From turn-of-the-century to mid-century and beyond, anyone with even the slightest interest in art pottery should join the American Art Pottery Association (AAPA) and attend its annual convention.
The convention offers equal opportunity for education and acquisition. This year’s event was held in South Cleveland beginning April 19th through the 22nd.
On Thursday, participants toured the Museum of Ceramics in East Liverpool, OH and, across the river, the Homer Laughlin China Company (Newell, WV). Laughlin is perhaps best known for its colorful Fiesta line, though the firm may have produced as many as 35,000 different patterns. The Museum of Ceramics is home to an extensive collection of art pottery with exhibits detailing the growth and development of East Liverpool’s ceramic industry.
Throughout the convention instructive seminars were offered. Jerry Kline co-author (with Mike Nickel) of a recent title about collecting Pillin Pottery (Schiffer, 2012) explained that although recently gaining attention, Polia Pillin’s ceramics, created from her Los Angles home from the 1940s to the 1980s, are still relatively un- (or under-) discovered.
Kathy Honea discussed “The Many Phases of Van Briggle” in her Friday morning talk. The first edition of her Van Briggle Notes sold out but was back in stock a month before the convention. Richard D. Mohr, a long-time contributor to the Association’s Journal and author of several books, discussed “Tiles I’ve Known and Loved” Saturday morning.
In addition to opportunities to purchase pottery, the show floor included three informative showcase exhibits. A Van Briggle exhibit created by Honea; Bruce Block displayed the work of Waylande Gregory, an influential ceramic sculptor who helped shape the Art Deco aesthetic; and the third exhibit, “Cowan Pottery Centennial,” dovetailed with the one on Gregory who had worked at Cowan Pottery in the late 1920s.
On Friday, an auction of 400 lots of pottery drew a substantial crowd. The auction is the main fund-raising event for the Association; some consignors donated all the proceeds from the sale of their pots.
Perhaps the best reason to join the Association is to receive its quarterly Journal. A large format (12 x 10 inches), full color, glossy magazine, each issue features several scholarly essays. The current issue offers three excellent reports.
Dr. Jon Kornacki investigates “Fulper’s Vasekraft Lamps.” Employing primary sources, Kornacki weaves the interesting story of the Flemington, NJ firm’s sojourn into home lighting.
“Van Briggle History through Postcards,” written by Kathy Honea, employs a novel source to illustrate Artus Van Briggle’s ceramic career. And Dr. Richard Mohr offers Part III of his series of scholarly essays on “Art Tiles in the Prairie School.”
Among the show exhibitors were students from the Cleveland Institute of Art. Accompanied by the head of the ceramics department, Judith Salomon, the students filled several tables with their work.
Established in 1983, the AAPA web site (www.aapa.info) offers the organization’s mission statement and a code of ethics (focused on the merchandising of art pottery), information about their Journal, and a resources page that, most helpfully, contains a section devoted to fakes and forgeries.
We all appreciate energy and enthusiasm; they are the fuel that powers the drive for collecting and research. But we all know the difference between a Chevy Vega and a Porsche. And it ain’t the fuel; it’s the engineering, design, materials, and the organizational structure and management. AAPA is a Porsche-class collectors’ organization.
Regardless of one’s precise interest in ceramics, for those who love art pottery, the AAPA convention should not to be missed. And, unlike some collector groups, one need not be a member in order to attend the Association’s show and sale.
A special word of thanks to AAPA and its president Arnie Small for their support for the Frans Wildenhain exhibition in the Association’s Journal.