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What is Bauer Pottery?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 19 September 2016
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Bauer Pottery is pottery produced by the J.A. Bauer Pottery Company, which was active from 1885 to 1862. This pottery is viewed as an antique collector's item, with pottery from the 1930s and 1940s being especially prized. Collection of Bauer Pottery has been complicated by the fact that the company left many of its products unmarked, making it impossible to verify the provenance of some pieces.

The company is associated with Los Angeles, but it was actually established in Paducah, Kentucky, by J. Andy Bauer. Bauer's work was widely sold in the Midwest, and grew very popular there, but he suspected that his distribution was limited by his location, and so he opened a factory in Los Angeles to expand operations in 1909. In Los Angeles, Bauer's pottery was heavily influenced by local artisans, and by the growing Arts and Crafts Movement.

Bauer Pottery is stoneware, designed in a solid way which is designed to last. The pottery was meant to be used as every day dinnerware, and to withstand years of hard use. When Louis Ipsen took over the design responsibilities for the company in 1915, the look of Bauer Pottery underwent a marked shift, establishing the famously bright colors and distinctive concentric rings associated with Bauer Pottery. Ipsen's designs were often referred to as “beehives,” because they looked like little beehives when they were inverted, with bold raised rings of pottery decorating their sides.

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This pottery was classically glazed in a distinctive and very popular green glaze, although the company later expanded their glazing production into a range of bold colors including orange, black, and blue. The famous Fiestaware of the 1930s copied the Bauer Pottery look, and became more famous along the way, perhaps because of the uranium-based glazes used in some colors for a limited time, which added a whiff of danger to the Fiesta name. For its time, Bauer Pottery was quite a departure from the pottery of the time, which was either stark white or covered in fussy ornamental details such as tiny painted flowers and crests, and it laid the groundwork for numerous other potteries all over the United States.

A modern company, also called Bauer Pottery, produces replications of traditional Bauer Pottery, made in the same style and with the same attention to detail. Because this pottery is modern in origin, it is viewed as less valuable than true antique Bauer Pottery, although it may come to be a collector's item in its own right. For people who like the Bauer and Fiesta look, modern pieces from Bauer Pottery can be a low-cost alternative to antique collecting, and their recent provenance tends to make people less nervous about using them as daily dinnerware.

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