The History of Van Briggle Art Pottery
This pottery looks like Colorado, the area where it is made. Yes, it’s still made in Colorado Springs today, and pieces that will accrue in value can be obtained there. I have a collection of pieces from the early days and more recent ones that I picked up at the pottery. However, the truly valuable pieces are from the early years of the company and can sometimes be picked up when the seller is not aware of their worth.
Artus Van Briggle, a potter and artist, came to Colorado Springs in 1899 and began to experiment with the clays of the area. He was a master at blending clay and glaze and turning it into works of art. He also had the artist’s grasp of form, design, and color. All his pieces have a soft-toned glaze and the colors are the colors of Colorado-turquoises, greens, roses, browns, and purples.
Artus descended from Flemish painters. He was born in 1869 in Felicity, Ohio, and is said to have demonstrated artistic abilities when he was quite young. He began his studies in Cincinnati and eventually apprenticed at Avon Pottery. His mentor in the creation of pottery was Carl Langenbeck. He spent several years in the study of art, partly promoted by the founder of Rookwood Pottery Company, where he worked for some time. Rookwood sent him to Paris to study ceramics. In fact, he is best known for his eventual rediscovery of the Ming glaze, which had been considered lost for centuries.
Anne Lawrence Gregory Van Briggle
While in Paris, he met and fell in love with a fellow American student, Anne Lawrence Gregory. They planned to get married in 1895; however, that didn’t work out and they finished their studies in Paris during 1896 and both returned to America, Anne going to live with her aunt in Pittsburgh. Meanwhile, Artus went back to work for Rookwood, where he continued to develop his skills and to work on the formula for the dead Ming glaze. Unfortunately, he developed tuberculosis and was unable to work very many hours a week. A friend suggested that his health might improve in the climate in Colorado Springs, so he moved west.
Anne moved to Colorado Springs in 1900 and became the art instructor at the local high school. She and Artus developed the logo found on most Van Briggle Pottery, a double A enclosed in a square. He built a small workshop and the company grew from that. He sold his first pottery, about 300 pieces, in 1901. His fame was growing worldwide, and before long, he was able to find investors and his pottery was erected.
Anne and Artus were married in 1902; Anne became a working partner and, as an artist, produced many of the early pieces that today bring the highest prices on the collector’s market. Artus died in 1904, having accomplished more in his short life than most artists accomplish in a lifetime. Anne assumed the responsibilities of managing the plant and carrying on Artus’ work. A new, state-of-the art plant was erected and began operation in 1908.
Anne remarried and moved to Denver in 1923 and the company went through a turbulent period, the new building eventually being damaged by fire and a flood. However, it was eventually moved to the abandoned Midland Terminal Railroad roundhouse, where it can be visited today. Pottery is still being produced there, and a display of pottery from the various periods including the early ones can be seen there. Also, The Pioneer Museum in the Old El Paso County Courthouse holds the largest collection.
Collecting Van Briggle Pottery
There are many reasons collectors love this pottery. It’s beautiful and it looks like no other. Even those who collect Rookwood are attracted to it. After all, Artus’ foundation was there. The colors are extraordinary, and a collector from time to time finds one in an antique shop or even a yard sale that turns out to be quite valuable. The best way to be sure you’re getting an authentic piece of this beautiful pottery is to purchase a book that will show pictures and will have specifics about what to look for. The one I use is authored by Richard Sasicki and Josie Fania.
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