“The Art that is Life” American Art Pottery

Arts & Crafts period tile mural for the Santa Fe train at Union Station, San Diego.

The Arts and Crafts Movement in America, spanning the years from 1875-1930, saw its beginnings as a rebellion against the fussiness and excesses of the Victorian age and the terrible economic and environmental conditions fostered by the industrial revolution. It had its origins in expressing the ideas of the Movement as stated in this quote from an exhibition catalog published by the Boston Museum of Fine Arts:

“Convinced that industrialization had caused the degradation of work and the destruction of the environment, Arts and Crafts reformers created works with deliberate social messages. Their designs conveyed strong convictions about what was wrong with society and reflected prescriptions for living. The aim was to incorporate art into everyday activities and thus, to democratize it”.

Groups of like-minded artisans formed guilds and collectives to produce handcrafted wares including tall vases, tiles, utilitarian shapes for daily use, original designs with simplified shapes, experimental glazes and painting techniques, many with incised and raised decorations. From the 1880’s to post World War 1, highly decorated Japanese porcelain and artifacts inspired American pottery artists and designers.

Many pottery-making collectives sprang up across America during these years, and especially in California, incorporating new ideas about design, philanthropy, and social consciousness. The Arequipa Pottery located in Marin county in Northern California, was established as part of a tuberculosis sanatorium for young working-class women who were taught the craft as part of their recovery program and produced wares for sale in stores across the country, as well as being displayed at the Pan Pacific Exhibition in San Francisco in 1915.

The popularity of the Arts and Crafts movement began to decline after World War 1 as newer design forms began to evolve. The design aesthetic of the movement continued to influence modernism in the 1930’s and 1940’s and into the post-modernism period of the 1950’s and 1960’s. Sunnylands, the Walter Annenberg estate in Palm Springs, is a fine example of post-modernism architecture as it echoes the idealism, beauty, grace, form in nature, and simplicity of the earlier movement.

There are a few Arts and Crafts potteries still producing today, but almost all of them were out of business by 1930. There was a resurgence of handcrafted pottery and objects late in the 20th century and there are many artisans producing fine handcrafted works today. American Art Pottery can be found in antique stores, auctions, and on line. There are collections in many museums around the country. There are walking and home tours in San Diego and Pasadena focusing on arts and crafts design and architecture at various times of the year and many websites, books, publications, organizations and dealers can be found on line relating to the Arts and Crafts movement and, specifically, art pottery.

A worthwhile show for those who are interested in handcrafted art pottery, old and new, is the upcoming Los Angeles Pottery Show at the Pasadena Convention Center on May 20-21, 2017. It is the largest pottery and tile show in America.

FURTHER RESEARCH

General Books on the Arts and Crafts Movement:

The Art That is Life – Arts and Crafts Movement in America 1875-1920, Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Wendy Kaplan   1987

The Arts and Crafts Companion, Pamela Todd, 2004, Bullfinch

The Arts and Crafts Movement in Europe and America: Design for the Modern World 1880-1920, Wendy Kaplan, 2005, Thames & Hudson

The Arts and Crafts Movement (World of Art), 1991, Thames & Hudson

Arts and Crafts in Britain and America, Isabel Anscombe and Charlotte Gere, 1978, Rizzoli

General Books on American Art Pottery and Tile:

American Art Tile 1876-1941, Norman Karlson, 1998, Rizzoli

American Art Pottery, David Rago , 1997, Knickerbocker Press

California Pottery: From Missions to Modernism, Book Published  in Conjunction with Exhibition at the Autry Museum of Western Heritage, 2003-2004

Journal of the American Pottery Association – bi-monthly magazine with fully researched and in-depth articles and information on all aspects of art pottery

www.AmArtPot.org/

justartpottery.com         Newsletter and Blog

Museum Collections

LACMA

Oakland Museum    Oakland, CA

Kirkland Museum    Denver, Colorado

Everson Museum    Syracuse, New York

American Arts and Crafts Collection of Alexander and Sidney Sheldon (exhibition publication)

Palm Springs Art Museum

Art Pottery collections displayed in many Museums around the US.

The Arts and Crafts Society – aggregate of resources, books, collections and museums worldwide

Arts & Crafts pottery compote