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Art Pottery Exhibit June 8–August 31
Opens at Second Annual Benefit

Teco 1 The Frank Lloyd Wright House in Ebsworth Park
Teco 12" vase with buttressed handles under a matte green glaze. On loan from Carole Kroeger, the design is by W. D. Gates.

On June 8, 2003, The Frank Lloyd Wright House in Ebsworth Park (FLWHEP) will hold its second annual benefit called this year, "High Tea and Teco" to celebrate three things: the first is the showing of art pottery — the initial exhibit of art since FLWHEP was developed as a house museum; the second is the acquisition of a Teco pot, a gift from Jan Greenberg, writer and collector, and thirdly; Frank Lloyd Wright’s birthday. Frank Lloyd Wright designed pieces of Teco pottery and preferred its matte green finish; so it is fitting that the first acquisition of art for FLWHEP is a matte green Teco pot from Illinois where Mr. Wright had his first home and studio.

Peter Shank, chairman of the art acquisition committee for the Kraus house, received the donation from Jan Greenberg who will speak about art pottery on June 8 at 3 p.m. under the canopy on the lawn of FLWHEP. Jan’s gift will be unveiled at the party.

Jan Greenberg at The Frank Lloyd Wright House in Ebsworth Park
Jan Greenberg

The new acquisition, along with selections from the collections of Jan and St. Louis artist Carole Kroeger, will be on view for members and the general public during tours through August 31.
Teco pots from the collection of Mrs. Kroeger, the great-granddaughter of W. D. Gates, founder of the American Terra Cotta and Ceramic Company where Teco ware was made near Chicago, will be displayed throughout the Kraus house. Gates often designed Teco pots. (See article on Teco pottery on page four.) Mrs. Greenberg’s collection includes not only Teco, but pottery by American pottery notables such as William Henry Grueby and Samuel Weller.

The Frank Lloyd Wright House in Ebsworth Park
Teco 7" centerpiece
bowl with buttressed feet. Loaned by Carole Kroeger, it is a design by architect Holmes Smith.

Grueby & Co. made pottery in Boston, MA from 1897-1919. David Rago, noted art pottery expert, said Grueby produced the “most important clay products of the American Arts and Crafts movement.” Grueby pottery was known for its “Grueby Green”— an opaque, matte enamel finish. Most pieces were hand thrown and characterized by simple design with matte finish.

Weller Pottery in Fultonham, Ohio, existing from 1872-1945, grew out of the arts and crafts movement and was designed by artists. In its nearly 75 years, Weller Pottery produced a wide variety of pottery including flowerpots, crocks, ornamental pots, and a number of innovative lines of pottery.

To insure their authentic duplicaton, pieces were cast in molds, with some hand finishing. The molds encouraged greater producion and wider distribution.

Please scroll down the page to read more about Teco pottery.

The Frank Lloyd Wright House in Ebsworth Park
Teco 4" vessel
with lobed decoration under a matte green glaze. A gift from
Jan Greenberg.

Joanne Kohn

A Note From the Chairman

The focus of this newsletter is our first exhibit since we restored the Kraus house as a house museum. The exhibit was inspired by our first acquisition of art, a wonderful Teco pot, the kind that Frank Lloyd Wright favored for use in his houses. We are extremely grateful to Jan Green-berg for this gift and to both Jan and Carole Kroeger for loaning us pottery from their collections and to Peter Shank for curating the show.

“High Tea and Teco” will be our second benefit. It will be on June 8, Frank Lloyd Wright’s birthday, from 2-5 p.m. and be chaired by Sally Pinckard. The art pottery exhibit will open this day. We hope you will attend the party and bring family and friends throughout the summer to see the pottery. Alice Gerdine has generously agreed again to be our benefactor for the birthday party.

In this issue, we also want to recognize two board members: Bob Hall, who has been strong and innovative in helping define and accomplish the acquisition of the house and partnership with the county. Thanks also to Roger Peterson who helped raise money and stepped forward with the first significant check to get us through our financial obligations before we mounted a major membership drive.

The house has become a full-time job and certainly a part-time job for many of us. Without a budget for staff, we depend on our volunteers, and they have been superb. I particularly want to thank our tour coordinator, Liz Studt, who with Carolyn Noll, has taken your calls and booked the tours. We are so pleased with the work they and all the docents do to make the house accessible to the public.
Finally, I want to thank Genie Zakrzewski, the director of the County Parks and Recreation Department, and her staff for keeping the road full of rock after rain, snow and ice washed it away this winter and paving the entrance on Ballas Road. The department recently planted trees that eventually will provide a screen for the park and for our neighbors on the eastern edge of the property line. More trees will be planted there in the fall.

We desperately need a circular paved road and parking. However, we have made tremendous progress in the restoration; presently, creating useable space in the tool house and building an organization that serves the public. Your membership keeps the house going. We are grateful to you all. Stay with us!

Joanne Kohn, Chairman
The Frank Lloyd Wright House in Ebsworth Park

Bob Hall at The Frank Lloyd Wright House in Ebsworth Park

Bob Hall

I had been in Japan with the U.S. Navy and visited Mr. Wright’s Imperial Hotel in Tokyo. This sparked my interest and over the years, I visited numerous FLW properties.

In the mid-60s when I was Director of Parks and Recreation for the City of Kirkwood, I visited the Kraus house and property and, as any good park director would, immediately saw the great potential for a public park.

Almost thirty years later, when I was County Parks Director, I met with my old friend, Judi Bettendorf, who wanted the county’s inclusion in a plan to acquire and maintain the house and property. I made it clear that the county did not have any money to put into the project, but we might be able to help in other ways.

I knew that acquiring the house was just the starting point of a long and probably frustrating odyssey. Over time, things changed. Judi moved to Florida, and fortunately, Joanne Kohn stepped in to lead the charge. She put together a dedicated group of volunteers who were determined to save, restore and maintain the house and property.

I had to convince County Executive Buzz Westfall that this was a necessary and worthwhile project for the county to take on. Along with the newly formed not-for-profit, we devised a plan in which the not-for-profit would acquire the house and property, give it to the county, lease it back, restore the house, and operate it for the public benefit.

Even though I am retired as County Parks Director, I know we have enthusiastic backing of Buzz Westfall and Genie Zakrzewski, my successor. We have accomplished a lot but there’s still much to do. I look forward to my continued participation.

Bob Hall, Vice-Chairman, FLWHEP

Roger Peterson at The Frank Lloyd Wright House in Ebsworth Park

Roger Peterson

The reasons for my interest and involvement in preserving the FLW House in Ebsworth Park require some explanation. I am not a native of St. Louis. My wife Liz and I returned permanently to St. Louis from Washington, D.C. in 1979 upon my retirement from the Army following 26 years of active military service.

I had earlier been posted by the Army to St. Louis from 1973-76, one of numerous locations in the U.S. and overseas where we had lived since our marriage in 1955 in Turkey. (Liz’s father was serving in NATO’s Headquarters there.)

We decided on St. Louis to begin my second career in private enterprise because we recognized the numerous advantages of living here based on our world-wide travel experiences. Liz and I were particularly attracted by the numerous and accessible — first class, cultural amenities of this often underrated cosmopolitan center.

When my good friend, and fellow Omaha (Nebraska) Central High School graduate, Joanne Kohn, shared her vision with me of organizing a group dedicated to the purchase, preservation and operation of the FLW house, I was immediately interested.

As a practicing structural engineer, who had visited several of FLW’s noted projects, the first being the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo during my honeymoon, Joanne’s initiative held a special, professional interest. Then, when I recalled what had attracted my family to St. Louis several years earlier, I was committed. To participate in adding yet another jewel to St. Louis’ already glittering crown was an opportunity not to be missed.

Colonel, Ret. T. Roger Peterson,
Board Member, FLWHEP

The Frank Lloyd Wright House in Ebsworth Park
Teco 4" vase
with buttressed
Designed by
W. D. Gates.

Teco Pottery
by Agnes Garino

Teco — American Art Pottery has been described as the "ceramic expression of the Prairie Style," exemplifying the arts and crafts movement. Teco, an acronym for the Terra-Cotta and Ceramic Company of Terra Cotta, Illinois, located near Crystal Lake northwest of Chicago, was in business in some form from 1881 to 1967. Teco was produced from approximately 1902 to about 1923. The exact ending date of Teco Pottery is unknown. Ads and articles about Teco Pottery have been found dating up to 1923. The Teco trademark existed between 1885 and 1941.

William D. (W. D.) Gates began experimenting in the late 1880s to create a line of pottery that focused on the form and color rather than ornamentation for its style. The result: TECO pottery. Characterized by quality glazes, Teco was unique primarily because of its forms.

One of Gates’ goals was to develop a line of quality pottery at a reasonable price. The typical Teco vase sold for between $2-$5. Larger ones typically cost between $7-$20, with the highest priced interior piece at $30. His goal was to create pieces that combined art with practicality and to place a piece of Teco in every American home.

The Frank Lloyd Wright House in Ebsworth Park
Teco 8" matte green vase
with leaf

While Gates created a lot of the shapes, he also hired other designers who made over 500 different shapes of Teco. Teco designers included members of the Chicago Architectural Club. Frank Lloyd Wright designed four Teco pieces. Inspired by the architecture and design at the beginning of 1900, its individual designers, including Wright, brought their interpretation to the pottery.
Gates, while clearly influenced by Arts and Crafts ideas as well as art nouveau styles, believed that there was a place for the use of molds in the ceramic process. He had heard Frank Lloyd Wright speak in Chicago in 1901, in his famous ‘“Hull House’’ speech, in which craftsmen were encouraged to “embrace’’ the machine rather than blindly reject it. Wright extensively used molds to create the architectural elements of his building surfaces. The problem with hand-made articles, according to Gates, was that their prices were too high for the general public to afford; while judicious use of molds and machine processes could make well-designed beautiful objects for the mass market.
Teco’s appeal was the high-quality, unique forms typically either geometric, organic or architectural. The most sought after have usually been characterized by angular handles and buttresses. Gates’ most successful pieces were without painted decoration, using naturalistic motifs -- frequently leaves and flowers integral to the piece.

The stated objective of Teco was " produce an art ware that would harmonize with all its surroundings... adding to the beauty of the flower or leaf placed in the vase, at the same time enhanced by the beauty of the vase itself."

Organic, while less popular, has been described as some of the “most dynamic and compelling forms”. While architectural faience was distinguished by large, heavy interior and exterior pots or tiles.
Much of Teco pottery is characterized by a soft, medium green matte glaze. Some of Teco’s matte green glazes exhibit a charcoaling effect in the form of a metallic, black overglaze. Over 90% of Teco was matte green and for nearly a decade only the matte green was available commercially, a green, but with a grayish effect.

Teco at The Frank Lloyd Wright House in Ebsworth Park
Teco 7" vase with
leaf decoration
under a matte
greenglaze. Designed by
W. D. Gates.

After 1909, Gates added a number of other colored glazes, including golds, browns, buffs, grays, dusky rose, as well as blue, purples, oranges and yellow.

The new colors brought bacl customers who had purchased lower-priced green pottery in shapes resembling Teco ware. Workmen, it has been said, often sprayed the new colors over green pieces that had not sold.

By 1911 there were more than 500 shapes, and eventually more than 10,000. Many of the early pieces were vases.

Rarely hand-crafted, mostly mass produced, as David Rago in his book American Art Pottery states: "Teco created a sleek, stylish, machine interpretation of Arts and Crafts design that apparently accomplished the impossible: the company offered great design and great quality, produced such ware consistently, and stayed in business."

Teco at The Frank Lloyd Wright House in Ebsworth Park
Teco 10" architectural
form vase with four buttresses around ovoid body under a matte green glaze. Attributed to W. D. Gates.

Teco 9" cylindrical vase with
four buttresses under a
matte green glaze.

Distinguishing Teco is the long-stemmed T and its extended cross-line on the right. The pots were not signed but model numbers were indicated.

Teco — the first two letters of terra and cotta — was a registered trademark by 1895. Work was produced by a number of craftsmen, including two of Gates’ sons. While a few of the pieces were thrown, the normal approach was molding. Clays from the Illinois area and Indiana were used. Gates believed that good design was as critical as was the quality of materials and workmanship.
Using modern production techniques, including molds, power glaze sprayers, and coal-fired muffle kilns, he created unique American art pottery. TECO did not employ potters, with the exception of Gates. However, he did use the artisans who worked for him during the early phases of experimentation.

Gates experimented with not only clays, but glazes as he invented new shapes. To quote author Sharon Darling: "His aim was to produce ware whose beauty would derive from line and color rather than elaborate decoration. It would conform to the highest artistic standards, yet be sold at modest prices."

Teco Logo

His advertisements advise purchasers to "Look for the TECO mark under each piece" or to insist on genuine Teco, at the same time offering a free booklet illustrating new shapes and colors. While the number of colors and shades increased, the number of new shapes was limited.

Darling explains that "the thriving Arts and Crafts movement and the innovative Prairie School provided Gates with both a philosophy of design and a clientele for his pottery." Critics pointed out that arts and crafts bungalow homes provided the perfect setting for Teco pottery.

Writing in the Chicago Tribune in 1989 on a Teco exhibit at the Chicago Historical Society, art critic Alan G. Artner describes Teco with its "bulbs and pods and tendrils, as well as man-made architectural elements, fused into a satisfying whole. Nearly always the pieces are streamlined, stripped of superfluous decoration, with power deriving from color and line."

The largest institutional collection of Teco is owned by the Chicago Historical Society. Pieces are also included in museum collections throughout the country including the Smithsonian and at the T. C. Industries, Crystal Lake, Illinois, site of the old Teco factory.

Teco pieces still in circulation are primarily green, under eight inches tall, with little or no organic or architectural detailing. Currently prices range anywhere from a few hundred to several thousand dollars.

For additional information on Teco pottery:
American Art Pottery, David Rago, Knickerbocker Press, 2001.

Miller’s Treasure or Not? How to Compare and Value American Art Pottery, David Rago & Suzanne Perrault, Octopus Publishing Group Ltd. 2001.

Teco: Art Pottery of the Prairie School, Sharon Darling, Erie Art Museum, 1989.

Carole Kroeger Peter Shank Sally Pinckard
Carole Kroeger, great-granddaughter of the originator of Teco pottery; Peter Shank, curator of pottery exhibit; and Sally Pinckard, chairman of "High Tea and Teco."

St. Louis World’s Fair and Teco

W. D. Gates brought his pottery to the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904, displaying both terra cotta architectural and pottery pieces and winning high honors for his green microcrystalline glaze. The display, the first American art pottery to be exhibited, was in an art-glass pavilion lit by Teco lamps with shades of Japanese grass cloth or leaded glass.

In the Fair’s Mining Building, larger Teco pieces including vases, planters, jars and tubs were on display. Visitors to the Fair were encouraged to take home a copy of the "Teco Art Pottery" catalog featuring lamps and pottery available by mail.

Two St. Louis Zoo buildings are decorated with Teco tiles — the Bird House and the Reptile House.