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arts & crafts pottery in california in early 1900s

updated sat 21 apr 07


Fredrick Paget on fri 20 apr 07

We attended this exhibit. This historic spot=20
(just outside of the city of Fairfax, Marin=20
is now held by the Girl Scouts of the Bay Area.=20
Some tile work of the Arequipa potters is still
visible on the property. Nan Paget

November 11, 2000 through April 29, 2001
=46ired by Ideals: Arequipa Pottery and the Arts and Crafts Movement
Art Special Gallery
Presented by the Art Department
=46ired by Ideals: Arequipa Pottery and the Arts=20
and Crafts Movement is the first major exhibition=20
of pottery produced at the Arequipa Sanatorium in=20
Marin County during the years 1911-1918. The=20
exhibition includes more than 100 pieces in what=20
is thought to be the largest showing of these=20
works since the Arequipa studio exhibited at the=20
Panama-Pacific International Exposition of 1915=20
in San Francisco. A series of public programs=20
about California pottery will complement the=20
exhibition, which runs from Nov. 11 through April=20
29, 2001 at the Oakland Museum of California.

Vase, 1913;
Madrona Vase, c. 1911-13,
Bowl, 1912
Arequipa pottery, produced by tuberculosis=20
patients at the sanatorium, is recognized today=20
as among the most important California pottery of=20
the Arts and Crafts period. This exhibition=20
features examples of the wide variety of pottery=20
designs and techniques that characterized the=20
work of the studio. Also included are tiles from=20
Casa Dorinda, a 65-room Spanish Colonial mansion=20
near Santa Barbara that was designed by Carleton=20
Winslow in 1916. In its largest and final=20
commission, Arequipa produced 8750 tiles, based=20
on Hispano-Moresque designs by Frank Ingerson,=20
for the lower great hall and upper corridor of=20
the mansion.
The exhibition tells two stories, that of the=20
sanatorium itself and that of the pottery=20
produced there.
=46ollowing the 1906 earthquake and fire, dust- and=20
ash-filled air contributed to a tuberculosis=20
epidemic in San Francisco. A progressive San=20
=46rancisco doctor, Philip King Brown, founded the=20
Arequipa Sanatorium as a country retreat for=20
urban "working girls" to recuperate from=20
tuberculosis. The name Arequipa, taken from a=20
city in Peru, was said to mean "place of peace."=20
Brown acquired a tract of oak-shaded land outside=20
of Fairfax in Marin County, donated by real=20
estate developer and philanthropist Henry Bothin.=20
There, with the help of local artists and members=20
of the area's philanthropic community (including=20
Phoebe Apperson Hearst, after whom Dr. Brown=20
named his daughter), he created a campus, with=20
emphasis on outdoor living, to house and care for=20
tubercular women factory workers, store clerks=20
and teachers. Besides bed rest, handcraft was=20
deemed therapeutic in combating idleness and=20
avoiding the stigma of charity.
The philosophy of Arequipa was a direct outcome=20
of the Arts and Crafts movement, which, in a=20
reaction to late 19th-century industrialization,=20
advocated replacement of machine-made goods with=20
handicrafts. The movement affirmed filling life=20
with substance rather than superficialities,=20
strove to eliminate what it saw as a false=20
distinction between fine arts and the applied and=20
decorative arts, and saw handicraft as having a=20
curative value.
With origins in England, the movement spread=20
throughout Europe and the United States, and was=20
at its height in California from the mid-1890s to=20
the 1930s. Arts and Crafts was a sensibility=20
rather than a specific style, but in California=20
as elsewhere it tended to employ motifs derived=20
from nature, simple forms enhanced with complex=20
details, and to celebrate the vernacular.
The Arequipa Sanatorium was directed by a=20
succession of nationally known British ceramists:=20
=46rederick H=FCrten Rhead, Albert Solon and Fred=20
Wilde. The basic shapes of the ceramics created=20
there were the responsibility of the master=20
potters, and surface decorations were added by=20
the patients working in the studio or out under=20
the oak trees. These decorations took the form of=20
designs painted on the surface and patterns=20
carved into the damp clay or applied in relief on=20
the pots.
Because of the rate of turnover of both pottery=20
directors and patients, a wide variety of designs=20
and techniques characterizes the work of the=20
studio. The directors experimented continually=20
with glazes, Rhead developing a mirror black=20
glaze, Solon bright blue-green glazes, and the=20
studio using cratered glazes and running glazes.=20
Rhead introduced slip trailing, the signature=20
form of decoration of Arequipa pottery. The=20
technique uses raised lines of clay, applied to=20
the pots with a "squeeze bag" technique similar=20
to that used by cake decorators, to define the=20
design and hold the glaze in place, much as metal=20
channels do in cloisonn=E9.
The Oakland Museum of California has the largest=20
existing holding of pottery and tiles from=20
Arequipa, with more than 100 pieces in its=20
collections. The majority of these are from the=20
estate of Phoebe Hearst Brown, daughter of the=20
sanatorium's founder, Philip King Brown. The=20
exhibition includes pieces from the museum's art=20
and history departments as well as from the=20
holdings of private collections. Through=20
photographs, letters, advertisements and other=20
primary documents, the exhibition also examines=20
Arts and Crafts philosophy as it intersects with=20
social attitudes towards gender, illness and=20

Twin Dragon Studio
Mill Valley, CA, USA