American Women and Arts and Crafts Pottery

Assuming women did not play a role in the production of American decorative arts is not only ignorant but inaccurate. While many believe serious and academic art can only be the byproduct of masculine endeavors, there is a flaw in the logic which ignores that many male designers would not have achieved their successes without help from the opposite sex. This concept endures throughout the artistic narrative of the nineteenth century and continues to the present day. To focus, one can localize this theory to Arts and Crafts pottery.

The Arts and Crafts movement embodied a spirit of profound intellectualism which attempted to heighten the moral and intrinsic value of objects. It took art away from the fervent mass production of the mid-nineteenth-century. Promoting honest construction and truth in materials, and influenced by English intellectuals, William Morris (1834-1896) and John Ruskin (1819-1900), the movement encouraged handicraft and felt that industrialization dehumanized decorative arts. Through utopian ideals, advocates found a stronghold for their beliefs in ceramics production.

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Goose Bowl, August 1914, Boston, Massachusetts, Paul Revere Pottery of the Saturday Evening Girls Club (1907-1942), Decorated by Albina Mangini, Glazed Earthenware, from the Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Connecticut, Photograph by author.

Paul Revere Pottery (1908-1942) relied heavily on the designs of women to achieve their Arts and Crafts style. With origins in the Boston area, the company was founded as the “Saturday Evening Girls.” The group started as a means to educate immigrant girls in the North End. From their amateurism, trained designers and decorators of ceramic wares emerged. Sara Galner (1894-1982) became incredibly skilled and was responsible for some of the most intricate designs. Her work highlighted the beauty of these functional objects. While Paul Revere Pottery was managed by men, the fundamental relationship between women and art remained paramount, as one could not have existed without the other.

Bibliography:

Clancy, Jonathan, and Martin P. Eidelberg. Beauty in Common Things: American Arts & Crafts Pottery from the Two Red Roses Foundation. St. Petersburg: Two Red Roses Foundation, 2008.

Gadsden, Nonie. Art & Reform: Sara Galner, the Saturday Evening Girls, and the Paul Revere Pottery. Boston: MFA Publications, 2006.

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