Midwest Mud Makes Marvelous Decor

By Eric Olson

April 9, 2014 Updated Apr 9, 2014 at 11:41 AM EDT

FORT WAYNE, In (21Alive)-Not many of us can purchase a Van Gogh or Picasso, but just about everyone can afford a piece of the people’s art.
The Fort Wayne Museum of Art is exhibiting a fraction of its huge collection of Roseville pottery, ceramics designed for everyday use decorated with natural forms…flowers, berries, pinecones. Roseville Pottery was one of half a dozen ceramics companies that grew up in 19th century around Zanesville, Ohio along the Ohio River, a source of some of the best natural clay in the world. From 1890 to 1953 Roseville craftsmen turned out gorgeous pieces designed for the home…candle sticks, flower vases, cups and bowls…teapots…beautifully yet subtly glazed pieces adorned with images from nature…water lily baskets..zephyr lily wall pockets, wisteria, Dahl rose. One of the most popular designs incorporated pinecones gracefully fanning out across letter holders or bookends. Roseville Pottery was part of the Arts and Crafts Movement that celebrated items made of natural materials…items meant to be useful.
“People were encouraged to buy this and use it everyday in the house,” says museum director Charles Shepard III, “and in that way bring the aesthetic environment of your house up a notch or two.”
Roseville's artisans were among the finest on the planet, their pieces cleverly as well as aesthetically designed…often with flower or plant stems morphing into handles or spouts. These pieces are highly prized and very valuable..too valuable to actually use; who’d want to risk chipping or breaking this. The art world admires Roseville and similar pottery but seldom thinks of it as art…it was designed to be useful, after all, not just look at. But these beautiful works have transcended the useful, the practical…and achieved an art following all their own. Not bad for middle class home décor with it roots firmly grounded in Midwestern mud. Eric Olson reporting out in 21 Country.

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