Thursday, December 6, 2007
Daryle Lambert: George Ohr Pottery
I enjoyed our make believe journey to North Carolina in the December 2nd Blog, so today I will continue that journey, going further south to Biloxi Mississippi, the home of the famous potter, George Ohr, also known as the mad potter.
This self proclaimed “greatest potter on earth” moved his operation to Biloxi in 1883 and began making his most unusual pieces. Ohr was a one man operation, never throwing two pieces alike. In fact, even though Ohr proclaimed to being a fantastic potter, his work meet with very little commercial success.
His best work he produced were pieces of very thin walls, twisted, folded and dented into fantastic and graceful shapes. These are the vases I enjoy more than his other works. He worked in browns or tan, along with molten green glazes. You might see some blue or pink in his work, but not as often as the brown and green.
He often told people that some day his work would be more valuable than gold. He was right on.
Since very little of his work was sold, most of his pieces accumulated in his shop. When fire destroyed most of his inventory in 1894, it was a real tragedy, since it is said that he produced more than ten thousand pieces during his career.
The story goes that a gentlemen passing through Biloxi and came upon George Ohr's shop and bought all the pieces that had survived the fire. What a wise choice that was. By marketing this inventory the world became aware of the greatness of this artist.
When I lived Owensboro, Kentucky, I visited a shop where the owner showed me a wonderful four or five inch vase that was twisted, then mashed to give the piece a very interesting look. When I asked the price and was told $800, this should have been a clue for to me to buy it right then and there. Having to always bargain, I offered $500, which was immediately turned down.
Yes this was a George Ohr piece, one of the best I have ever seen, whether then or now. I continued to look around the shop and forgot about this little vase. Am I sorry now that I didn't buy it? The answer is a resounding, "Yes". Today it could very easily bring from $7,000-$10,000.
Ohr's pieces are marked, and unless I had proof that he made the piece if it were unsigned, I would pass on buying it. The sky is the limit today on his better pieces, but since most people aren't even aware of him, keep your eyes open in your search. There are reproductions, and a lot of people trying to sell fakes, so be sure to do your home work or consult a expert when buying.
You can see many of the George Ohr pieces in the book American Art Pottery ,by David Rago. If you're considering purchasing this book, or other books, why not order through us and help support our daily blog and the 31 Club.
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