Wednesday, April 18, 2012

P is for Pottery

After I wrote about Regina Berger, who founded Graeter's Ice Cream with her husband and transformed it into a thriving business after his death, I learned about another interesting woman in Cincinnati history, Maria Longworth Nichols Storer. Storer founded Rookwood Pottery in 1880, and the pottery made by her company is still treasured by collectors and pottery enthusiasts today.

The Longworth family was one of the wealthiest families in the city in the late 1800s, and it was common in that era for wealthy women like Maria to paint china as a hobby. Maria took her hobby much further, however, when she began experimenting with glazes and later oversaw the building of her own kiln due to her dissatisfaction with the temperature of her local kiln. From this kiln, Maria moved to opening her own shop, a first for a woman in Cincinnati at that time.

The Rookwood Pottery building in 1904

Maria hired excellent chemists and artists to work for her, and Rookwood's production and quality standards exceeded nearly every other American art pottery manufacturer of the era. Continuing Maria's initial interest in glazes, the Rookwood team created high-quality glazes of colors that at the time had never been seen on mass-produced pottery.

In the early 1900s, Rookwood began producing architectural pottery, and became known for flat pieces and tiles used in homes, hotels, and public buildings. Rookwood tiles can still be found in numerous locations, including the Vanderbilt Hotel and Grand Central Station in New York, and the Carew Tower and Union Terminal in Cincinnati.

Rookwood thrived for decades, until it was hit hard by the Great Depression of the 1930s. It never completely recovered, and eventually ceased production in 1967. In 2006, the Rookwood Pottery Company re-emerged in Cincinnati after acquiring hundreds of glaze recipes and molds from Storer's original company. The company opened a new production studio, and has released a limited number of pieces.

I admit I am totally clueless when it comes to pottery, but I can appreciate beautiful and well-made items, and I really admire the story of Maria Longworth Storer. I find it inspiring that she turned a hobby into such a respected and successful business, and that her products have stood the test of time. Since writing started out as a hobby for me and became a passion, I couldn't help but feel that I could understand how she must have felt about her glazes and her pottery pieces. I can only hope to attain even a sliver of the success with my passion that she achieved with hers.


  1. I'm pretty clueless about pottery too, but those pieces are so beautiful. Definitely like works of art. :)

  2. 'I can only hope to attain even a sliver of the success with my passion that she achieved with hers.'

    That's an awfully nice thing to say about someone.

  3. A creative woman and quite interesting to read about. I love the look of the pieces pictured here.


  4. I love pottery and those pieces are just beautiful!

  5. Ooh, I love the one on the right in the photo with the trees. That would make a beautiful vase with some fresh cut flowers in it.

  6. I like looking at pottery pieces too, but don't have any talent in that direction.

  7. Those pieces of pottery are lovely - I especially like the brown/gold one.

    And I like the story of the woman herself. :)

  8. I can't say I'm a huge pottery buff, but I can certainly appreciate the craftsmanship. As the Big Lebowski might say, a nice piece of pottery can really tie a room together.

    I enjoyed reading about Rockwood's history.

  9. What an inspiring story of taking something you love and turning it into something bigger.

  10. Your posts are gorgeous, like Maria's pottery. I've seen some of her work in pottery exhibitions here and there. I myself can't make the items, but I am an enthusiast and drool over a particularly piece. My collection is small, but my eye candy.

  11. I didn't realize it was started by a woman. Awesome!

  12. beautiful work. Rookwood's work and story is encouraging. I think if she worked on her passion for pottery without giving up, I could work on mine too.. :)

  13. Simpply wonderful works of pottery.
    Good word and post for "P"


  14. @Cherie, I agree completely.

    @Suze, thanks, I do feel that way.

    @Amanda, I agree!

    @Sia, me too, thanks.

    @Johanna, I loved them too.

    @LG, that one was my favorite too. It's a little spooky looking, I love it.

    @JL, yeah, I could never make anything like this myself, not in a million years.

    @Theresa, I agree, thanks for reading.

    @Christine, I thought so too, thanks.

    @Madeline, yeah, I love those colors.

    @Tim, you can't go wrong quoting the Big Lebowski. :D

    @Susan, that's just what I thought!

    @Kittie, oh, that's interesting you have a small collection yourself. Thanks for the kind words!

    @Tonja, that's just what I thought, I'd always heard of it of course but had no idea a woman founded it.

    @Cecelia, that's how I felt too, very inspiring. :)

    @Yvonne, I'm glad you liked it, thank you.

  15. I love pottery and know how important and difficult good glazes are! This is an awesome post.

    Just visiting from A to Z! Will be a regular now, for sure!

  16. I use to work with patients doing pottery. They seemed to create these beautiful pieces and mine always imploded. I was a much better teacher than artist. :)

  17. I love a good pot!! A great story. I think I'm getting to know Cincinnatti quite well! :)

  18. This is a pretty interesting post about pottery. I took a pottery class once, but I never had much success with it. I really like your style of writing.

  19. Julie, like you I know nothing about poetry just that it is pretty and I either like it or I don't. I also would love to make a piece of pottery! Great "P" word!

  20. Very inspiring story. I can't say I know much about pottery, but I love the stories of people who go from hobby, to passion, to success. These stories keep me motivated. :)

  21. These are beautiful pieces! I'm glad you're also following your passion, and I know that you will continue to be a success! Julie

  22. These are gorgeous pieces and what an amazing woman. I love that she created her own because of her dissatisfaction with what was around her. Thanks for sharing!

  23. I love pottery! One of my favorite memories of living in the Carolina's was going in to Carolina pottery. I could spend hours in there just walking around.

  24. @Sangita, oh, it's great to meet you, thanks so much!

    @Ciara, I think if I tried to make something it would implode as well, LOL.

    @Carolyn, I'm glad you feel that way, I've had fun writing these posts. :)

    @Gina, thank you, that's very kind of you to say. Great to meet you!

    @Tracy, that's definitely the extent of my knowledge LOL. Thanks!

    @Michael, I agree, that's what I loved about the story.

    @Julie, I hope so, thank you!

    @Melissa, I thought that was so cool too, so glad you liked the post.

    @Deana, oh, that sounds like a lovely place to visit.

  25. Hi Julie .. loved the pottery and Maria's story - fascinating. It's in later years that I've this interest in art nouveau and the arts and craft movement - so pleased they've bought up the old recipes and moulds .. so they are recorded for posterity.

    Great post - and passion yes .. let's keep going - good for you and I'm sure you'll attain success ... cheers Hilary

  26. @Hilary, I'm glad you liked it, I thought her story was so interesting too. And thank you! :)


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