Bretby—the English ceramics factory—was active from 1882 until 1933. During this period, they produced Victorian designs, Aesthetic Movement wares, Arts & Crafts ceramics and Art Deco goods. With such a broad range of styles, the company was always interested in exploring new ideas and new trends. This piece, from their strangely-named "Nurtenware" line, was always curious to me. Though cast in a mould, it resembles a piece that was hand-formed and manipulated—squeezed, in fact. Perhaps the designers at Bretby were taking a cue from the highly-Modernist American ceramic works of George Ohr, the "Mad Potter of Biloxi." Ohr developed an interest in ceramics at the age of 22 (in 1879). His wildly designed and crumpled pieces (many with metallic glazes) were well-before their time—and, alas, the buying public of Biloxi did not rush to support their eccentric artist. He sold very little of his work; it just kept piling-up in a stockroom behind his son's gas station. He died in 1918, at the age of 60, relatively unknown. Today, Ohr is considered amongst the most influential of American potters. In fact, he is considered a precursor to the entire American Abstract Expressionism movement. Those few pieces he did sell have rewarded their purchasers handsomely. Today, Ohr's pieces command a fortune. While Ohr was circumspect about his commercial failings, he understood that it was his timing—not his work—that was at issue. He is quoted, "When I am gone, my work will be praised, honored, and cherished. It will come."
Please click on the photo above to learn more about this Bretby piece.
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