The pottery and ceramics produced at Tiffany Studios was the product least associated with the Tiffany name, and therefore the least financially successful enterprise. The firm sold pottery from 1905 to 1917, and presumably produced new pieces throughout this stretch of time. Jimmy Stewart, a glassblower at the Corona glass studio, later remembered how the majority of pottery pieces were hidden from view whenever Louis C. Tiffany was expected to prevent him from realizing how little demand their was for the product and how much extra inventory was lying around.
Like his experiments in glass and enamels, much of Tiffany’s work on ceramics was a departure from traditional methods, and advances were kept secret until he felt he had a suitable enough product to unveil. Tiffany’s interest in pottery was picked in the 1890’s during his visits to the annual Paris Salons were he viewed works by Dalpayrat, Delaherche, and Bigot and Bing’s artists at Maison Art Nouveau. Press articles indicate that tiffany launched his pottery line at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, followed by displays at the 13th Annual Exhibition of the New York Society of Keramic Arts in 1905 and at the opening of the new Tiffany & Co. store. Tiffany called his ceramics “Favrile Pottery” though obviously no glass was involved; the term “favrile” was used in a general sense to connote high quality and craftsmanship. The ceramic wares were also offered for sale in the Tiffany & Co. Blue Book, a catalogue presented to preferred customers.
Ceramics made at Tiffany Furnaces were often made from the living model, which was in keeping with tiffany’s desire to imitate the beauty of nature in his objects. Living specimens, such as cabbages or wild flowers were sprayed with shellac until rigid and then electroplated with copper. These were then made into plaster of Paris moulds, in which clay was pressed, resulting in the final form. Glazes on the pottery were predominately executed in complimentary earth tones: ivory, beige, ochre, brown, green, and occasional blue tints. Shading was achieved by adding a second intermediate color on top of the original glaze, or by simply letting the extra glaze create deeper pools in the crevices of the piece.
Bronze pottery was another technique available at Tiffany Studios. Combining the efforts of the pottery and metalware departments at Tiffany Furnaces, the exterior of a pottery piece was plated in copper using electrolysis and the resulting copper sheath was than patinated in a range of finishes. The result was a sculptural-like metal outside and the glaze of the underlying pottery on the inside.
The vase, also known as the “Kohlrabi” vase, consists of naturally depicted cabbage leaves set in a circle to form the body of the vase. From this four handles protrude. The glaze is an overall layer of ivory with green laid on top to accentuate the curves and crevices formed by the leaves. This piece was signed “P1014- Tiffany Favrile” and “Pottery” and marked with the “LCT” logo.
The Electroplated “Cattail” Vase:
An example of Tiffany’s “Bronze Pottery” technique, this small vase (5 ½” high) was created in ceramic, glazed a deep blue on the inside, and the outside was electroplated in copper and patinated in a silvery finish. The base is signed “L.C. Tiffany- Favrile Bronze Pottery.”