Sunday, September 21, 2008

Rookwood Vase

This ceramic vase, now housed in the Minneapolis Institute of Arts Museum, was created in the well known Rookwood Pottery in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1901. Rookwood Pottery was started by one woman, Maria Longworth, with one kiln and the intention of painting pottery as a hobby. The pottery became well known for its glazes and craftsmanship. By 1901 (when this piece was produced), Rookwood had won several awards including,"1900 Exposition Universelle in Paris, the 1901 Pan American Exposition in Buffalo, and the 1901 Exposition International de Ceramique et de Verrerie in St. Petersburg, Russia." The company grew and became the first to hire a chemist to develop glazes. They were also innovative in their use of an atomizer to spray on glazes and their practice of bringing in artists to paint the pieces. Their glazes were also unique because of the colors produced when a base pigment was added to the local clay. One of the most prized colors is Sea Green, the color used on this piece. The simple modern form of the vase in combination with the Asian inspired floral decoration is a common combination in Rookwood Pottery as well as in the American Arts and Crafts movement that was affecting architecture and interior decorations during this time. Another important aspect of the vase in respect to the Arts and Crafts movement is the fact that it is made by hand by an artist.

It is similar to the Linen press by Edna M. Walker in 1904. This piece of furniture was created in the Byrdcliffe Arts and Crafts Colony located in Woodstock, New York. It was made at roughly the same time as the Rookwood vase, was made in America, and is part of the Arts and Crafts movement. The Linen press is handmade with simple overall forms and some more ornate plant related surface decorations like we see on the vase. It is also true to the Arts and Crafts movement by having been made by an artisan. Both of these pieces would have been found in a residential home setting, probably in the home of someone with some wealth and who followed the tastes of the time.
It is dissimilar to the Tizio table lamp by Richard Sapper. The Tizio is machine made and mass produced, contrary to the Rookwood vase. It is also made of industrial and man made materials like ABS plastic and aluminum metal alloy rather than a natural local material. There is no surface decoration or focus on an artisans work on the light fixture. The Tizio embodies modern form, production, and ideals. The Tizio is also a piece with a utilitarian purpose as a light fixture where the Rookwood vase is a decorative object.

Laura Snoderly


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