Middle Lane vase

Middle Lane vase

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Before becoming an international phenomenon, the Arts and Crafts movement began with the ideas of British artisan William Morris (1834-1896) and writer John Ruskin (1819-1900). Morris and Ruskin believed that the growth of cities isolated urban workers and that mass production negatively affected artisan crafts. They proposed to solve these issues by returning to a medieval-inspired village model where everybody participated in a community lifestyle. In the United States, artisans adapted these ideas into the studio art pottery movement. Unlike their British counterparts, who often focused predominantly on social issues and therefore made objects that incorporated Gothic and Renaissance motifs, American craftsmen developed a cohesive and novel aesthetic.
The Theophilus Brouwer Pottery, which also went by the name of Middle Lane Pottery, was a studio in East Hampton, New York that produced ceramics from 1894 to 1946. The eclectic establishment was founded by Theophilus A. Brouwer, Jr., a successful and innovative ceramist. Traditionally, glazed ceramics are fired in a kiln with a carefully-regulated temperature and day-long cooling times. Brouwer’s major contribution to the field was a flame-working technique that he called “Fire Painting”; essentially, Brouwer would glaze his pottery and subsequently burnish it over an open flame. This technique gave his wares a metallic luster and swirled appearance and only took an hour to achieve. His mark – an “M” within an inverted and stylized “V” shape – was an adaptation of the massive, ivy-covered jaw-bones of a Long Island whale that stood at the pottery entrance.
Brouwer’s Victorian sensibilities are evident in this petite earth-toned vase. It features a mouse, complete with a swirling tail and miniature brown ears, gnawing a hole into the body of the vessel. Such whimsical decorations may seem contradictory to the austere nature of Victorian America, but actually have a long history of production dating to the middle of the nineteenth century. Acknowledging growing demand for these small trifles, designers manufactured pint-sized animal adornments for jewelry, glass, and ceramic wares. Mice, rabbits, and small birds were particularly common in all forms of the decorative arts.
Currently not on view
Object Name
place made
United States: New York, East Hampton
Physical Description
polychrome (overall surface decoration color name)
ceramic (overall material)
overall: 3 1/2 in x 4 5/8 in; 8.89 cm x 11.7475 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
See more items in
Cultural and Community Life: Ceramics and Glass
Domestic Furnishings
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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