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Rose Mary
By Rosemary McKittrick
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TECO POTTERY ATTRACTS BIDDERS AT TREADWAY

TECO POTTERY ATTRACTS BIDDERS AT TREADWAY
Vase; green matte-glaze; organic form; designed by Fritz Albert; original paper labels; 6 ½ inches by 10 ½ inches; sold for $3,450. Photo courtesy of Treadway Gallery.
It wasn’t such a big leap from terra-cotta bricks to art pottery. At least it didn’t seem that way for William Gates in 1902. His company, The American Terra Cotta Tile and Ceramic Company in the Chicago area introduced a brand new pottery line called Teco.

Simple, earthy, matte glazes--that pretty much describes Teco ware. It’s the kind of art pottery that copies nature with easy color and simple forms. Some of the matte green glazes also have a charcoaling effect in a metallic, black over-glaze which ads to the charm.

Although most of the Teco glazes were green, the company also produced glazes in pink, blue, maroon, yellow, and brown. Gates envisioned Teco pottery in every home. It was pottery whose look came from form and color not necessarily applied decoration.

There were two types of Teco ware produced--a basic organic ware and a rectilinear architectural ware.

When Chicago was rebuilding after the great fire in 1871, the new structures influenced much of the decorative art of the time including Teco.

Also, heavily influenced by the American Arts & Crafts movement, Teco’s 500 high quality designs included over 10,000 shapes. It was a graceful fit for the quiet, reserved interiors of Prairie School homes with their simple, uncluttered wood and stone.

Geometric and angular, Teco shapes were brand new to the market. Most of the designs were produced by Gates and his designers. They also used designs from a group of young Chicago architects including Frank Lloyd Wright. Wright and other architects were hired to create pieces that could be mass-produced using assembly line principles.

Mission oak furniture and pottery like Teco thrived in the 1920s. In fact, between 1870 and 1920, there were 118 art potteries operating in 23 states.

By the time the Great Depression came along in the ‘30s, art pottery took a hit. Labor and production costs were high and art pottery wares fell by the wayside.

Products like Teco were replaced by factory produced ceramics from Europe and Japan. Most people were happy with the low-cost pottery available at the neighborhood flower market. The company closed in 1930.

The art pottery market remained slow until about the late-1960s. Nowadays, collecting American and European art pottery is a steadily growing field. Teco pottery with its angular handles and buttresses is some of the most desirable pottery among Arts and Crafts buffs.

Most Teco ware found today has some damage especially the architectural examples with their geometric handles and bodies. Many of the architectural and organic forms are also very rare. So, the effect of damage on their value is often small in relation to other types of art pottery.

Many Teco pieces have also been repaired. Direct sunlight works best for detecting repairs. Well over 95 percent of art pottery restorations can be seen by simply looking at pieces in bright light.

On Sept 10, 2007, Treadway Gallery, Cincinnati, Ohio, featured a selection of Teco ware in its 20th Century Art & Design sale held at the John Toomey Gallery in Chicago. Here are some current values.

Teco

Green matte-glaze; designed by Fritz Albert; lobed and footed form; 8 inches by 9 inches; $1,495.

Green matte-glaze; designed by William Gates; four buttress form; impressed marks; 3 inches by 5 ¾ inches; $1,495.

Yellow matte-glaze; organic form with cutout designs; designed by Fritz Albert; 5 ½ inches by 6 ½ inches; $1,840.

Bronze-colored glaze; tapered and footed form; designed by F. Moreau; impressed marks; 4 inches by 9 inches; $2,300.

Green matte-glaze; organic form; designed by Fritz Albert; original paper labels; 6 ½ inches by 10 ½ inches; $3,450.

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