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The Van Briggle Pottery Story

 By Steve Splittgerber

 One of the longest running American Art Potteries was founded by Artus Van Briggle. Born to artistic parents in 1869, the Van Briggle family lived in Ohio, one of America's hotbeds of ceramic design. At the age of 17 he moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, where he decorated china dolls and attended his early art studies. After a stint at Avon Pottery, Artus became employed at Rookwood. His skill and talent were recognized by the founder, Maria Storer. She became his benefactor, even sending him to Paris to study art.

In Europe he was exposed to many styles of art, and became infatuated with an early matte glaze from the Ming Dynasty. Artus also met his future wife, Anne Lawrence Gregory, an accomplished artist in her own right. Finishing their studies in 1896, they returned to America. Artus resumed his work at Rookwood, but also started sculpting and experimentation with the matte glaze.

In 1899, struggling with health issues due to Tuberculosis, Artus left Rookwood and moved to the drier air of Colorado Springs, Colorado. This let him pursue his own ideals, not under the constraints of someone else. After two years of trials and experimentation the now famous Van Briggle matte glaze was perfected, and a pottery was opened in 1901. Late 1902 brought Van Briggle prestigious awards from the Paris Salon, opening doors to his acceptance as an accomplished artist. A display at the 1904 Centennial Exhibit in St. Louis also won similar awards.

Sadly, Artus Van Briggle passed away in July, 1904, at the young age of 35. His legacy still lives on, and is still popular after a century. His unique glazes combined with the Art Nouveau/Arts & Crafts styles are still being produced today, and are prized among collectors.

Harry Bangs and Artus Van Briggle

Being a collector of art pottery and stoneware, I have come to appreciate just how difficult it is to create a piece of art. Can you imagine the working conditions in a pottery? The heavy labor, extreme heat and cold, and exposure to toxic chemicals, must haven brutal. Fire, flood, and hard economic times couldn't dampen the creative spirit of these artisans. Van Briggle has employed many individuals over the years, all dedicated to their craft. Early Master potters included Harry Bangs, and Ambrose Schlegel. Later potters were Fred Wills, and Clement Hull, for whom this page is dedicated. I never met any of them, but through some stories told by Clement Hull's family, I now fondly call him "Ole Clem," a true American original. All of the above artists have taken their turn "at the potters' wheel" a tradition that still continues today.




 Steve and Rose Splittgerber are curators of the
Redwing Pottery Collection in Lincoln, Nebraska,
Steve and Rose Splittgerber are officers of
the Nebraska Redwingers, whose
"goals are to
research the history of pottery in America, to share
that information, to establish a network of collectors,
and to encourage the buying, selling and trading
of stoneware and pottery not only as an art form,
but also as a historical reflection of American culture."

They are among the most authoritative experts on
American Art Pottery pottery in the nation.