Friday, February 15, 2013

Okay, today is Rookwood Pottery. 

No not rock wood. The pottery maker is pronounced, Rook- like the castle piece in chess that can only travel in a straight line, and wood-like my boss is going to bang his head on wood if I mispronounce Rookwood again. 

Rookwood Limoges 1882 -MLN
The Rookwood Pottery Company was founded by society lady, Maria (pronounced Mar-eye-a) Longwood Nichols in November of 1880 in an old school in Cincinnati Ohio. Maria’s technique of painting decorations under the glaze or if you want to impress your friends the official term for her technique was “under glaze slip decoration”. This technique was invented in Limoges France and is pretty simple, the potter mixing clay with water and adding oxides (color pigments used in glaze) then use as paint on unfired pottery. The challenge is finding talented artists and potters who can combine their individual expertise and produce high quality finished pieces.  

Maria and her staff of artisans successfully produced a fine art pottery that was one of only a hand full of pottery brands that was put in the same class as French Limoges.  In fact the first years of production people referred to Rookwood pottery as Cincinnati Faience (Faience is just a fancy word for glazed earthenware) or more commonly as Cincinnati Limoges.
Limoges Tea Cup-Jean Pouyat 1890

Do you know what French Limoges is? (Pronounces Li-mo-oj) Hand painted china made in Limoges France. I am sure that your mom or grandma had Limoges in her china cabinet and you were never allowed to touch it?

After the great success of the traditional Limoges technique the Rookwood pottery company decided to invent new techniques that could help them stand out from the competition. They invented their now famous pottery lines; Standard, Tiger Eye, Mahogany, and Gold Stone. The addition of these new lines defined them as a top brand of Art Pottery in the US. Then they put their new pieces in direct completion with the best pottery in the world at the 1889 Paris Exposition. Did they win? OUI BIEN!  Rookwood earns a gold medal and becomes an international force in the Art Pottery world.

Rookwood expended from their old school house to a larger facility and continued to introduce more line and new glazes. They continued to make each piece by hand with high quality decorations keeping with Maria’s vision of having each piece be a unique high quality work of art. The company was very successful until the great depression and in 1941 even filed for Bankruptcy. Each piece made after 1886 is marked with a multi-flamed RP stamp and roman numerals to give the date and the initials of the artist who painted it. The company did get sold a few times and officially closed in 1967. By the time they closed their doors there was Rookwood pottery in museums and important art collections all over the world.

The doors stayed closed for almost 40 years until 2004 when thanks to a passionate conservator a new Rookwood pottery company would reopen again. Check them out.
If you want to know more about the actual pottery lines I am breaking it down tomorrow.    

After researching and reading all about Rookwood I still have one burning question. Do you?

Why was it called Rookwood Pottery and not Longwood or Nichols Pottery? Guess the answer in a 
comment and the winner will get a big shout out!

Dixie Terminal Building in Cincinnati OH,
Rookwood pottery facade 121  

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