Art Pottery, Politics and Food
Saturday, July 30, 2005
Hype Or Spike?

Rookwood Pottery, Sarah Sax, 1906 Dark Iris Glaze

The August 1st cover story on the front page of the Central Edition of Antique Week suggests that interest and prices for American Art Pottery are, only now, “moving into the limelight” following almost 10 years of rising values and expanding collector interest.
The article quotes David Rago’s 2003 Official Price Guide to American Arts & Crafts:

No single event can claim responsibility for the steady resurgence of interest and pricing…But by 1996, there were already examples that there may be no turning back on the popularity of these items…By 2001 prices for average pieces tripled and, for the best work, increased five fold.

Readers of this blog should know that only last week I posted on the extraordinary hammer price attained by a lone 6” square Kensington Art Tile Company relief portrait tile sold over Ebay.
Previously posted reports on Cincinnati area pottery auctions in this space over the last few years, including Cincinnati Art Gallery auctions from 2003, 2004 and 2005, a rather interesting auction conducted in November 2004 by the Forsythe family and a June 2004 Treadway Gallery auction, while intermittently strong haven’t yet approached the spikes seen prior to the demise of the tech bubble.
Does the very recent sale of the once $25 to $50 Kensington tile for $283 along with this week’s Antique Week promise of “tony prices” herald a truly significant post bubble spike for American Art Pottery?
Sellers, buyers and collectors will certainly be watching hammer and retail prices with keen and realistic interest knowing that trade publications with their vested interests are often guilty of doping the horse as well as reporting on the race.

Photo: sean
Friday, July 29, 2005
Hackett for Ohio's 2nd

Max Cleland campaigns with Paul Hackett

Just this past March, Marine Reserve Major Paul Hackett returned from a seven-month tour in Iraq with the 5th Marine Regiment’s 4th Civil Affairs Group near Ramadi.
This Tuesday he stands as a Democrat for the 2nd Ohio Congressional seat in a special election.
The Republican smear machine is laughably trying to tarnish Hackett for his honorable service by, among other things, saying he was a “file clerk”.
Stars & Stripes has the non-smear facts:

He arrived in Iraq in August, and took over convoy commander duties and helped organize the payroll of Ramadi-area government workers. In November, he volunteered to help secure the eastern entry into Fallujah while coalition forces swept through the city.

This link and this one are to feature stories on the 4th Civil Affairs Group posted at from a time frame parallel with Hackett’s service.
I would urge my local Cincinnati metropolitan area readers residing in Ohio’s 2nd Congressional District to give this fine young man your vote and make Paul Hackett the first Iraq war veteran elected to Congress.
Be aware that over this weekend and Monday the Republican smear campaign, flush with $304 thousand from the National Republican Congressional Committee, will be in full force with legal and not quite so legal mass phone calls.
If you have the ability and presence of mind to record one of the false whispered rumor calls please do so and send the recording to the local media and the Democratic Party.

Photo: Michael Keating-Cincinnati Enquirer
Thursday, July 28, 2005
Iran Executes Gay Teens

Doug Ireland’s always highly informative webpage has posted an extremely upsetting story that has not received coverage by most of the world press.
On July 19th two teenaged boys aged 18 and 16 or 17 were hanged in the public square of the city of Mashhad (which appropriately means "Place of Martyrdom") in northeastern Iran for admitting, likely under torture, to having had gay sex.
According to a translation of Iranian reports:

Prior to their execution, the gay teenagers were held in prison for 14 months and severely beaten with 228 lashes. The length of their detention suggests that they committed the so-called offenses more than a year earlier, when they were possibly around the age of 16.

This horrible story graphically shows the heartless and violent brutality of fundamentalist religious extremists with unchecked power.
This story, literally, makes me sick but I felt Mr. Ireland’s post deserved whatever additional exposure this humble blog could provide.
Doug Ireland posts the address, fax and telephone number of Canada’s Iranian ambassador at the bottom of his posting.

Photo: ISNA
Wednesday, July 27, 2005
Perhaps you shared my discomfort with Shuttle Launch Director Mike Leinbach’s quoted remark to staff in the Launch Control Room moments after Discovery’s Tuesday lift-off when he “bellowed” this faint praise, "We have a shuttle that works!"

Various news reports mentioned how the normally over exuberant emotions of the Launch Control crew, after witnessing a cascade of debris falls and a, of all things, “bird strike” during launch, were “muted” with likely thoughts of an extremely high stakes Discovery re-entry.

It seems some NASA staffers are not as comfortable gambling human lives for some measure of perceived success with the President’s fantasy Moon/Mars agenda as other more highly ranked government employees.
The PR stakes, so valued by our short-term gain-minded rulers, were subtly and not so subtly evident in the quoted remarks of two debris-unscathed Congressional Republicans at the launch and a post-launch remark by the voice of Launch Control George Diller who said, “…space shuttle Discovery, beginning America's new journey to the moon, Mars and beyond.".
According to the Orlando Sentinel, Republican Tom Feeney tellingly said, "Space predominance for America is absolutely critical…most of this has to do with making sure we deny space predominance to any hostile power."
Representative Dave Wheldon said, “It's very important…to go back to the moon and Mars.”
Mr. Wheldon, perhaps, needs a staff reminder that humans have yet, all Rovers aside, to visit the planet Mars in person and consequently cannot “go back”.
While I am a life-long proponent of robotic and human space and home system exploration, the On to Mars crowd seems to have unrealistic expectations possibly spurred by cash-flush lobbying corporations like Halliburton who would greatly covet a Martian mining contract and the possibility of an interplanetary business model.

While contracts for studying a new Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) were recently given to Lockheed-Martin and Northrop-Grumman, interplanetary space, as this previous posting suggests and unlike a relatively tame return to the Moon, is supremely deadly and we have only scratched the surface of what is likely to be a long and highly expensive road to its circumvention for potential traveling Martian businessmen.
All PR aside, the Bushies have needlessly raised the political stakes for all US space exploration with this rushed return to orbit.
A, God forbid, catastrophic re-entry for Discovery will sadly prove as deadly to NASA as a blast of deep interplanetary space solar radiation.

Images: Daily Telegraph, NASA
Monday, July 25, 2005
My Kingdom For A Gap

Alberto Gonzales demonstrates for reporters how he could have caused the 12 hour gap.

The Rosemary Woods of the Bush II administration, Alberto Gonzales, made headlines with his sputtery, rapid eye-blinking responses to the last set of Bob Schieffer questions on yesterday's Mace the Nation.
Though poor Rosemary, er, Alberto was trying to sound happy-go-lucky, his mannerisms betrayed his nervousness.
Bob was not amused.

Crook and Liars has the WindowsMedia and Quicktime clips of the Gonzales questions as well as Schieffer's discussion of the AG's responses with Senator Joe Biden.
Here's a CBS transcript in PDF.

After yesterday's posting on the lone Kensington portrait tile, I thought it would be appropriate to post an image of a complete set.

Images: White House, Ford Library, sean
Sunday, July 24, 2005
A most interesting antique American tile auction that threatened the tranquility of my postoperative recovery occurred on Ebay on July 18th.
The tile, missing its mate, hammered for an astonishing $283!
One can assume that a perfect matched pair of these tiles could have easily sold for over $600.

This February 14, 1884 image, from a recently discovered 1919 church publication, looks from the city of Covington’s Riverside District across the flooded Licking River to the city of Newport, Kentucky. Tapering towers, visible above the paddlewheel boat Lily at the center right of the picture, depict the only known photographic image of the wood and rope 4th & 5th Street suspension bridge. The Kensington plant would have been directly behind the bridge’s towers.

The breakout Ebay auction was for a 6” square relief portrait of a woman sculpted by Hermann Mueller, a designer for the Kensington Art Tile Company [1883-1893] of Newport, Kentucky.

Mueller, a pivotal figure in American ceramics, was born in Rodach, Germany in 1854 and was classically trained at the Nuremberg School of Industrial Arts and the Munich Academy of Fine Arts in Germany.
Mueller immigrated to the United States between 1875 and 1878 and by the early 1880’s had settled within the large German community of Cincinnati, Ohio.
Before working at Kensington, Mueller worked at the important but short-lived Matt Morgan Pottery [1882-1884] across the Ohio River in Cincinnati, Ohio.
At both Matt Morgan and Kensington, Mueller worked alongside other American ceramic luminaries such as Mary Louise McLaughlin, Clement Barnhorn, Nicholas Hirschfeld, Matt Daley and Otto Metzner, son of Hamilton Tileworks founder and Civil War battlefield illustrator Adolph Metzner.
Without doubt, Mueller also rubbed shoulders with other itinerant designers and ceramic workers employed in the bustling port city of Cincinnati’s thriving ceramic industry through its equally thriving saloons and guildhalls.
Mueller later worked for the American Encaustic Tile Company of Zanesville, Ohio alongside former Rookwood Pottery ceramic chemist Karl Langenbeck.
Mueller and Langenbeck later founded the Mosaic Tile Company of Zanesville in 1894.
In 1895 Mueller lectured on Industrial Arts at Ohio State University and in 1899 he was one of the twenty charter members of the American Ceramic Society.
Mueller went on to work with Robertson Art Tile in Morrisville, Pennsylvania before founding the Mueller Mosaic Company in Trenton, New Jersey in 1908.
During the 1920’s Mueller became friends with the eccentric Moravian Pottery and Tile Works founder Henry Chapman Mercer and collaborated on the October Harvest mural in Mercer’s Fonthill mansion.
Mueller died in 1941 at the age of 87.
The extraordinary price achieved by the lone Kensington portrait tile in July 18th’s Ebay auction clearly signals both the rarity of these tiles and their increasing desirability among American ceramic collectors.

The site of the Kensington tile works at the corner of Elm and Lowell Streets in Newport, Kentucky, presently a vacant and unused former industrial strip along the city’s western edge along the Licking River, would be a marvelous site for an archeological dig as these ancient factories tended to pitch their seconds out the window.
The mind boggles at the treasurers that could be relatively easily unearthed at this location.
The city of Newport, which has made tremendous strides in renovating its Ohio River front, would greatly embellish its tourism and development plan by establishing a commission to consider the archeological exploration of this presently unused site, appallingly rumored to become an adult entertainment area, and the possible creation of a small museum focused on researching the relatively unknown history of ceramic tiles in northern Kentucky, southeastern Indiana and southwestern Ohio.

Sources: American Art Tile, Norman Karlson; American Art Pottery, Dick Sigafoos; Bob and Mary Ellen Seery; Rookwood Pottery Potpourri, Virginia Raymond Cummins

Images: sean, Ebay, MapQuest

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