During the early 20th century, when art pottery was thriving in the East Coast and Ohio Valley region of America, a couple of renowned pottery designers headed West in search of a climate better suited for specific health needs. In doing so, the couple began what would become America’s longest operational pottery studio: Van Briggle Pottery. Learn more fascinating facts about Artus and Anne Van Briggle in this new column.
1 More than a century after Artus and Anne Van Briggle began handcrafting American art pottery, 21st century artisans of Van Briggle Pottery & Tile, located in Colorado Springs, Colorado, carry on
the tradition, being mindful of the aesthetic awareness and approach the Van Briggles set forth. The company, established in 1899, is reportedly the oldest active art pottery in the U.S. However, it “temporarily paused production” recently, while a change in ownership takes place, according to an automated email response from the company.
2 During the June 5, 2015, Early 20th Century Decorative Arts auction, presented by Rago Auction Gallery, a seldom-seen Lorelei vase, early 20th century, two-color glaze, measuring 10 1/4 inches by 4 1/2 inches, marked AA VAN BRIGGLE 17/1902/III, soared past its estimate of $35,000 to $45,000 to finish at $274,000.
3 Artus Van Briggle began his creative journey as a painter, studying in Europe. Yet, it was pottery that captured his attention and became his passion. He and his wife, Anne, became respected pottery artists while working at Rookwood Pottery in Ohio. This is where they honed their craft and Artus began exploring the possibility of creating satin matte glazes, in various colors, using natural minerals. Although this type of glaze was apparent in ancient Chinese pottery, it was reportedly not seen in modern art pottery before Van Briggle.
4 A pair of stunning and detailed owl bookends, featuring Van Briggle’s Ming Blue and Mountain Crag glazes, circa 1910, realized $312.50 during a March 27, 2015 auction at Rago Auction Gallery. There was some crazing present on the bookends, but overall they were deemed to be in nice condition.
5 The Van Briggles’ decision to move to Colorado Springs, Colorado, may have seemed a bit odd, given the couple’s successful careers at the Rookwood Pottery in Cincinnati, Ohio, a region noted for tremedous production of art pottery between the late 19th and the mid-20th centuries. However, the couple made the move to a different climate and altitude in hopes of easing the effects of Artus’ tuberculosis.
6 Artus Van Briggle was just 35 years old when he died from tuberculosis in 1904, just three years after Van Briggle Pottery began production. Anne Van Briggle remained at the helm of the company, leading the artisans and having a hand in producing items until 1912.
7 Even some of the more functional pieces of this pottery would include figures and elements of nature. For example, a grouping of five low bowls featuring birds and animal figures and seven flower frogs, with Persian Rose and Ming Blue glazes, 1910-1928, marked with various Van Briggle makers’ marks, sold for $937.50 at auction March 27, 2015, at Rago Auction Gallery.
8 For those who collect Van Briggle pottery, or seek to do so, the Van Briggle Collector Society may serve as a helpful resource. Membership in the club comes with the opportunity to own a limited edition creation by Van Briggle Pottery, a commemorative tile, the Collector’s Quarterly newsletter and the “Official Van Briggle Pottery Dating Guide.” Learn more online: bit.ly/AT10THNGS33016
9 As with any pottery, the makers’ marks of Van Briggle pottery not only aid in proper identification, but they tell a bit of company history. The primary symbol, on the bottom of each piece, is side-by-side letter A’s and the name Van Briggle. Early pieces often included Roman numerals related to years of production, and after ceasing that practice in 1906, “Colorado Springs” or “Colo Springs” was added.
10 Van Briggle pottery is represented in museum exhibitions and historic collections around the world. One of the newest exhibitions dedicated to this brand of art pottery is Van Briggle: The Manitou Collection at the Manitou Springs Heritage Center, in Manitou Springs, Colorado.