Art Pottery & 20th Century Design
QUESTION: I recently
realized that I very
much enjoy art pottery. How can I get started as a new collector?
|Attend the pottery
questions. Get permission to handle pieces, so that you can test their
weight, examine their decorations up close, feel the different glaze
Read. Visit museums
When you buy, buy what you like.
It is usually a smarter plan to buy the
single most expensive
piece you can afford... and go home... instead of buying several less
items for the same overall cost.
QUESTION: What books do you
to my personal library?
Your first "must-have" reference book
should be Lehner's Encyclopedia
of U.S. Marks on Pottery, Porcelain & Clay, published by
For a survey of the American potteries,
the most highly recommended sources are, unfortunately, out of print...
American Art Pottery, and Paul Evans' Art Pottery of
the United States. You can sometimes find a used copy on the
Internet. Another choice is Art Pottery of America,
by Lucile Henzke, available from Schiffer Publishing.
Roseville is plentiful throughout the
U.S. and has a major
following among collectors. If you buy only one book on the company,
should own Introducing Roseville
When you're ready to learn more, buy Roseville in All Its
Splendor (published by L-W Books) and Understanding
QUESTION: Can I use the
Internet instead of
|No. Not if you want to learn
about your subject
in any detail.
There are exceptional resources on the
recommended sites, visit the Links page.)
are also some very unreliable Internet sites.
In addition, I have read
dozens of inaccurate summaries of Roseville's history both in print and
Internet--often based largely on speculation and
Caution: Ebay auction listings
can be accurate,
or inaccurate--just like books can range in quality. Challenge
QUESTION: If I order one of your
books, when will it arrive?
|Thanks for your support of my research!
They're ready to ship on receipt of your check!
About 50% of what I earn from the books
comes from buying
them wholesale and then selling autographed copies by mail or at
shows. When you buy your copy anywhere else, I only earn royalties...
25 cents to $1 per copy.
My shipping/handling fee does not
fully cover the cost of Media Mail and packaging. Media Mail is slower
than First Class, but it keeps your costs down. NOTE: I usually sell
books for less than the cover price.
QUESTION: May I send
you a JPEG of a piece of pottery? Maybe you can tell me who made it or
much it's worth (or both).
|Sorry, but the answer to this question
I also teach full time and have a busy schedule--but no staff.
Sorry, but NO! >
QUESTION: If a piece of
pottery is not marked,
how can its maker be identified?
|Ahh, the national pottery lovers'
sport. Sometimes it
can't be done. But the probable makers can often be narrowed down to
a small handful. (There is always the possibility that the maker was a
company that has been forgotten!)
Some potteries marked over 90% of their
Fulper, Grueby, Newcomb College, Rookwood, Teco. Caution:
are usually marked too--with fake marks!
Clay color is a major clue. Most
Zanesville (Ohio) firms
used buff clay (although white was used with lustre glazes). Other
using buff clay for some of their production include Camark, Rosemeade,
White clay was the norm at Abingdon,
AMACO, Ceramic Arts
Studio, Cowan, Hampshire, Monmouth, Wheatley.
For molded shapes, you then identify the
produced a mold of that identical shape and size.
Caution: No book
is infallible. When doing research, weigh archival evidence more
heavily than photographs of a personal collection.
Other clues include method of
manufacture, quality of
execution, surface decorations, glaze, etc.
QUESTION: Does a damaged
piece of pottery
still have any value?
|Yes, but a damaged example never has as
great a value as
one in "mint" condition. (The term "mint" means "factory new"--in
the same condition as when sold by
The value of a damaged item depends
partly on the extent
and location of the damage, and partly on the item's rarity, aesthetic
or decorative appeal, and current market demand. These variables
make appraisal a challenging process.
QUESTION: Should I buy
damaged pieces for
|As mint examples of a rare shape become
collectors learn to be more tolerant of minor damage, such as small
and losses, or a drill hole in the base (to allow a vase to be used as
an electric lamp base). Hairlines are more bothersome.
Beginners should avoid buying damaged
examples when they
start their collection. After a year or two, they will know their
area well enough to reconsider that subject.
QUESTION: Should I have a
damaged piece of
|Experts differ on this score. Some
believe that a pot
should be left in its original condition as much as possible. Others
a "cosmetic" restoration for display purposes.
For posterity's sake, all
restorations should be
fully removable ("reversible"). The restorations most widely accepted
museum curators) can be removed completely with acetone. These are
made with the use of epoxy cement and acrylic paint. More aggressive
are seldom necessary; some think them unethical.
© 2009 Mark Bassett