Posted by: Brad Nixon | November 29, 2017

Van Briggle Pottery Building, Colorado Springs

Ten thousand American stories begin something like, “In 18XX, young Augustus Flimfloozle left his family home in Maud, Ohio and headed west. With only two dollars in his pocket and the clothes on his back, he made his way across the Great Plains, determined to reach XXX City, there to pursue his dream of becoming a [cowboy, captain of industry, dental surgeon, etc.].”

Those of us who now live in the west are stuck with the heritage of all those Flimfloozles, because, as it turns out, a goodly number of them did succeed, establishing towns, banks, grocery stores, steel mills and 10,000 other enterprises.

In 1899, Artus Van Briggle headed west. He was 30 years old, and neither penniless nor just out of the cornfield. He’d studied art in Paris, and already an accomplished designer at Rookwood Pottery in Cincinnati, Ohio, one of the era’s foremost producers of art pottery.

Stricken by tuberculosis, Artus hoped the drier air of Colorado Springs would improve his health. He assiduously pursued his pottery craft, particularly his effort to imitate a certain Ming Dynasty matte glaze.

Within 2 years, he succeeded, and both Van Briggle’s designs and his blue matte glaze earned him international fame and prestigious design awards. Van Briggle Pottery of Colorado Springs became known worldwide, and his work is admired and collected today.

That’s as a good an American success story as you could wish for. Standard young-man-from-Ohio reaches the pinnacle of his art.

It omits something.

While in Paris, Artus met another accomplished American artist studying there, a painter, Anne Louise Gregory. They got engaged, each returned to the States — he back to Rookwood, she to Pennsylvania, where she taught high school art and language — then she joined him in Colorado Springs in 1900.

There, she helped manage the pottery and contributed a large number of designs to the Van Briggle line. They married in 1902.

Artus’ health continued to fail, and Anne eventually assumed not only management of the pottery, but took the lead in design. Artus died in 1904, aged 35. Anne carried on.

In fact, Anne forged ahead with great ambition, building an impressive establishment to house the company’s pottery production, offices and showroom.

Van Briggle Pottery

She intended it to be a memorial to her husband, and engaged architect Nicolaas van den Arend for a Flemish farmhouse style building in recognition of Van Briggle’s Dutch ancestry. Completed in 1908, it’s an intriguing variation on the era’s prevailing Arts and Crafts mode.

Van Briggle gable Brad Nixon 101 (480x640)

Anne had everything to do with the look of the remarkable building, designing thousands of tile pieces that decorate the building inside and out.

Van Briggle pottery Brad Nixon 102 (480x640)

Animals — like the rooster above the sundial — appear in many of the pieces. I hope there’s a wonderful story behind the fact that a large glazed tile cat perched on one of the chimneys. Click either photo to enlarge.


Notice the Van Briggle “AA” hallmark, above the cat and in the field of blue tiles below the window in the photo above that: Anne and Artus’ initials, the Van Briggle hallmark.

Flower themes and fanciful figures are everywhere, as here on the sundial:

Van Briggle sundial Brad Nixon 100 (480x640)

And here, The Counselor in front of a panel of stylized lotus flowers

Van Briggle pottery Brad Nixon 098 (480x640)

The pottery struggled, though, declaring bankruptcy. In about 1912, Anne handed off managing the company, later sold it and returned to teaching and painting. She died in 1929.

Van Briggle Pottery has continued since then in the hands of a succession of owners. The building suffered, too: once from fire, another time from a disastrous flood, but was rebuilt both times. In 1968, Van Briggle moved to another location, and the restored building was acquired by nearby Colorado College (where Ms. Van Briggle taught), which continues to maintain it while using it for their facilities department.

There’s one piece of Van Briggle Pottery in our collection, not an old one. Simple in design, it wears a version of Artus’ blue glaze, painstakingly compounded through numerous trials over a hundred years ago.

IMG_8842 (640x480)

The marks still include the “AA” logo.

IMG_8845 (640x480)

The emblem of a love story; or so I like to think.

Visiting

The Van Briggle Pottery building is at 1125 Glen Avenue, Colorado Springs, Colorado. It’s a short distance north of downtown, at the intersection with Uintah Street.

Click here for information about the building on the college’s website.

I parked in the paved lot and took photographs without calling ahead. If that proves problematic, there is a large public parking lot 50 yards south of the pottery, within sight of the building.

To my knowledge, you can’t casually show up and walk in to tour the place, which is a college office facility. There are tours during an annual open house, but I don’t have other tour information. If you know, please leave a comment.

The Van Briggle company’s now located at 1024 South Tejon St., on the southern edge of downtown, just north of interstate 25. http://www.vanbriggle.com.

Some of the photographs in this post and select images from other Under Western Skies posts are available on Shutterstock.com. Click on the linked photos, or CLICK HERE to view the Underawesternsky photo portfolio.

© Brad Nixon 2017. Van Briggle Pottery example from the collection of The Counselor, used with kind permission.


Responses

  1. Very interesting!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You two do get around, don’t you? I bet The Counselor took those last two pix. 😍

    Like

    • No. She did not, or she’d have been credited. I imitated her style.

      Like

      • I was totally fooled! 🤡. So, you’re venturing into derivative works now?

        Like

      • We all stand on the shoulders of giants.

        Like

  3. Reblogged this on Bilocalalia.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you. I look forward to getting acquainted with your blog.

      Like


Leave a Comment. I enjoy hearing from readers.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Categories

%d bloggers like this: