Sunday, August 23, 2015

Roseville Wincraft: Magnificent Mid-century Modern

The Roseville Pottery Company was flirting with bankruptcy in 1948, and indeed, they would shut their doors forever just six years later in 1954. Cheap imports from the pacific rim were wrecking their margins, and the style that had defined Roseville Pottery for decades was falling out of favor. It was in that environment that the Wincraft line was born.

Roseville Pottery Wincraft Vase shape 284-10

The pattern was taken from the name of the president of the company, Robert Windisch. He was looking for a new direction and a new look, and so he turned to Frank Ferrell to create a product more in line with the popular mid-century modern look. Frank created a total of 51 pieces, drawing on elements from throughout the history of Roseville Pottery. Collecting Wincraft can be almost be like collecting a microcosm of their designs. Although Frank initially intended the Wincraft line to be glazed in a semi-matt, he was over-ruled and for the first time a new thick high-glaze was used. This gave the pieces the appearance of being encased in glass, similar to pieces being produced at the time by Royal Haeger. It came in three color schemes: Azure Blue, Apricot, and Chartreuse. Commercially the Wincraft line was a flop. Merchants who traditionally sold Roseville complained that customers who normally bought Roseville could not even recognize the new glaze as Roseville, and sales plummeted.

In the intervening decades after they went bankrupt, Roseville pottery designs went out of style, and most of the existing pieces were either thrown out, broken, or sold at yard sales for ten to 15 cents. But in the late 1980's collectors of vintage and antique American art pottery rediscovered Roseville, and prices soared. They continued rising until around 2007, when the American economy tanked, and along with it much of the collectible market. But Wincraft followed it's own path. Indeed, Wincraft prices did increase somewhat with the interest in Roseville, but this particular pattern never garnered a great deal of collector interest. No one was really interested in mid-century modern style, and in fact, the flea markets and antique stores remained full of similar items. The greatest prices were paid for Art Deco and Arts and Crafts styles, mid century modern was just too current to appear valuable or collectible.

Roseville Pottery Wincraft Panther Vase, 290-11

There were two exceptions to the rule which are the Panther Vase (290-11) and the Cactus Basket (210-12). There are few examples of either, and both have been in high demand since the initial Roseville pottery revival. There are other pieces even harder to find, but with little interest their prices languished.

Roseville Wincraft Long Basket, 209-12

In the intervening years since 2007, tastes are once again changing. Many collectors have lost interest in the typical later-line Roseville Pottery patterns such as Zephyr Lily, Magnolia, or Apple Blossom. But interest has never been stronger for Roseville Wincraft. The sweeping, almost art deco lines incorporated with organic shapes, colors and glaze so typical of mid-century modern create an almost perfect storm to catch the eye of collectors. Just a few years ago these pieces languished in antique stores, but today they are hard to find. Few were sold originally, even fewer were preserved. The combination of rarity and desirability are quickly driving prices.

Large Roseville Wincraft Octagonal Bowl, 233-14

A perfect example of a truly rare piece is the Large Octagonal Bowl 233-14. There may not be more than 2-3 in existence. Only one is known to the author, and it's path can be traced back through three auctions since 2007.

Roseville Wincraft trial glaze vase, 283-8

Of course, if you are looking to the rarest of the rare, it is possible to find Wincraft pieces in a variety of trial glazes. Each piece is likely unique and it is hard to assign a value to such things. The pink and gray glazed piece above is a perfect example.

Although slowly rising, prices of Roseville Wincraft pattern will only increase as the interest in mid-century modern expands. If you are interested in putting together a collection, you should probably consider picking them up sooner rather than later.

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