One of the most successful American pottery companies in history, Weller Pottery ranked among the most celebrated makers of the early twentieth century. Though the company ceased to produce art pottery around 1920, Weller wares have enjoyed a recent resurgence in popularity owed to expert craftsmanship and their incorporation of both Art Nouveau and Arts & Crafts sensibilities.
For those new to Weller pottery or for those seeking insights into popular antique Weller pottery patterns, this article explores the history of Weller pottery vases and highlights some of the styles that still sizzle at today’s auctions.
Origins in Ohio
Samuel Weller’s diminutive pottery studio occupied a single room when it first opened its doors in 1872 in central Ohio. A combination, however, of a passion for pottery and a keen sales sensibility meant that Weller Pottery would rocket into early popularity thanks to a series of smart collaborations Weller established with leading innovators in the ceramics field. From his early work with William Long (after he purchased Long’s company, Lonhuda Pottery) to his teaming up with Frederick Hurten Rhead in the early 1900s, Weller seemed to have a knack for identifying the rising trends in pottery and capitalizing upon them in his own studio.
Cornering the Market
Accordingly, by 1905, Weller had earned international acclaim for its record output of art pottery and had also been labeled the world’s biggest pottery studio. This arrival of Weller pottery on an international stage was driven home the year prior with Weller’s debut at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, Missouri, wherein he transformed his exposition building into a fully-operational pottery studio complete with a kiln.
Celebrating the beauty of hand-crafted art pottery remained the central credo of Weller Pottery up until World War I, when market demands and dwindling supplies forced Weller to refocus its production on commercial lines.
The End of an (Art Pottery) Era
Samuel Weller died in 1925 following a stroke, and though his relatives took over at the helm of the company the stressors of the economy proved too great. The Depression era was catastrophic and pushed Weller to cease creating hand-decorated patterns in the early 1930s; then, Weller shifted production solely to commercial wares until the final shuttering of the company in the late 1940s during the aftermath of World War II.
In its heyday, Weller employed hundreds of workers and created thousands of brilliant examples of art pottery. Today, finding those envied examples of well-preserved antique Weller pottery can be more of a challenge. Collectors persevere, however, as they are compelled by the striking beauty and timeless artisanry of the Weller brand. Let’s consider this brilliance as we take a closer look at some of the most desired Weller pottery patterns.
Weller Pottery – Sicard(o) Pattern
Named after the pattern’s creator, Jacques Sicard, who debuted the style just after the dawn of the twentieth century, Weller Sicard (or Sicardo) pottery can easily be spotted for its brilliant, iridescent sheen that amplifies each surface. This luster is derived from a metallic glaze that Sicard and his colleagues used on the pottery to result in that mesmerizing finish. Sicard’s tantalizing metallic majolica was produced for only a short time – he refused to sell his proprietary glazes to Weller when he left the studio in 1907 – making Sicard wares all the more exclusive.
Weller Pottery – Hudson Pattern
In keeping with the Art Nouveau flair of earlier styles like Weller Sicard pottery, Weller Hudson wares hit the market in the late 1910s to great acclaim. Typically featuring delicate, hand-painted floral motifs that spread across carefully crafted ceramic vessels, Weller Hudson pottery continues to be some of the most coveted. Topping the list are those works crafted by some of Weller’s most loved decorators, including Claude Leffler and Hester Pillsbury.
Weller Pottery – Louwelsa Pattern
Purportedly christened from a play on Weller’s daughter’s name, Weller Louwelsa pottery was introduced in 1896 and was designed to emulate the rich, even colors that competing makers like Roseville and Rookwood were generating in the early years of the twentieth century. Though it appeared in a variety of faience-glazed colors, Weller Louwelsa pottery arguably achieved peak popularity with its rich brown glazes that served as an ideal ground for everything from nature studies to striking portraits.
Weller Pottery – Matte Ware
In addition to dazzling audiences with their incandescent metallic glazes of the Weller Sicard pottery line, Weller also specialized in matte ware works that spoke to the subdued styles popular among Arts and Crafts connoisseurs. Different shades were produced, but it would seem that the most lusted after among collectors are the Matte Green pieces. Also among the most sought after are those in the closely-related Fru Russet style, introduced in the early 1900s and one of Weller’s most successful early lines.
Weller Pottery for the Win
Weller’s incredible success in the turn-of-the-century art pottery market was owed to the fact that Weller mastered the combination of expertly crafted pottery presented in striking glazes and motifs that spoke to the Art Nouveau and Arts & Crafts aesthetics that dominated the era. Today, collectors can take advantage of this combination by investing in a striking piece of antique Weller pottery that seems as fresh today as it was when it was created more than a century ago.
Looking for more? Browse Weller Pottery for sale at auction now on Invaluable.
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