Rookwood Pottery was founded in 1880 by Maria Longworth Nichols Storer in Cincinnati, Ohio as a kind of pottery club for women. The aim was to provide a means of providing the opportunity to continue her love of her hobby of painting blank tableware. With the help of some glazing specialists and artists the company grew from a small affair into a company that mass-produced pottery on a huge scale.
The very secret of the success of Rookwood Pottery came from the extremely high production and quality standards with which the pieces were made.
There are a number of standard looks that are instantly recognized as Rookwood pottery. This was done intentionally by Storer who was trying to give the company an identifiable appearance. The standard glaze that was used on many pieces involved a glazing effect that included deep gold, red and orange over dark brown to create a very high-gloss finish.
A very common glaze that became synonymous with the Rookwood company was the vellum glaze which involved a matte light blue glaze over a light-colored clay. The majority of the vellum finishes were used for landscape scenes.
Another of the more commonly found glazes that was made very famous by Rookwood was the matte glaze. This is a flat glaze that provided the opportunity to appreciate the texture of the clay. Matte glazed pottery was generally found in a sea green color.
Keep a look out for the range of tiger’s eye glaze pottery, the first crystalline glaze developed in the US. This is another style of glaze that was developed by Rookwood, some say it was accidentally created but the result is stunning nonetheless.
The handmade appeal of the Arts & Crafts pottery produced at Rookwood has also meant that there are many pieces that can be found in this popular style. Although many expect to see pieces made in a matte glaze categorized as Arts & Crafts, the truth is the style ranges far wider and comprises many unique and wonderful pieces.
The company began marking its pottery in 1886 with a reverse R and P logo. To indicate the year the piece was manufactured a flame was added around the logo for each year since then until 1900. This means that by 1900 the RP logo was surrounded by fourteen flames. By 1901 the use of Roman numerals took over to date the pottery and continued until production ceased.
One of the most celebrated artisans of the company was Japanese ceramicist Kataro Shirayamidani who began work with the Rookwood company during the 1880s. His pottery is considered some of the finest created and commands extraordinary prices today.
Some of the other celebrated decorators who were involved with Rookwood pottery designs include Arthur Conant, William P McDonald, Carl Schmidt and Albert Valentien.
The company continued producing high quality pottery for over half a century before going bankrupt in 1941 and then finally closing its doors in 1967. During this time the company followed and mastered many different design styles such as art nouveau, art deco and Victorian. The earliest examples of Rookwood pottery are possibly the best and certainly they are the pieces that are most vigorously bid on.
The company has made it a little easier than others to collect by inscribing factory markings on the base to indicate the name of the company and the date of manufacture. Shape numbers were also impressed on the bottom of each piece with numbers running from 1 to 7301. Following the shape number you will then find a letter that indicates the size of the piece. These letters run from A thru F with A indicating the largest size and F the smallest. Also added were other characters to indicate the color or type of clay that was used. A “P” stands for soft porcelain, “S” means it is a special piece, “V” stands for vellum and trial pieces were marked with a “T”. Pieces that did not turn out perfectly were marked with an “X” and were sold at a lower price. They were also able to be identified by artist marks as well.
You will find some fine Rookwood Pottery pieces available for sale: