You are hereBrief History of Roseville Pottery Production
Brief History of Roseville Pottery Production
Outlining the historical evolution of a pottery that adapted to changes in tastes, styles, economy and technology.
Roseville Pottery - The Early Years
In 1890, Roseville Pottery’s production consisted of functional earthenware which was used for cooking, storing food, and other boring, everyday uses. During the late 1890’s Roseville Pottery’s president, George F. Young noticed that other Ohio potteries were having success producing and selling functional artware. Young decided that if his company was to remain competitive with the likes of Weller and Owens a dramatic change must be made.
Young hired artist Ross C. Purdy to create the line that would represent the company’s entry into the competitive world of art pottery. Purdy was successful in edging Roseville Pottery into art territory with the Rozane Royal line, a high-gloss art line that came in both dark colors and pastels (referred to as Rozane Light). Rozane Light offered more subtle detail than Royal and an interesting complexity that you might not expect from a pastel. At the time Rookwood, a competing pottery company, had a brown glaze line. Rozane Royal was thought to be the poor man’s Rookwood but, while Rozane is well-executed, Rookwood’s Standard Glaze was superior and not equaled by any other company.
John J. Herold was the next artist addition, hired in 1900. He had previously worked for Weller and Owens. Herold took over as designer for the art line and created Rozane Mongol. Rozane Mongul had a deep, rich red glaze finish known as, Sang de Boeuf. This finish is almost impossible to recreate. As such, the Mongol line is very distinct line and, in 1904, it took first prize at the St. Louis World’s Fair. Mongol pieces occasional had an additional overlay of silver.
By 1901, with over 300 employees and skyrocketing popularity, it was time for Roseville Pottery to expand. Young purchased a fourth plant that housed 4 kilns and 50 employees. In 1902, with a bustling new location, Roseville added a new artist to its roster. Christian Neilson, a sculpture from Denmark, brought a new dimension of creativity and developed the Egypto line.
Egypto was a complete departure for Roseville Pottery. It was known for its soft finish in greenish shades. Matte glazed, Egypto pieces were modeled after potteries of ancient Egypt and the designs on the pots were reproductions of antiques found in Egypt. Egypto serves as a perfect example of how great design can span many different styles. When one examines Egypto closely they will note elements of Art Nouveau, Arts & Crafts and even a bit of what the world would eventually define as Art Deco. This gives Egypto a timeless feel and allows it to add a complementary touch to many interior design styles.
A new art director, Frank Rhead, entered the Roseville Pottery scene in 1903 and introduced several additional lines during his 5 year reign. He also re-introduced Roseville to more utilitarian designs. The Mara line came to fruition in 1904, possibly as a worthy competitor to Weller Pottery’s Sicard line. Mara pots are iridescent and introduce a playful flirtation with the effects of light on paint and glaze. In 1905 Rhead introduced the Aztec line which was mostly made up of pitchers and vases with an Art Nouveau design. Rhead seems to have been especially fond of Art Deco, as his later work away from Roseville Pottery featured Art Deco designs as well.
1906 ushered in four lines—Fudji, Woodland, Crystalis and Della Robbia. Both Fudji and Woodland were created by designer Gazo Foudji. To develop the Fudji line he used Rozane Royal blanks and had them decorated. Some say that he trained Japanese women to paint the art work on the pots after he developed the pattern. The Woodland line is reminiscent of ancient Chinese pots both in style and creation. In Woodland as with ancient pots, flowers and designs were engraved into the clay after molding. Dots and other embellishments were then added to add further visual interest. Crystalis mostly consisted of vases and was designed in the timely Arts and Crafts style. One of the most popular of the three lines introduced in 1906 was Della Robbia. Each piece of Della Robbia produced was hand made—no molds were used. Just holding a piece of Della Robbia is an experience to cherish. For collectors today, Della Robbia are the most sought after and expensive pots.
During these early years, Young was very smart about his business. He may not have worked as the art director but he did create an additional angle to the popularity of Roseville Pottery. He made sure that supplies of his pottery were somewhat limited. Some lines, like Della Robbia, were not even put into mass production. The possibility that one might not be able to purchase a pot from Roseville’s exclusive lines created more demand then there might have been if supplies had been unlimited. Because the pieces aren’t mass produced and artistry was in high demand, these early years can easily be considered the glory years of Roseville Pottery.