Chelsea Keramic Art Works Pitcher


About the Arts and Crafts Movement:

Beginning in England in the early 1880s, the Arts and Crafts movement spread across the United States and Europe by the late 1880s. It celebrated the importance of beauty in everyday objects and urged a reconnection to nearby nature. The movement resisted the way industrial mass production undermined artisan crafts and were inspired by the ideas of artisan William Morris and writer John Ruskin. Valuing hand-made objects using traditional materials, it was known for a color palette of earth tones. Its artistic principles replaced realistic, colorful, and three-dimensional designs with more abstract and simplified forms using subdued tones. Stylized plant forms and matte glazes echoed a shift to quiet restraint in household décor. The Arts and Crafts movement also embraced social ideals, including respect for skilled hand labor and concern for the quality of producers’ lives. The movement struggled with the tension between the cost of beautiful crafts and the limited number of households able to afford them. Some potters relied on practical products such as drain tiles to boost income or supported themselves with teaching or publications. Arts and Crafts influence extended to other endeavors, including furniture, such as Stickley’s Mission Style, and architecture, such as the Arts and Crafts bungalow, built widely across the United States. American Arts and Crafts pottery flourished between 1880 and the first World War, though several potteries continued in successful operation into the later 20th century.

About Dedham, Chelsea Keramic Art Works, and Chelsea Pottery: In 1872, James Robertson, a fourth-generation potter trained in Scotland and England, founded Chelsea Keramic Art Works in Chelsea, Massachusetts. Three years later, he began to produce art pottery with his three sons who had created Chelsea Pottery. By 1878, the firm was known for creative new glazes, “soft in color and free from crazing” (Evans 1987:47) and also sold about forty unglazed shapes for further decoration by independent decorators. James Robertson died in 1880, and by 1888 his son, Hugh C. Robertson, had developed a deep red “oxblood” glaze that captured the look of highly-valued ancient Chinese red glazes. This ware earned top prizes in World’s Fairs in Paris (1900), St. Louis (1904), and San Francisco (1915) but was not commercially successful, and the pottery closed in 1889. Under the name Chelsea Pottery U.S., Hugh C. Robertson and Arthur A. Carey developed a popular line of tableware with a rabbit design in deep blue on a crackled grey background. The crackling was created by rapid cooling when the dishes were removed from the kiln, and then the surface was hand-rubbed with lamp black powder to highlight the veining. In 1895, the pottery moved to Dedham, Massachusetts, to take advantage of waterpower and railroad access, and it took the new name of Dedham Pottery. The Dedham pottery had two kilns: one made the crackled tableware in a true hard porcelain, and the other fired “volcanic ware” that combined two or more colors of glazes in dripping and combining patterns and sometimes required as many as ten to twelve firings (Kovel and Kovel 1993:41). Hugh C. Robertson died in 1908, and his son William took over management. The firm weathered shortages during World War I and continued in business until 1943, when the last of the seven generations of Robertson potters passed away.

(Evans, Paul, 1987. Art Pottery of the United States. New York: Feingold and Lewis Publishing Corp.; Kovel, Ralph and Terry Kovel, 1993. Kovels’ American Art Pottery: The Collector’s Guide to Makers, Marks and Factory Histories. New York: Crown Publishers.)

Date Made: ca 1875

Maker: Chelsea Keramic Art Works

Location: Currently not on view

Place Made: United States: Massachusetts, Chelsea

Subject: Art Pottery


See more items in: Home and Community Life: Ceramics and Glass


Exhibition Location:

Credit Line: Gift of Mrs. Marcus Benjamin

Data Source: National Museum of American History

Id Number: CE.379602Catalog Number: 379602Accession Number: 150313

Object Name: Pitcher

Physical Description: ceramic, earthenware, refined (overall material)Measurements: overall: 4 1/8 in x 3 5/16 in; 10.4775 cm x 8.4455 cm


Record Id: nmah_575746

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