Monday, February 11, 2013

Groovy Grueby

Arts and Crafts Pottery Lydia oh Lydia Style:

The sum up: The term “Arts & Crafts” refers to the addition of decorative arts like furniture and pottery being recognized as fine art alongside traditional fine arts like painting and sculpting. For the first time ever as early as the mid 1800’s people are starting to appreciate daring crafts people who are creating experimenting pieces of furniture and pottery. I am talking seriously crazy stuff completely opposite of the popular styles of the time. I will tell you more about that in a later post today this week is all about art pottery. 

Hello friends, this week I am learning about art pottery for our upcoming auction. I need to figure out the differences between a $10,000.00 Grueby piece versus a $300 Weller piece. Today I am going to focus on Grueby.

William Henry Grueby (1867-1925)

Now pay attention this is a potter’s novella. To tell the story of Grueby we have to start our story in 1872 when lil’ William was 5-years-old, we’ll get back to him in a little while. Right now we’re learning about the Robertson family; Dad: James and sons: Hugh, Alexander, and George who were a family of potters from Chelsea Massachusetts, they formed Chelsea Keramic Art Works. Eventually Hugh started make an experimental pottery glazes trying to achieve a dark blood red color. By 1884 his dad passed away and his brothers left.

George Robinson started working for John Gardener Low and his father John Low at the J. & J.G. Low Art Tile Works. George brought the formulas for all his brother Hugh’s experimental glazes. Nice back stabbing brother. Worse the tile works was also in Chelsea. However Karma is a witch and now we meet up again with Henry Grueby who was hired to work at the J. & J.G Low Art Tile Works in 1880 at the tender age of 13. At the age of 23 Grueby has learned the glaze formulas from George Robinson and enough about making art pottery vessels that he leaves to start his own firm in 1890.

His first firm merges with another firm and doesn’t work out yadda yadda yadda. In 1894 he starts what is to become the famous Grueby Faience Company. (Geek alertFaience” is defined as  the conventional name in English for fine tin-glazed pottery on a delicate pale buff earthenware body )This new company was the perfect combination for success, with Hugh Roberson’s glazes, stolen by brother George, and again  by Grueby, on tiles and then on pottery vessels designed by George Pentiss Kendrick (a noted architect and potter), under Grueby’s direction and backed by wealthy business partners, The Grueby Faience Company would prove to be the most important Art’s and Craft pottery in American history.
Grueby continued to experiment with Robinson’s glaze formulas and made beautiful brown, yellow, blue, and of course green. Grueby pottery is most known for their beautiful matte green glazes. You know that green. Go to any gardening store and they will have pots, urns, and planters in that dark green color that was made famous by Grueby. Worst part is that back in his day the Greuby green was all the rage but hardly anyone of modest means could afford his pottery. Many companies started mass producing their own versions of his designs. Yes they were crappy mass produced molded pieces, but people could afford them. Sadly his great success ultimately caused the Grueby Faience Company’s financial demise and in closed in 1909.

But WHY? You cry. I know simple green urns. Go figure.

Because they are important and special. I’ll tell you why.

All Grueby pottery was made by hand and only in harmony with itself. This means that the clay should be used in their most natural intended shape, not in the fussy ornate ways in fashion of the time. Look at the popular leaf designs. Do you see how each leaf was made by hand and applied on? Each flower and each line is made by hand with the purpose of creating harmony and natural beauty.

Also the mixing of glazes and subtle decorations should only enhance the natural shape of the pot. That’s why the shapes at first look may seem kind of plain.

Look closely.

Do you see the matte green glaze? 
Look closer. See how the glaze is thicker in places?
See how the differing amounts of glaze forms an organic texture on the piece?  
See the variation of color in each piece?  
See the under glaze peaking out in spots?
Some pieces have crackled glaze, some have a sort of alligator skin? 

These are all meant to harmonize with the form and decoration to create a natural synchronicity between the pottery and the pottery.  Almost like the potter becomes one with the clay and is solely there to aid the clay in taking its ideal shape. The same idea with the glazing they would put on the glaze and let it naturally melt down the piece. Because who is man to dictate to nature?

I think it’s cool. Since the pots were all made by hand and the different mixing and glaze applying techniques were always yielding different effects on each piece that makes each Grueby pot is its own unique piece of fine art.

That’s why Tiffany Studios ask Greuby to make the bases for their early lamps, until they hired away one of his potters. The novella continues.  

No comments:

Post a Comment