Frederick Rhead vase

A vase by Rhead. A similar vase broke the world record for American art pottery at the Rago Arts and Auction Center, March 10, 2007 when it sold for $516,000.[1]

Frederick Hurten Rhead (1880-1942) was a potter who was born in England but worked in the USA for most of his career. He was born in Hanley, Staffordshire, into a family of potters. His father Frederick Alfred Rhead, trained as a pâte-sur-pâte artist at Mintons Ltd and went on to work for a number of other potteries including his own. His mother, whose maiden name was Hurten, also came from an artistic family. Frederick Hurten's siblings included Charlotte Rhead, a talented designer, and Harry Rhead, who was to follow his brother to the United States of America. Rhead served an apprenticeship in Burslem under his father and attended classes at the Wedgwood Institute. Before emigrating to the USA in 1902, he taught art in Longton and was art director of a pottery called Wardle and Co. in Hanley.

Frederick Hurten Rhead worked at many American potteries. He worked briefly for the Weller pottery in Zanesville, Ohio before he became art director at the Roseville pottery in 1904. In 1908 Roseville reduced the amount of handcrafting in its production and the following year Rhead moved to Missouri, although his brother Harry stayed on at Roseville. Frederick taught for a couple of years at University City, Missouri before moving to California.

Rhead's first California position was in Marin County at the Arequipa tuberculosis sanatorium´s pottery shop, [[1]] where he worked with tuberculosis patients. He introduced tubelining (a technique also associated with his sister Charlotte). Rhead's methods were not regarded by the management as economic, and he left Arequipa Pottery in 1913 to start his own studio pottery in Santa Barbara. The Rhead pottery lasted until 1917 and its products are now highly valued - a Rhead vase currently holds the record as the most expensive American art pottery at auction. However, in the later part of his career Rhead moved in the direction of larger-scale, more commercial production.

Fiesta wareEditar

In 1927 Rhead was hired as art director of the Homer Laughlin China Company in Newell, West Virginia, holding this position until his death in 1942.

During his long tenure there, Rhead conceived, invented, and designed a line of glazed dinnerware based on a stylized Art Deco spherical theme, and originally glazed in five different solid colors. The line was named Fiesta and was first introduced to the public in January of 1936. Fiesta dinnerware was an immediate success and the Homer Laughlin Company expanded this line with new serving pieces and additional place pieces, and eventually new glaze colors as well. Fiesta went on to become the best selling line of dinnerware, and was a true fad in the United States for over ten years. Sometime after Rhead's death, and due to the war, and the research and development of the atom bomb, the United States Government took control of all uranium, an oxide of which was necessary to produce the vibrant orange-red glaze of Fiesta. Without that key color, and with the severe reduction in variety of open-stock items available, the appeal of the line was hurt. Consumer interest in, and sales of, the line did remain strong for some time, but in spite of the introduction of a new palette of glaze colors, sales progressively declined over the following twenty-seven years until the entire line was discontinued in January of 1973. But after an absence of thirteen years, the line was revived in an altered clay body and glaze composition. Some vintage Fiesta casting molds designed by Rhead were used in production of the new ware, but most shapes had to be slightly altered, or completely redesigned to meet the requirements of the new materials being used. However, in the new Fiesta, Rhead's original concept and basic shape-styling remain as a testament to his talent. This second incarnation of Fiesta dinnerware was first marketed in early 1986 to capitalize on the 50th anniversary of the original line's introduction and it has remained in continuous production.

Art Academy of People's University

Frederick Hurten Rhead (at far left) and others at the Art Academy of People's University (now the Lewis Center) in University City, Missouri in 1910, celebrating the first kiln there.

Though some have criticized Rhead for not being an original creative artist, he was in fact a great innovator in pottery manufacturing techniques and he was very talented at refining and improving on existing style ideas and designs. For example the idea of mixed solid colors on dinnerware was actually first done by the Catalina pottery, Santa Catalina Island, in the early 1930s, and soon imitated by the Bauer pottery also in California, but Rhead's version in Fiesta is what came to be the most successful of solid color dinnerware.

Frederick Hurten Rhead died in New York City in November of 1942 from cancer.



  • Bumpus, Bernard Collecting Rhead Pottery

Bumpus (1921-2004) was the leading authority on the Rhead family. He curated an exhibition, Rhead Artists and Potters, which toured various UK Museums in the 1980s. He hoped to take a version of the exhibition to the USA, but this project foundered.

  • Dale, Sharon Frederick Hurten Rhead

A detailed study with good illustrations.

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