesville potteries, most notably the Weller Pottery and the Owens Pottery, had already started making decorative art pottery in Zanesville shortly before Roseville set up their primary shop there.
Roseville’s first art lines included the blended glaze lines now called Majolica and Roseville’s version of Rookwood’s Standard Glaze line which was called Rozane Royal. Ross C. Purdy created the glazes and developed the technical processes underlying Roseville’s standard glaze line. Similar “standard glaze” lines were produced by both of Roseville’s Zanesville competitors, the Owens and Weller potteries. Majolica pieces were probably being produced before 1900 at Roseville, while the earliest Rozane Royal vase is dated 1900.
In 1900, George Young hired Austrian-born John J. Herold, a self-taught craftsman who used technical trade papers, careful observation and experimentation to standardize Roseville’s earthenware bodies, glazes and production process. Herold was also responsible for creating the Azurean line, a sort of blue standard glaze, and Modern Art, a line that brought the European art nouveau style to Roseville.
Roseville’s most important early artist was the Englishman Frederick H. Rhead who came from a family of potters in Staffordshire, England. Only 22 when he emigrated to Wheeling, West Virginia to take a job with the Avon Pottery Company in 1902, Rhead moved 75 miles west to take a job at the Weller Pottery where he created several important pottery lines including Jap Birdimal and Rhead Faience. But Rhead’s best early work was done at Roseville where he was hired as art director in 1904. There he created what is arguably America’s greatest art pottery line, Della Robbia, and supervised the development of many of Roseville best early lines including Cremo, Crocus, Mongol, Egypto, Woodland, Olympic, Fudji, Matt Green, Creamware, Rozane Royal Light, and Crystalis among others. Examples of these rare, valuable and beautiful art pottery lines will be on display at the 2013 WPA exhibit.
After Frederick H. Rhead left Roseville in 1908, his brother Harry Rhead became art director until 1918. While Harry did not produce the great art pottery that exemplified his brother’s stay at Roseville, his oversight had a crucial economic impact on the company by de-emphasizing labor intensive, hand-tooled art ware in favor of molded ware with raised (embossed) patterns, which 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, a trend that other Zanesville potteries such as Weller were also embracing. Harry Rhead designed several popular lines, including the Arts and Crafts Mostique, and the classically patterned Donatello, which featured embossed cherubs on a tan, green and white background. The Early Velmoss, Early Carnelian, Antique Matt Green, and Pauleo lines were also introduced during Harry Rhead’s tenure at Roseville.
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 1919, and continued in that position until the plant closed in 1953. Ferrell designed nearly 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.
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 the legend is that it saved the firm from bankruptcy during the Depression, just as the Donatello pattern was said to have 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 after 1937. New Pine Cone forms were continually being added to the line. In 1953, Ferrell revisited the line and introduced 51 new shapes, all with raised script numbers in the 400s. It was named Pine Cone Modern.
Following World War II, Roseville encountered competition from cheaper art ware made overseas, as well as a burgeoning California commercial pottery industry. Despite efforts to modernize its style, and even enter the dinnerware market with Raymore dinnerware, Roseville closed its doors in 1954, ending an important period in Zanesville, and beginning a new era as one of America’s foremost collectible potteries.
This will be the Wisconsin Pottery Association’s 18th all-Pottery Show/Sale and Exhibit. 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, visit the WPA website (http://wisconsinpottery.org) or write the WPA at PO Box 705, Madison, Wisconsin 53701-0705.
This article takes its lead on Roseville history, line names, dates and facts from Mark Bassett’s outstanding and well documented books, Introducing Roseville Pottery and Understanding Roseville Pottery, available from Schiffer Books.
The Pottery Show/Sale, and the Exhibit: Roseville: America’s Decorative Art Pottery, will be one day only, Saturday, August 24, 2013 at the Alliant Energy Center off Rimrock Road near John Nolan Drive in Madison, Wisconsin. From I-90, take Exit 142-A, Highway 12-18 west five miles to Exit 262, Rimrock Road, then north one-quarter mile. The Exhibit and Show will be open from 9am until 4pm. Admission will be $6. Show ads can be used to secure free parking.