February 5, 2006 -- There is a haunting quality to this pottery. Each piece pictures a finely painted portrait of a Native American brave. Sometimes in full headdress. Sometimes not. Antiques expert Rosemary McKittrick of LiveAuctionTalk.com has advice on collecting Rookwood pottery.
Made by the Rookwood Company around 1900, the Standard glaze used on these pieces was a deep yellow, orange and red over dark brown. The colors have a way
of fading into each other like aging autumn leaves. Add to the mix a high gloss and you have an extraordinary piece of art pottery. The artists who made these pieces loved their work. It shows in the attention to detail. Each vessel pays homage to the man it portrays.
Rookwood made all kinds of pottery, but the Native American series is especially powerful and collectible. It all began with Maria Nichols Storer. It may sound a bit odd now, but china painting was considered one of the few appropriate outlets for a lady’s creative talents during the Victorian era. What started out as an amateur pottery club for Nichols turned into a huge Cincinnati business in 1880. Her company was one of the first women owned businesses in America.
• From a collector’s standpoint, Rookwood is highly desirable. One reason is that each piece is often signed on the bottom by the artist who modeled or painted it. Plus, there are potters marks and a dating system.
• It makes identification easy which you don’t find in many areas of collecting. Even though the bodies of each pottery piece were largely mass-produced, most were individually decorated. So, it’s hard to find two exactly alike pieces.
• Damage, repair and blemishes reduce value. Watch out for seconds. They’re marked with an incised X. A few of the most popular Rookwood artists included Katoro Shirayamadani, Matthew Andrew Daly, Sarah Sax, Artus Van Briggle, and Grace Young.
LiveAuctionTalk.com author Rosemary McKitttrick has been writing weekly about the art, antiques and collectibles field for 15 years. She digs deep to uncover the story behind things. Beyond the facts, Rosemary is a storyteller. Her fresh, lively narratives bring the world of collecting to life.
McKittrick is co-author of “The Official Price Guide to Fine Art,” a 1000-page book published by Random House and co-author of four volumes of “McKittrick’s Art Price Guide.”
Photo of Standard glaze Rookwood vase made by Grace Young. Photo courtesy of Treadway Gallery.