The Origins of Women As Ceramicists
Victorian women painted flowers on china as an “appropriate” hobby for ladies. By the early 1900’s, however, some women in the United States had moved beyond the decoration of objects that were designed and made by others and became potters themselves. Around this same development, utopian communities that produced hand-crafted pieces were established. The production of art pottery was part of the Arts and Crafts movement–a reaction to the sterile mass production of objects in factories spawned by the Industrial Revolution.
Women Ceramicists in the Midwest
As a part of the Arts and Crafts Movement, several Midwestern women becamed skilled potters. The creativity of women ceramicists was seen, for example, in the beautiful items (many featuring flowers) that were produced by the highly regarded Rookwood Pottery in Cincinnati Ohio.
The Overbeck Sisters: Hoosier Women As Ceramicists
Another center of ceramics was founded by the Overbeck family in Cambridge City, Indiana. Four of the six sisters of this Hoosier family were especially skilled in producing beautiful pieces that featured unusual glazes, gorgeous flowers and other motifs drawn from nature.
Like the Rookwood Pottery, the Overbecks also produced tiles, some with flower designs. The Overbeck sisters were all talented women committed to making each piece unique. They always insisted on the importance of function. For example, every pitcher had to be able to pour perfectly. They would not, as they said, ever make a vase in the shape of a bird’s nest as nests are constructed to shed water, not hold it. Examples of their work can be seen in many museums today.