Art Pottery Defined
As you can see, that definition has a huge latitude. This definition includes all forms of ceramic sculpture but hardly ends there. Many functional pieces are created by potters more for their aesthetic value than the utilitarian jobs that they also perform, including plates, platters, casseroles, mugs, mixing bowls, bathroom tiles, and more.
To confuse things further, individual studio potters are not the only ones who make art pottery. Many commercial manufacturers produce "art pottery" as part of their product lines.
Idustrially Produced Art Pottery
Often, "art pottery" is used to refer to the decorative pottery produced by commercial manufacturers using industrial replication methods. In many cases the pieces are first designed by a studio potter or clay artist such as Peter Holland. Although a ceramist may actually be employed by a manufacturer, the ceramist is often independent and accepts a work-for-hire contract for a single piece or series. Such freelancing ceramists can build professional relationships with several manufacturers.
Some of the most famous manufacturers that produce art pottery (or did so in the past) include Wedgewood, Meissen, Roseville, Rookwood, and Van Briggle. However, there were and are a number of other companies producing art pottery around the globe.
The Studio Potter and Art Pottery
Studio potters and ceramists of all levels, from hobbyists to full-time professionals, create many objects that fall into the realm of art pottery. However, many potters and ceramists object to the term when applied to their work. To many, "art pottery" denotes manufactured knickknacks and mass produced objects. In many ways, the term can feel as if it is undermining individual creativity.
What needs to be remembered is that industrially produced art pottery is in essence the same as lithographs of an original painting. Although a reproduction is not the same as a one-of-a-kind piece, there is a place for it.
Art Pottery as Collectibles
Art pottery can be highly collectible. This can be due to a person's love of ceramics in a broad sense, a person's attraction to a particular piece, someone developing a taste for a particular potter or manufacturer's work, or as an investment.
Personally, I would suggest the same approach to art pottery as I would to collecting paintings. Buy what you like and want to live with. Buy pieces that speak to you in some way. Investing is always gambling on a possible future valuation. Invest instead in your present enjoyment.
If collecting art pottery appeals to you, you will find lots of information on collecting and on collectibles at Collectibles.About.com.
Art Pottery Resources
- China, Pottery and Glass Links on Collectibles.About.com
- More Collecting Resources from Collecting.About.com
- The American Art Pottery Association
- Just Art Pottery.com
- Art Pottery Blog.com, part of Just Art Pottery
- Art Pottery Manufacturers.com
- Art Pottery on The Collector's Weekly.com
- The Smithsonian Selected Bibliography on Art Pottery