Friday, December 14, 2007

Daryle Lambert: Rookwood Tile was Sailing

We will continue yesterday's discussion of Art Tiles by looking at another great company - Rookwood.

Since I lived most of my life in Qwensboro, Kentucky, I was very unfamiliar with Cincinnati, the home of Rookwood. But the Bengals and Reds were there, and they were the closest pro teams from my home in Kentucky, so as I got older, Cincinnati became more familiar. I became acquainted with Rookwood very early. Rookwood was the first potteries that I became interested in to the extent of wanting to create a collection of their work for myself. In fact, did you know that if you visit Cincinnati, you can eat right in the kilns of the Rookwood factory?

Rookwood is known for its lovely vases, produced by many of the greatest pottery artists this country has ever known. At past World's Fairs, Rookwood designed pieces large enough for a grown man to climb into. But aside from wonderful pottery, Rookwood make great tiles and plaques, too.

Some of the outstanding artists that worked at the Rookwood factories over the years were Matthew Daily, Maria Nichols, Sara Sax, Kataro Shirayamadani and Artus Vanbriggle. This is just a short list from the many artist that passed through the doors of the wonderful company in Cincinnati Ohio.

This company posted its first catalog, which included tiles in 1907. These pieces were from 2 by 3 inches to 12 by 18 inches in size. Most were architectural tiles at that time, but later many of their artist also produced fantastic plaques.

The tiles were called faience while the plaques were named vellum. Today, I combine them when talking about pieces that are usually put in frames and hung on the wall. The tiles are usually carved and look like something that would be around the doorway or hearth. The plaques, on the other hand, look like paintings with scenes of landscapes or other scenes.

I once attended a house sale, and one of the dealers showed me a plaque he had just bought for $100. I looked at it and realized that it was a vellum Rookwood so I offered him $4000 on the spot. He told me that he had already sold it and wouldn't tell how much he got for it. I don't think he received anywhere near the $4000 that I offered. Later, I saw it come up for auction and I think it hit about $7000. Don't be afraid to make an offer to another dealer if you see something that would meet our goal of doubling the purchase price. This wouldn't have been a double, but I think you would agree it was close enough.

I once attended one of Cincinnati Pottery Auctions, where I had several pieces consigned. There was a wonderful larger plaque that I thought might look good on my wall so I circled it in the catalog. When its number came up, I started to get excited, but that didn't last long. The auctioneer yelled out, "Do I hear $5,000, yes, how about $10,000, how about $20,000, yes I have $50,000, thank you I have $75,000, let's make it an even $100,000," and it stopped there around $97,500. This plaque was of a steamship going out to sea. It showed the water breaks as it was leaving. If you ever see a Rookwood tile with a ship, buy it as fast as you can if the price is right.

“Rookwood Pottery- the Glazed Lines," by Anita Ellis is a great book I'd recommend taking a look at.

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  1. Daryle, I'm hoping you also cover some of the other tiles, like Rozenburg and Delft - don't forget the Dutch!

  2. I can assure you that I will be blogging on Rozenburg tile because that is one of my favorite stories. I think early on I might have mention about this piece that I bought in Florida or it might have been in the book. thanks