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What American glass company produced more art glass than any other?

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The Legend of Bohemian Glass:
A Thousand Years of Glassmaking in the Heart of Europe

by Antonin Langhamer

This book offers a comprehensive overview of the history and traditions of Czech art glass. Divided into 12 chapters, the book details the evolution and development of glassmaking as an art form from the earliest times, when the first glass beads appeared in central Europe, to the present.
                                   
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On a Wing and a Pot
by
Bob Brooke

 

While there are quite a few museums with pottery collections throughout the world, there are very few dedicated to pottery in general. Those having only pottery collections usually display pottery from a particular company, often in its former headquarters. But one museum tries to hit all the bases. Those who happen to be in the neighborhood of Red Wing, Minnesota, are in for a special treat at the Pottery Museum of Red Wing.



Red Wing sits among west of the Mississippi River just above Lake Pepin, the Dakotah spent their summers hunting and fishing. The town got its name from Red Wing, one of the greatest chiefs of the Dakotah Nation.

The land around Red Wing was rich with clay. In 1861 a German immigrant named John Paul discovered a rich pocket of clay on the land that he intended to farm. A potter by trade, he used this clay to make the first Red Wing stoneware.

After Paul came Philleo Pottery, established in the heart of Red Wing in 1868, followed by Hallem Pottery. Both went out of business – the former destroyed by fire, the latter by the drastic price cutting of established eastern competitors. It was in 1877 that the Red Wing Stoneware Company, forerunner of today’s famous Red Wing Stoneware and Pottery was established.

The company supplied farmers with stoneware crocks and jugs for food and beverage storage. As our young country grew and the Industrial Revolution took people off the farms and brought them together in towns and cities, health concerns prompted the development of sewer systems. The Red Wing Sewer Pipe Company met the great need for ceramic sewer pipes. Two other companies were formed just before the turn of the century, Northstar Stoneware and Minnesota Stoneware. By 1906 one company had gone out of business and the other three companies combined as the Red Wing Union Stoneware Company.

With changing times, and especially the invention of the refrigerator, people no longer needed the old stoneware crocks and jugs.  In 1913 the first refrigerators were invented for home use, although the cost was out of the reach of most people.

At this point, Red Wing Union Stoneware Company began producing flower pots and vases, then luncheon and dinnerware, and a wide variety of art pottery. In 1936 the name was changed to Red Wing Potteries.

The company added artistic hand painting to the popular solid colors in a colorful variety of beautiful patterns and designs. Red Wing was, in fact, the only independent pottery maker in the country that continued this age-old art of hand painting on dinnerware, casual china and art pottery. Their designs gave the products a creative flair, an individualized touch that captured a unique market – quality informal ware – which is characteristically American. Although we had been making dishes for a long time, American potteries usually borrowed English craftsmen and so our products were English in temperament. But in the late 1920s a new  native kind of design began to be developed and Red Wing dinnerware developed a personality of its own in both design and decoration. This is the informal flavor and style in which Red Wing potteries were leaders. American homemakers loved it, with more than 100 hand decorated patterns being made, and as many as a million pieces produced each year.

Today, dozens of displays feature both the common and rare types of pottery produced in the Red Wing factories, including stoneware, art pottery, and dinnerware. Several exhibits feature artifacts used daily in the production of various clay products. Displays of finished products demonstrate the wide range of items produced by the Red Wing pottery industry including hand decorated, salt glazed stoneware of the highest quality, molded zinc stoneware, advertising ware, art pottery, and dinnerware. The Museum also contains an important collection of memorabilia, vintage photographs, and products related to the local clay industry to provide for current and future educational experiences and scholarly endeavors.

From beautiful salt glazed folk art to durable zinc glaze stoneware, these utilitarian pieces are displayed in a timeline that shows how they changed over time when impacted by need and later by modern inventions, such as refrigeration.

From the late 1800s to the 1930s, many merchants sold their wares in Red Wing crocks, pots, and jugs stamped with their company advertising. Numerous examples of these advertising pieces, stamped with unique designs and text under the glaze, are on display.

The Pottery Museum has a treasure trove of historical photographs, many by photographer Phil Revoir. The collection contains over 2000 photographs, depicting the history of the pottery companies and illustrating how the ware was manufactured.

Unique designs and shapes glazed in a wide variety of colors are on display. Many pieces were designed by famous artists like Belle Kogan, Eva Zeisel and Charles Murphy.
Dozens of displays highlight both the common and rare examples of products produced in Red Wing pottery factories, including stoneware, art pottery, and dinnerware. Several exhibits feature artifacts used daily in the production of various clay products. Displays of finished products demonstrate the wide range of items produced by the Red Wing pottery industry including hand decorated, salt glazed stoneware of the highest quality, molded zinc stoneware, advertising ware, art pottery, and dinnerware. The Museum also contains an important collection of memorabilia, vintage photographs, and products related to the local clay industry to provide for current and future educational experiences and scholarly endeavors.

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