Bringing Cincinnati’s Treasures Together
"The Spirit of Baseball – The Batter”
Photography provided by Rookwood Pottery
It almost seems like Rookwood Pottery has a theme this summer. The venerated manufacturer is pairing treasured pieces of Cincinnati’s history with its artisanal ceramics.
Perhaps the most obvious example is the series Rookwood Pottery unveiled June 26 for the Major League Baseball All-Star Game in Cincinnati, “The Spirit of Baseball – The Batter” and the “Baseball Pitches” coaster set. Rendered in ceramic, the pieces capture the idyllic simplicity at the heart of the game.
“The Spirit of Baseball – The Batter” depicts an anonymous player in pinstripes having just hit a ball and gathering himself to speed to first base. What kind of hit the batter has – whether he’ll be safe or out – we don’t know. But in capturing the optimistic moment just after the ball is struck, the artist invests the scene with an edge-of-the-seat zeal familiar to those who frequent Great American Ball Park to watch the Reds in the summer.
“Baseball Pitches” is unique among Rookwood Pottery’s usual catalog of tiles in that it’s both art and a learning tool. Watching a ballgame on television and wondering at the pitch that Reds pitcher Johnny Cueto used to strike out a hitter? Just sneak a peek at his pitching hand’s grip on the ball during his windup and match it up with the right coaster (Hint: It was the two-seam fastball).
“The Spirit of Baseball – The Batter” and “Baseball Pitches” were hand-designed by Rookwood artist Kevin Auzenne and complement Rookwood’s expanding “Spirit of Baseball” series. Baseball and Rookwood Pottery seem like a perfect match.
Another Cincinnati staple that matches perfectly with Rookwood Pottery is Cincinnati artist Edie Harper. Rookwood Pottery entered into an agreement with Harper’s estate to reproduce her work in ceramic tile and other forms. The partnership has yielded Rookwood’s ceramic replicas of Harper’s silkscreen prints “Nine Tails” and “Fishful Thinking.”
The works are excellent examples of the modernist images Harper created in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Each piece depicts a cat on the hunt. In “Nine Tails” the cat is chasing a mouse through cattails. In “Fishful Thinking,” a cat peers at seven deliciously unassuming fish in a fishbowl.
Harper, the late wife of famed Cincinnati artist Charley Harper, was an accomplished artist who maintained a studio alongside her husband’s for decades. She painted and explored jewelry making, contemporary photography, enameling, sculpture, weaving and silkscreen. She died in 2010 at the age of 87.
Under the guidance of Rookwood’s art director Allan Nairn, artists Terence Hammonds, Deb Smith and graphic design director Rick Wiley faithfully recreated Edie’s silkscreen prints.
“We approached Rookwood Pottery because it is the perfect partner: They have the long, respected history of women-designed ceramics, and Edie Harper brings cats (always popular) and minimalism to Rookwood’s traditional line,” says Brett Harper, son of Edie and Charley.
Rookwood Pottery, founded by Maria Longworth, is the first female-owned manufacturer in the United States.
“Edie Harper and Rookwood are as natural a fit as pen and ink, or glaze and clay,” said Marilyn Wade, who co-owns Rookwood with her husband, Martin. “They are both examples of Cincinnati’s rich and nationally recognized art history. It is a tremendous honor to carry out Edie’s brilliant imagination in the form of clay.”
Finally, Rookwood Pottery recently introduced its first Cincinnati Union Terminal tile, the latest in its series of commemorative landmark tiles. Cincinnati is known for both its collection of unique, beautiful and historically significant landmarks, from Union Terminal to Music Hall.
As with the agreement between Edie Harper and Rookwood Pottery, the combination of these landmarks with Rookwood’s ceramic is a natural fit – one treasured piece of Cincinnati honoring another.
The Rookwood Pottery Company Store is located at 1209 Jackson Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202. You can reach them at 513.579.1209 or visit their website at www.rookwood.com.