Antiques Column with Michael Dowse
Encouraged by the reception of last week’s look at some American collectables, this week we have stayed over the ocean to look at another popular collectable, namely Teco Pottery.
The American Terra Cotta Tile and Ceramics Company, which came to be known as Teco Pottery was established c.1880 in Illinois by William Day Gates. Originally it was founded to simply make wall and floor tiles but Gates was actually much more ambitious than this and saw an opportunity to produce beautiful ceramics for ordinary people at affordable prices all through the cheap medium of terracotta.
The production of Teco Art Pottery began in earnest in 1902. The classic design of Teco pieces was architectural by nature, simple clean lines in strong shapes often with buttressed handles or feet. In line with the values of the Arts and Crafts movement, surface decoration was rejected in favour of strong form, although a small number of pieces can be found with some very simple impressed or embossed panel designs. The majority of pieces made were vases, although other items like bowls and pitchers were also produced as well as some wall mounted items like planters or ‘pockets’. All Teco pottery was moulded; even the most exotic and seemingly unique shapes that look hand-formed all came from moulds. The shape of a piece does affect price, with the taller vases in particular being the most desirable with collectors today.
Green was by far the most popular colour produced by Teco. This micro crystalline glaze had very distinctive green tones with an almost silvery quality which had taken the company many years to perfect. It is the silvery grey finish that clearly distinguished it from the Grueby green ware also popular at this time. Other colours including brown, yellow, rose, grey, purple and blue were introduced from