Hampshire Pottery: Poor Man’s Grueby?

Whenever the subject of a true Arts & Crafts pottery comes up, the name most often near the top of any list is that of Grueby Pottery. Hand-thrown with hand-tooled natural motifs, then hand-glazed in the classic ‘Grueby Green,’ it’s little wonder that even a modest piece of decorated Grueby pottery is going to sell in the $1500-$3500 price range — and up.

Grueby was expensive in its glory years, which lasted less than a decade. It is no wonder that back then, like now, imitators appeared ready to tap into the Arts & Crafts market with a product that looked like Grueby, but was far less expensive both to produce and to purchase.

Even before William Grueby released his first matte glazed vase, James Taft had developed a matte green glaze at his Hampshire Pottery in Keene, N.H (top photo). It remained under-publicized for the same reason that Hampshire is not as well-known today as Grueby: it was produced in molds.

From its beginning in 1879, James Taft made the decision to focus more on glazes than on hand-thrown and hand-tooled shapes of his vases and bowls. While Hampshire reportedly had more than 900 glaze formulas, collectors tend to focus on those that come the closest to matching the look of Grueby-like green and matte blue glazes (lower photo).

Their best forms are generally vases in the 8″ to 10″ range with crisp details around the edges of the molded leaves. With the addition of a second color of glaze, such as on the tips of the leaves or the buds of a flower, the price for such a vase can easily climb into the lower range of Grueby ($1200-$1500).

Less dramatic examples of Hampshire, however, can be purchased in the $250-$750 range. Bowls typically sell for less than vases. Since most Hampshire forms were produced in large numbers, condition plays a greater role than it does in a rare, one-of-a-kind Grueby vase. A small chip in the rim of a Hampshire vase can reduce the value by as much as 50%. Unless it’s offered to you at a steep discount, pass on any damage pieces, as a better example is probably just a booth away.

Good luck on the hunt!