|By Susan Emerson Nutter
INDIANAPOLIS — Art pottery continues to draw a crowd and when it is a single owner collection of some pretty fantastic Muncie Art Pottery it is obvious Regionalism is alive and well. Ripley Auctions hosted such an event June 2 where Muncie Pottery was the star. Buyers who wanted the best had to pony up, though many pieces of this beautiful ware were also quite affordable.
The Muncie Pottery Co. of Indiana has an interesting history. As explained on www.munciepottery.com Muncie “did not spring into existence on its own, but rather was the continuation of several companies that preceded it. The Gill Brothers and the Gill Clay Pot Co. produced primarily clay crucibles for glass production for decades. In 1918 the company created a subsidiary, the Muncie Clay Products Co, adding utilitarian pottery to its product line. After noting the success of some companies such as Roseville Pottery in 1920 some experiments were made with art pottery, but none was actually sold until 1923.”
The company’s history includes the hiring of Boris Trifonoff from the American Encaustic Tile Co. of Zanesville, Ohio, in 1922. Trifonoff designed and created the art pottery shapes and molds collectors are most familiar with, and multiple glaze combinations were used, but none were artist decorated like Roseville and Rookwood were doing at the time.
The name Reuben Haley is one Muncie Pottery collectors also know. The Paris International Exposition of Decorative and Industrial Arts held in 1925 inspired Haley in 1926 to begin producing Art Deco lines for Muncie. Collectors eagerly seek out these lines which include Figural, Spanish, and the very-sought-after Ruba Rombic; a cubist influenced line developed in 1928.
The Figural Line are mainly vases meant to mimic those of Rene’ Lalique and featured animals such as goldfish, lovebirds and katydids. “Few pieces of this line have survived, and many are unmarked,” according to www.munciepottery.com. The website also lists the five known shapes of this line as shape 189 (The Goldfish Vase), shape 193 (The Lovebird Vase), shape 194 (The Katydid Vase), shape 434 (The Lovebird Bowl), and a lamp base known as the Dancing Nudes Lamp.
The June 2 sale did have a few pieces from the Figural Line specifically 10 Katydid vases in a wide range of glaze colorations. Prices for these vases ranged from $70 to $180. Four Lovebird examples also crossed the auction block with the top lot of this grouping being an example in gloss green peachskin which realized $300.
Several Spanish Line pieces also came up for bids. The six known shapes produced by Muncie Pottery in the Spanish Line include “shape 273 (Tall Vase), shape 275 (Medium Vase), shape 276 (Console Bowl), shape 277 (Candle Holders), shape 278 (Aorta Vase) and shape 279 (Tangle Vase). There has been some discussion among collectors that shape 191 (Gourd Vase) and shape 192 (Pumpkin Vase) were actually Haley designs that are part of the Spanish Line,” according to www.munciepottery.com
From Muncie’s Spanish Line was a ’Low Aorta’ Reuben Haley design example in orange peel realizing $800, which more than tripled its high estimate.
And then there was the Rombic Line. In 1928, Haley created designs for both Muncie Pottery and Consolidated Glass in a uniquely cubist style. The Consolidated Glass pieces were known as Ruba Rombic, and the Muncie Pottery ceramic pieces were designated as the Rombic Line, though many collectors also refer to the Muncie pieces as being Ruba Rombic.
This Rombic Line includes 19 known shapes. Pieces from Muncie’s Rombic Line dominated at this Ripley event. A Stacked Cubes vase done in matte green over lilac marked “307-7” was the top lot of the sale commanding $4,600, tripling its high estimate. A Creamer (303-5) in gloss dark blue peachskin also more than tripled its estimate of $225-$325 bringing $1,300.
Muncie Pottery began creating lamp bases beginning in the 1920s and those from the Rombic Line are especially desirable. A Cannonball (221-12) lamp base in gloss green over white saw $3,800 and an Aladdin lamp base (220-10) also in gloss green over white went to $1,900.
Collectors interested in owning a bit of Muncie Pottery history tangled over a great collection of original glass photographic negatives of the Muncie Art Pottery Company that were comprised of early factory images. This lot sold for $900.
“We had a very nice size live audience for such a specialized auction,” said Andrea Hastings, Vice President/Head of Inventory of Ripley Auctions. “We also had interest from all over the country, and multiple museums were interested as a number of lots had archival significance,” she added.
“The collection was put together by Jack Wilson, who was in attendance,” Hastings said. “He was so excited and so happy to see these items go to people who also love and are still so very interested in Muncie pottery.”
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