20th Century Decorative Arts

A Cure For The Arts and Crafts Blues

March 22nd, 2010 by
I can’t say I was feeling blue on a recent antiquing adventure at the Boston Antiques and Design Show and Sale, but one look at three remarkable blue and white delft tiles quickly changed that!

Before I share the story of these delightful delfts and what makes them so special, let’s take a brief look at the history of ceramic tiles. Functional and decorative tiles have been around since around 4000 BC; the oldest known tiles were discovered in Egypt. Over the centuries, they were used extensively to decorate places of religious worship and later the homes and businesses of affluent individuals. Fast forward to 1584; expert potters from the Dutch city of Delft begin creating the area’s now iconic blue and white ceramics that are now known all over the world. The designs behind these blue and white classics were in part based on imported Chinese porcelain of the 17th century. The city of Delft was a homeport of the Dutch East India Company, so these early potters clearly had a world of inspiration right in their own backyards.  (This picture here on the left shows a delightful variety of colorful American and European tiles from the mid 1600’s through the 1930’s.)
Having a personal passion for all things from the arts and crafts movement (1870 – 1920), I was intrigued to learn that these tiles were not only from that amazing design period, but were actually designed by William Morris himself! William Morris was the founder of the arts and crafts era, a design and philosophical movement which started as a backlash to the industrial mechanized production of goods which separated craftsman from craft.  Morris and his colleagues advocated for a return to all things simple and handmade to make life more authentic. This movement started in England and quickly spread throughout Europe and then to the United States.  (This picture is a close up of the single William Morris blue and white hand painted delft tile I found on my adventure.)
These remarkable tiles, perfect examples of the artisan work of the arts and crafts movement, were created in 1870 in Morris’ own “scroll” pattern. They were manufactured by hand for him by three different Dutch factories.  They are tin glazed, meaning they are finished with a glaze made by adding tin to a lead glaze, which when fired becomes an opaque white.  These tiles were originally designed to decorate Morris’ own “arts and crafts” style home in Bexleyheath, London, known as The Red House.   In addition to tiles, Morris and his group of like minded artistic friends collaboratively produced arts and crafts style wallpaper, fabric, rugs, furniture, and other decorative objects.  (This picture is of two William Morris blue and white hand painted delft tiles in a wooden frame that I found on my adventure.)
Although William Morris died in 1896, his influence on style, design, and architecture remains important more than 100 years after his passing.

I would like to thank Wendy Harvey and Sandy Fowler, owners of Antique Articles of Dunstable, Massachusetts for sharing these breathtaking arts and crafts tiles with me. Antique Articles, in business for over 20 years, specializes in tiles made during the English arts and crafts era through the American arts and crafts era.  In addition to individual tiles they have panels, tables, fireplace surrounds, and art tiles.
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Roseville Pottery – by Rosemary Trietsch

January 5th, 2010 by

bittersweetWhen it comes to the art of pottery, the name ‘Roseville’ says it all. The Roseville Pottery Company produced some of the most beautiful American Art pottery of the 20th Century. From the simplest utilitarian wares to their artist signed pieces, Roseville is eagerly sought by today’s collectors.

The Roseville Pottery Company was incorporated in 1892 by George F. Young. The earliest product was utilitarian stoneware items such as flower pots and umbrella stands. In 1898, the company moved from Roseville Ohio to a larger and more modern facility in Zanesville Ohio – which was well known for its rich clay deposits. It was here that they began producing art pottery, introducing their Rozane line in 1900 to compete with slip-decorated wares being manufactured by Weller and Rookwood.

By the mid teens, market demand was moving away from the expensive hand-crafted art pottery and towards less expensive, mass produced pottery. Roseville’s ability to adapt to the changing trend is what set them apart from their competitors. They easily transitioned from hand made to mass produced lines while still maintaining the artistry of their wares. Patterns like Donatello, Carnelian and Mostique established Roseville’s reputation for ‘art quality commercial pottery’.

But it was in 1919 when Frank Ferrel became art director at Roseville that the company hit its stride. It was under his artistic direction that Roseville began producing the floral patterns and Art Deco designs that have become synonymous with its name.  Ferrel collaborated with glaze chemist George Krause to create what are easily the most popular and highly sought patterns that Roseville produced: Sunflower, Futura, Ferella,  Cherry Blossom, and Blackberry just to name a few.

It was the success of Ferrel’s Pine Cone pattern that paved the way for the floral patterns of the 1940’s and early 50’s. Introduced in 1930, it was the first pattern to have a Roseville signature incised or in relief on the base. The Pine Cone line included over 75 different shapes in 3 different color combinations. Pine Cone became the most commercially successful line Roseville ever produced, with the highest sales volume of any Roseville pattern.

During the 1930’s and 40’s, Ferrel added at least 2 new floral designs to production each year. Patterns such as Magnolia, Fuchsia, Bleeding Heart, Zephyr Lily and Bittersweet kept Roseville in the forefront of the pottery market. But the end of World War II brought change to the world’s economic climate. After 1945, sales began to decline as foreign imports flooded the pottery market. While Roseville was still the best quality art pottery available at the time, the inexpensive price of these imports became impossible to overcome. In 1952, the company introduced an ovenware line called Raymor, but it was not enough to save them. Roseville Pottery company ceased operations in 1954.

Throughout its 64 year history, Roseville’s versatility and creativeness kept it at the forefront of the art pottery world. To this day, the name ‘Roseville Pottery’ represents some of the finest and most collectible art pottery ever produced.