Monday, September 7, 2015

Collecting Weller Pottery Fruitone: A Difficult Challenge

Today there are thousands of collectors of vintage and antique Weller Pottery. Many collect figurines, others collect Hudson, and still others collect just rare pieces. It seems as if the Weller Pottery Company made something for everyone. But one of the most difficult and overlooked patterns is also one about which very little is known. That line is known as Fruitone.

Weller Pottery Fruitone Jardiniere, 5 1/4" Tall: Two Colors

The exact dates of production are lost to history, but from the manufacturers marks found on most pieces the current estimate is somewhere around 1915. There are currently no known catalogs, so it is still unknown how many shapes were available. Judging by the typical number in a line and the number of examples available, they probably offered a dozen or so. It could not have been very popular at the time, and would have not been produced for more than a year or so. The forms are simple arts and crafts designs, typical of what was being demanded by customers at the time.

Weller Pottery Fruitone small vase, 5" High: Four Colors

However, it is not the shapes that draw collectors. It is the wonderful striated glaze. Each piece is typically glazed in multiple colors: usually blue to green to tan, and brown, and maroon. Each color blends directly into the next, creating a glaze scheme that is unique among all American art pottery companies. Some pieces may only have two or three colors, but the most desirable will have upwards of five. It is a matt glaze, but with a smooth surface, very similar to a vellum glaze. It is soft to the touch, and is immediately recognizable to collectors.

Weller Pottery Fruitone Flared Gourd Vase, 6" : Three Colors

The majority of the pieces appear to be less than six inches, but the tallest documented to date is a thin bud vase standing just over eleven inches tall. The forms known to exist are vases, jardinieres, and bowls. Each piece tends to be slightly different as if hand-made, which is in perfect keeping with the arts and crafts style of the period. Lips will be irregular, the vase may lean, and no two pieces will ever have the identical glazing.  Each piece is in it's own way unique.

Weller Pottery Fruitone Bullet Vase, 8" Tall: Five Colors

Unlike many other Weller Pottery lines, these are exceedingly difficult to locate. In four years of attending art pottery auctions and searching antique malls we have only found one piece. You can occasionally find a piece or two for sale on the Internet but the prices can be rather high. The difficulty of collecting this line can be made even more frustrating because a similar line was produced decades later by Weller Pottery. The Evergreen line was produced in the late 1930's for a short time, but although it had a similar striated pattern, the colors were primarily greens, and the glaze was often softened by airbrushing techniques. The Weller Pottery Fruitone pattern will never display evidence of airbrushing whatsoever.

Weller Pottery Fruitone with Weller Mark on the Bottom

The Fruitone pattern is not always marked, but often it can be found with a die-impressed trademark on the bottom. It is also important to note the distinctive bubbled glaze on the bottom heel that is often wheel ground by the factory so that the piece will stand flat. This bubbled glaze on the heel is found on every piece of fruitone. Also, stilt-pulls from the tripods used in the kilns often touch one of the edges, causing what appears to be a chip as in the image above. This is a factory defect found on nearly all pieces, and should not detract from the value or collectibility.

Collecting Antique Weller Pottery Fruitone pattern can be very frustrating, and can take years to acquire just a handful. But even a small collection will draw attention, and bring pleasure and warmth to your decor. You can learn more about collecting Weller at the Weller Collectors Group.