Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Van Briggle Pottery Complex

Colorado Springs is filled with wonders architectural and otherwise, from the world class Broadmoor Hotel to the soaring Air Force Academy Chapel. One of the most remarkable and the least well known is the original complex for the Van Briggle Pottery. Van Briggle is one of the quintessential American Art Pottery companies and of the scores that were once successful and famous, among a very few that continue in operation to this day. Their showrooms in "Col. Spgs." continue to draw art pottery fanciers from around the globe. But not far away, their original buildings are also well worth a visit.

The complex, designed by architect Nicolaas van den Arend in a Northern European vernacular style, reminds any student of architecture of William Morris' home, The Red House. It is not only the hue of the brick but also the turns of the gables and the groupings of the windows that suggest an appreciation of the British Arts and Crafts Movement. This is not accidental, in that the American Arts and Crafts Movement owes much to the cousins across the water. The concept behind both is the organic integrity of those things that are crafted as best as they can be, to be beautiful or useful and possibly both. While the original impetus emphasized handcrafting, the art and craft of the machine (as Wright called it in a famous speech at Hull House in Chicago) was also part of the movement. Indeed, while artists at throwing and decorating pottery were essential to all of the American Arts and Crafts studios, many (Van Briggle included) took artist-designed pieces and then used mass-production to create them for their clientele.

The founders of this pottery were Artus and Anna Van Briggle, about whom you can read a fine biographical sketch here:

And here:

The Van Briggles had made names for themselves in the Art Pottery movement before his unfortunate illness forced them to move to Colorado Springs in 1899, in the hope of his being cured of tuberculosis. That hope was short-lived. But in what time Artus had remaining, they established their art pottery business, amid national and international acclaim for such pieces as their distinctive "Lorelei" and "Despondency" vases, which are still being made today. Anna continued the work after Artus' death. You can read about Van Briggle's history and see some of their work here:
Van Briggle Pottery
Daughter Anne is in Colorado Springs to day and at my urging she and Steven went to see the Van Briggle complex, now a part of Colorado College. The afternoon light was splendid indeed and she has sent me marvelous photos, perhaps the best that you will find anywhere on the Internet. Anne also gave me her enthusiastic permission to post them on this blog. Which I will do here. You may more about the complex at this link: Van Briggle on the National Register of Historic Places.

Photographs © 2012, Anne E. Dalles

1 comment:

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Van Briggle Pottery Vase
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