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, [] 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.
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.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.
- 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.