Tea jar, 1883

Shape No. 97, English model

Glazed sage green clay Rookwood Pottery, Cincinnati, 1880–1967
Decorator: Matthew A. Daly, American, 1860–1937

In the early years of Rookwood Pottery, Maria Longworth Nichols [Storer] (1849–1932) honed her business into one focused on producing artistic forms which acted as suitable backdrops for creative expressions in decorative glazing. Deviating from the stock vessels produced at the commercial potteries, Nichols sought fresh inspiration. Japan, which had only opened trade to the West thirty years earlier, provided a rich source for developing unique forms like this undulating tea jar. Nineteenth-century Japanese design books like Hokusai’s Manga (1814–78) provided a new decorative vocabulary which captured the beauty in sublime natural subjects like insects and exotic grasses. On this jar, designer Matthew Daly effectively employs the perceived movement of bamboo stalks against an ominous sky to emphasize the irregularity of the form.