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American Art Pottery Association Show

Don Johnson | April 12th, 2014

Art pottery from Iowa State College dates to the 1920s and is relatively scarce. In a green glaze, this vase was priced at $1500 by Marie and Mark Latta of Clay Town Antiques, Wilton, Iowa.

Made by the University of North Dakota School of Mines and priced at $2295 each, the carved and decorated vase with six prairie dogs, signed for Julia Mattson and Flora Huckfield, was 3¼" high, while the incised vase depicting two Indians with bows was 5¼" high. They were shown by Greg and Lana Myroth of Peoria, Illinois, who sell on (

A variety of Pillin Pottery sold during the show. Offered here were a 13½" plate at $1495 and 9" vase showing three women at $2495. They were available from Barbara Gerr and Arnie Small of Barbara Gerr Antiques, Galloway, New Jersey.

Coauthor of Pillin Pottery (2012), Jerry Kline of Kodak, Tennessee, offered several pieces of Pillin, including this 9" square plate from the 1960s. It was priced at $985.

Some of the best Rookwood pottery included an Iris glaze vase showing five flamingos, 10¾" high, priced at $15,000, and a Sea Green vase depicting an underwater scene, 14½" high, at $50,000. They were shown by Treadway Gallery, Cincinnati, Ohio.

Made by Shearwater Pottery, pirates priced at $75 each surround a Plantation wine bottle marked $1200 by Jean Oberkirsch of Hillsboro, Missouri.

This colorful Brush-McCoy Pottery jardiniere picturing lions, circa 1914, was $295 from Bearl Moses and Ron Metter of Aunt El’s Attic, Madison Heights, Michigan.

Rarities across the floor included this Cowan Pottery vase showing Medusa, the only decorated example known and one of two overall. It was 7½" high and priced at $29,500 by Steve Schoneck of Newport, Minnesota.

Self-taught potter Paul J. Katrich of Katrich Studios, Sylvan Lake, Michigan, brought 14 vessels to the show. He had only five remaining by midday Saturday. Among them was this 5" Cherry Blossom
vase priced at $325.

Blue Ash, Ohio

It was a simple statement, incontrovertible even, but it perfectly made a point. “We’re not antique dealers. We’re pottery dealers.”

The comment came from Arnie Small, president of the American Art Pottery Association, during the organization’s show, held April 12 and 13 in Blue Ash, Ohio, a northern suburb of Cincinnati.

As part of AAPA’s annual convention, the show drew 35 dealers offering a mix of vintage and contemporary ceramics from the late 19th century to now. “There’s good stuff to be had,” Small added.

With the event located in Cincinnati, Rookwood Pottery got its fair share of attention. Mark Latta of Clay Town Antiques, Wilton, Iowa, has collected Rookwood for years. His booth included a display of about 50 prime examples.

Latta has witnessed changes in the Rookwood market, especially in recent years as prices tapered and interest fluctuated. Rookwood’s Iris glaze, a clear high-gloss line that was once the indisputable king of the company’s production, is now sometimes topped by the pottery’s Vellum line, a matte glaze that has steadily attracted more attention, in part because it has been more affordable.

“There are probably more Iris glaze pieces out there than there are buyers,” Latta said.

The best of the Rookwood at the show included an unusually large Sea Green vase having a hand-decorated scene of fish swimming past coral. Standing 14½" high, the bulbous piece was priced at $50,000 by Treadway Gallery, Cincinnati.

Rookwood’s Standard glaze, readily identifiable by its brown ground, continued to get mixed reviews. “It all depends on the artwork,” said Maxine Weitz of Vimax Antiques, Brooksville, Florida. “You get people who either love them or hate them.”

Small examples of Standard glaze can still be found for less than $200. As with other art pottery, size, shape, decoration, and the artist come into play in determining value. Among the Rookwood Standard glaze items offered by Weitz was a 1906 vase showing teasel, 8¾" high, tagged $975.

One clear emphasis across the floor was Pillin Pottery, due in part to added exposure from the only reference book dedicated to the subject, Pillin Pottery, published in 2012, which was written by Jerry Kline and Mike Nickel.

Kline set up at the show. “Pillin is holding its price and then some,” he said.

That’s a considerable change from years ago. Kline recalled 20 pieces of Pillin being offered at a show in Los Angeles in the late 1990s. No one took notice. “It’s not like that today,” he added.

Now the trouble with the studio pottery, which Kline described as “Chagall- or Picasso-like,” is that it often disappears from the market as soon as it’s offered. “Pillin has become harder and harder to find,” he said. “A lot of it sits in large collections.”

Certain motifs do better than others. “Nudes and cats—those two will fly off the shelf, and it doesn’t really matter what it’s priced.”

A number of pieces sold early in the show. The best of the remaining material available midway through Saturday’s session included a 9" vase hand-painted with three women priced at $2495 by Barbara Gerr of Galloway, New Jersey.

The show as a whole, however, couldn’t be defined by a few pottery lines. This was the Wild West of American art pottery, and everyone was armed. Variety and prices spanned a huge gap. There were inexpensive items, such as a Pigeon Forge mouse figurine marked $37.50. And there were upper-end pieces. A Medusa vase made by Cowan Pottery, one of only two examples known and the only one decorated, was tagged at $29,500 from Steve Schoneck of Newport, Minnesota. A Beatrice Wood double-handled vase having five Aztec-like figures, 15" high, was $12,000 from William M. Bisland III of Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Rick Risser of Indianapolis, who specializes in Modernist wares, brought a selection of Italian studio pottery by Marcello Fantoni, whom he described as “a genius.” Fantoni’s vases typically sell for $300 to $400, according to Riser, who had examples priced from $75 to $895.

Kendall Scally of Louisville, Kentucky, was liquidating his collection of Kenton Hills Pottery, which operated in Erlanger, Kentucky, across the river from Cincinnati, in the early 1940s. With fewer than 15,000 pieces made, Kenton Hills produced exponentially fewer pots than its main competition, Rookwood.

Among the unusual examples offered by Scally were a large vase in a unique shape combining a nude and floral designs, priced at $2950; a figural head, one of only three known, $3500; and an 8" vase with a folk art design of Adam and Eve by David Seyler, offered at $1650.

A number of contemporary potters also displayed their products. Included were nature-themed goods by Mary Pratt of Pratt Clay Studio, Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, which featured wheel-thrown forms accented with carved details and three-dimensional ornamentations, such as frogs. Pratt, a potter for more than 31 years, recently became a Roycroft Artisan.

Paul J. Katrich of Katrich Studios, Sylvan Lake, Michigan, described himself as “one of the last living studio potters using exotic glazes.” He’s potted professionally since 1996 but noted, “I’ve never taken a pottery class in my life. I’m completely self-taught.”

Although the material across the floor varied, dealers largely agreed the best merchandise continues to draw interest, while more common examples can be hard to flip.

“High-end sells. Low-end does not. Middle-end, prices are coming down,” said Paul Woolmer of Wagon Wheel Antiques, Hampshire, Illinois.

His buyers were looking for better pieces by specific makers. “Newcomb [College] I can’t get enough of,” he said. Likewise, Van Briggle in the $4000 to $6000 range was selling strongly. Lesser production pottery, however, remained stagnant.

“Roseville is just a thing of the past,” said Woolmer, who added that prices for Roseville are half or less of what they used to be. “There are no new collectors.”

Members continue to support the AAPA, in part because of its educational focus. The annual convention offers much more than an opportunity to buy art pottery. This year’s event included tours of the Rookwood Pottery Company and Cincinnati Art Museum, as well as seminars on glazes and Rookwood. Small spoke highly of the assistance provided to the AAPA by Rookwood, the Cincinnati Art Museum, and Humler & Nolan, a Cincinnati-based auction company specializing in art pottery. “It was great,” Small said. “It really was.”

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Originally published in the July 2014 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2014 Maine Antique Digest

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