> Grueby Pottery: Vintage Arts and Crafts Ceramics

A History of the Grueby Faience Pottery Company

When the Grueby Faience Company began making arts and crafts tiles and other art pottery forms, they redefined an entire genre. Their iconic cucumber-green matte glaze took the world by storm, inspiring so many imitators that they eventually were driven to bankruptcy. During their brief time as manufacturers they left a legacy that is inspiring potters even today.

In 1894, the company was created in Revere, Massachusetts, by William Henry Grueby. Grueby was an experienced potter and was inspired by the matte glazes and the simple forms of ceramics he had seen at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. In its early years, Grueby focused on glazed architectural faience tiles. In 1897, Grueby teamed up with George Prentiss Kendrick, who designed the simple organic vase shapes the company would later be known for. Unlike other companies at the time, Grueby focused exclusively on vases and other pottery in the arts and crafts style, culminating in the creation of their famous matte green glaze.

Grueby's success quickly inspired mass-market competition from more established potteries. The small company did not have the assets to compete with market leaders and were driven into bankrupcy in 1909. Grueby somehow survived the bankruptcy and began the business of producing their tiles, vases, statues, and lamp vases, although on a very limited basis until 1911. The pottery burned to the ground in 1913, but the company completely rebuilt their plant on the same site. Without the funds to continue production, in 1917 the C. Pardee Works in Perth Amboy, New Jersey purchased the company from William. Unfortunately, the competition remained fierce, and the Grueby company closed for the last time in 1920.

Today we find that vintage and antique Grueby pottery can be among the most expensive of the arts and crafts ceramics at auctions. Many collectors revere the simple organic forms and subtle glaze variations. As a smaller company, their production numbers and distribution were quite low when compared with the major producers of the time, making the quantities available on the market today quite limited.

The style and glazes of Grueby Pottery inspired many imitators at the time, including Teco, Bauer, Rookwood, Roseville, and Weller. Even today smaller studios and potters reach back to the creations of these pioneers for inspiration. The work of Grueby can still be seen reflected in many of the works of contemporary artists across the world.

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