American art pottery is like lipstick: Through financial ups and downs it has remained an inexpensive decorative touch for women from all social classes. Lipstick has long added a flourish to any outfit — even those threadbare ensembles of the Great Depression. Art pottery has always brought color into any room — whether that room was in a middle-class household or in a seamstress’s cottage at the edge of town.
While the earliest examples of American art pottery date to 1772, the most popular of the genre ranged from the late 1800s, and stayed popular until the middle of the 20th century. It was during this period that dozens of commercial potteries sprung up and their decorative vases, figurines and other items populated American homes. Popular makers included McCoy, Roseville, Weller and Hull.
American art pottery is found throughout the hundreds of booths in GasLamp Too and the original GasLamp Antiques and Decorating Mall; it’s just a matter of deciding which type suits one’s taste.
In 1905, Addis Emmet Hull founded the A. E. Hull Pottery Company in Crooksville, Ohio. Hull eventually became known for a matte finish and a pastel color range.
Hull made some of its best work from the late 1930s through 1950s. Its most popular line, by far, was Red Riding Hood. The figural cookie jar was produced first in 1943, and was so popular that other themed items followed, from banks to butter dishes.
In the late 1940s, Hull produced art pottery pieces that featured embossed flowers in shades of peach, pink, rose and blue – a move that would forever define its look. These pieces were typically glazed in Hull’s distinctive matte finish, with the exception of a few high-gloss lines.
The Hull Pottery Company also produced many lines used specifically for chain stores, including the Mardi Gras/Granada line that was manufactured exclusively for the F.W. Woolworth Company. Seen in this double-handled vase, made in 1947, Mardi Gras/Granada is a radiating ray pattern characteristic of Art Deco style (GasLamp Too Booth T-515; $48).
The Magnolia pattern was produced from 1946 to 1947 in both matte and gloss pieces. This double-handled Magnolia vase is among the array of art pottery lines that Hull created along floral themes, including Orchid, Calla Lily, Rose and Tulip (GasLamp Too Booth T-515; $46).
After a disastrous flood and fire in 1950, Hull’s factory was rebuilt and modernized, but was left unable to replicate its previous matte finishes to its former specifications. This beautiful Woodland wall pocket made by Hull, yet another example of a floral design, was produced from 1949 to 1952 (GasLamp Too Booth T-515; $46). The Woodland line was created in the matte and gloss finish before the 1950 fire, yet afterward the matte of Woodland was considered substandard and was dropped.
This lobed, handled basket with a turquoise interior is from Hull’s Butterfly line of 1956, which also includes ashtrays, creamer sets, footed bowls and vases. If filled with succulents, this basket would make for a chic, Midcentury Modern display.
The Butterfly line represents what the Hull name conjures up for fans: Pastel tones with charming motifs from the natural world ($75; Booth B-84 at GasLamp Too). The basket features a rare gold trim, along with a turquoise butterfly and pink and turquoise flowers against a cream-colored background. The bottom is marked with Hull, USA, ©56.
This vintage 1956 Hull teapot is also from the Butterfly line. It features a dainty pink butterfly in the center against a cream background and is trimmed in rare gilt. The butterfly finial is an exquisite touch ($25; Booth B-84 at GasLamp Too).
After a long and successful run, Hull went out of business in 1986. Thankfully its legacy lives on through the many beautiful pieces of art pottery available to collectors.