Saturday, April 4, 2009

“Bottoms Can Count” - Daryle Lambert

Rookwood Bottom - Thanks to

When most people look at the bottom of a piece of pottery all they are looking for is the name of the person that decorated the piece. I hope this will no longer be you that are members of the 31 Club after you read this blog because now you will have the information you need to decipher the Rookwood bottoms.They are possibly missing what sets that piece apart from others that same size and shape but not you. What could be on the bottom that would make a huge difference in value must be crossing your mind.

Let’s just take Rookwood for an example. Yes, it should have the decorator’s initials but also a number indented into the clay. If there are three numbers scratched, such as 371, it tells you it is a one of a kind piece but if there are four numbers stamped into the clay, it is most likely a commercial piece. But that is the simple part. Now we will get down to the nitty gritty that most people don't know.

You may find a mark showing a kiln and ravens which signifies it was produced by the famous Cincinnati painter of native American culture, Henry F. Farny. This was the only printed logo mark ever used by Rookwood. Boy, do I hope one of our members finds such a piece. The average dealer would pass it by not even being aware that it was Rookwood. This mark can be found in Rookwood Pottery by Anita Ellis.

Here is a big winner for you. In the pottery community, pieces that are seconds are marked with an X scratched on the bottom. Few will know that on Rookwood an XX can designate that the piece is either smaller than an A piece or larger than an F. These designations pertain to the height of a piece A being the smallest and F the largest for regular items. If people take this as a second mark they will pass it by leaving it to others to capitalize on their mistake.

I would like to give you an example of where this knowledge comes in handy. Cecil my friend was perusing a flea market in Greenville Kentucky when he spotted a very average piece of pottery. It was also small. Picking it up, he noticed that there was an S scratch on the bottom .He immediately purchased it for about $25 I think and put it up on eBay. The final bid price was over $300. Why? The “S” signified that it was a demonstration piece or made for a special visitor. I would take one of those every day. Here is just another teaser. Perhaps the greatest artist at Rookwood was Kataro Shirayamadani. He did a little trick with some of his pieces. Instead of signing them he would press a Japanese coin into the wet clay. When the piece was fired the mark became an almost indistinguishable design. What a great little secret.

There are so many other things that I could list but it would be better if you found the book or borrowed one to copy this information from. You see it is the little things that make the difference.

I thought that I would have time to talk about more bottoms but this blog has gotten long enough so the others will have to wait for their time later.

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