Although they were not first to take part in the Arts & Crafts revival, Ephraim Faience Pottery may now have become the most sought-after contemporary art pottery today.
And it came as no accident.
When Ephraim Faience Pottery was founded in 1996, Kevin Hicks and his partner focused on reproducing classic Arts & Crafts forms. Over time, however, they gradually moved away from reproductions to their own original designs. Noted for their hand-sculpted decoration of Arts & Crafts motifs, their vibrant colors, classic forms and matte glazes, Ephraim Pottery soon began attracting a loyal following of collectors.
Having studied antique art pottery, Kevin Hicks recognized the importance that collectors place on recognizable shopmarks. From the beginning, Hicks and his team of potters and decorators adopted and continue the practice of signing every piece they make.
Each January the firm changes, documents and publicizes a new variation of their mark, which is impressed in the bottom of each piece. In addition, their website chronicles a detailed, illustrated history of each shopmark the firm has utilized, making it easy for collectors to identify and date any piece in their collection.
Shopmarks alone, however, could not account for the widespread following Ephraim Faience Pottery has experienced. Like their namesake Grueby Faience Pottery (faience is a reference to glazed earthenware; Ephraim is a small town in Wisconsin), “Ephraim Faience pottery is thrown, sculpted and glazed by hand,” according to their website. “The hand-made nature of our pottery contributes to its individuality and enhances its collectibility. We do not use slip-cast molds to make our vases. Potters throw all of our vessels individually, by hand, on a potter’s wheel. Each vessel bears the impressed mark of our studio and the signature of the principal artist(s). No more than 500 first-quality pieces of each design are created.”
With more than 80 galleries across the country stocking their wares, in addition to their presence at nearly every major art pottery and Arts & Crafts show, including the Grove Park Inn Arts & Crafts Conference, Ephraim Faience pottery is readily available for all collectors, including through their own catalog and website.
When the popularity of their pieces, especially those marked with an “E” for experimental, as well as limited editions, retired and discontinued designs, prompted many collectors to begin selling them on eBay, the pottery felt compelled to politely distance themselves from the internet auction house. “We are encouraged by the vibrancy of the sales of our pottery on eBay and by the enthusiasm with which our collectors seek out our work. We feel that, in most cases, sales of our work between collectors on eBay is positive for sellers, buyers, and collectors of our work in general.”
Their website statement continued, “It is important for collectors to know that Ephraim Faience Pottery does not sell its own work on eBay. Please be aware that E.F.P. will not police eBay for incorrect or misleading information in listings. We encourage both bidders and sellers to make use of our website to obtain factual information about our work.”
Interest in the pottery led to the formation in 2007 of the Ephraim Faience Pottery Collectors’ Society. “Our goals,” according to their mission statement, “are to research the history of this specific art pottery, share that information with our membership and the general public, establish a network of collectors, bring those collectors together at an annual convention, and encourage the buying, selling, and trading of this popular American art pottery.”
The third annual Ephraim Faience Pottery Collector’s Society convention is scheduled for June 25-26 in Johnson Creek, Wisconsin (info at ephraimcollectors.org).
For more information on Ephraim Faience Pottery, please see ephraimpottery.com.