Between 1888 and 1909 the city of Edgerton, Wisconsin was home to six different companies producing nationally recognized ceramic art. The art potteries of Edgerton were part of a late nineteenth and early twentieth century trend known as the American Art Pottery movement. Rather than one single style, American art pottery took an innovative approach to ceramic design and focused on decoration instead of function. The covered jar featured here, produced by the Pauline Pottery for sale at stores like Marshall Field’s of Chicago, Kimball’s of Boston, and Tiffany’s of New York, represents just one example of this broad movement in American ceramics.
The jar shown here and its matching lid were formed in molds by a potter and then fired by a kiln worker. After the first firing, the jar was passed to a decorator who painted the colorful design. It was then coated in clear glaze and refired to a finished state. Although the term “art pottery” implies a single artist working on each unique piece from start to finish, the division of labor used by Pauline Pottery and similar shops was a more commercial approach that enabled these companies to turn out larger quantities of goods.
This jar is one of several examples of Pauline Pottery donated to the Wisconsin Historical Society by Evelyn Huggins. According to Huggins, her mother Lulu Devereaux Dixon worked as a designer and decorator for the Pauline Pottery between 1888 and 1892. Although the jar is unsigned, it is possible that Dixon painted it.
This story was edited and adapted from EKP’s original Curators’ Favorites article (September 2008).
Brandimarte, Cynthia A. “Somebody’s Aunt and Nobody’s Mother: The American China Painter and Her Work, 1870-1920” (“Winterthur Portfolio” 23:4, 1988, pp. 203-224).
Owen, Nancy E. “Rookwood and the Industry of Art: Women, Culture, and Commerce, 1880-1913” (Athens: Ohio University Press, 2001).
Montgomery, Maurice. “Edgerton’s History in Clay: Pauline Pottery to Pickard China” (2001).
Pagel, Ori-Anne. “Pauline Pottery: A Pictorial Supplement to Edgerton’s History in Clay” (Edgerton, WI: Arts Council of Edgerton, 2003).
Wisconsin Pottery Association, “Significant Wisconsin Pottery Companies” available online at www.wisconsinpottery.org/wis-hist.htm.