The Ceramic Arts Studio
The Ceramic Arts Studio of Madison (CAS) produced decorative
figurines, wall plaques, salt and pepper sets, and head vases from 1942
until its closing in 1956. Its ware was distributed nationally to
stores such as Marshall Fields and Gumps.
In 1998 a Wisconsin State Historical marker was erected at the site of the old studio on Blount street in Madison. The text of the sign reads:
At this site, 8-12 North Blount Street, the Ceramic Arts Studio of Madison operated from 1940 until its closing in 1956. Founded by Lawrence Rabbitt and Reuben Sand, the company was one of the largest manufacturers of figurines in the world, distributing up to 500,000 pieces annually to better gift and department stores. The vases, figurines, and salt and pepper sets—designed chiefly by Betty Harrington—were known nationally for their great originality and consistently high standards of manufacture.
In 1942, Betty Harrington visited the Ceramic Arts Studio and asked the owners to fire a figurine she had sculpted from clay found in her backyard. Recognizing her artistic talent, co-owner Reuben Sand refused a fee, but instead asked Harrington to model more figures. It was the beginning of Harrington’s career as a potter—in the next 14 years she designed more than 800 figurines for the company.
Today Harrington’s designs are recognized for their originality and skillful modeling. In addition to nursery rhyme and storybook characters such as Peter Pan and Little Bo Peep, Harrington designed other themed series, including animals, religious, as well as ethnic figures in native costume. Among Harrington’s most celebrated designs are the “theater pieces”—so-called for the familiar Comedy and Tragedy figures of the series. The line was inspired by the modern dance movement of the 1940s, as exemplified by Martha Graham.
A lifelong Wisconsin resident, Harrington designed and produced pottery--albeit on a limited basis--until her death in 1998. She designed and produced commemorative figurines available to attendees of the first Ceramic Arts Studio Collectors Association Convention in 1997.
Harrington figurines can command high prices: a salt and pepper set Harrington designed for the Novelty Salt and Pepper Shaker Collectors Club was auctioned for $5,000 at their 1992 Convention.
WPA Related sites:
Related Sites: (The sites will open up in a new window)
CAS Collectors Society - A group of people with a common interest in Ceramic Arts Studio.
Ceramic Arts Studio: The Legacy of Betty Harrington - is the authoritative book by Tim Holthaus, Jim Petzold and Donald-Brian Johnson. Information about the book, the authors & a nice history of the pottery is available.