Moorcroft and Ruskin: English Arts and Crafts Movement Pottery

Aestheticism and the Arts and Crafts Movement in England gave birth to Moorcroft and Ruskin Pottery. Both passionately followed the ideals of the movements.

Beginning with the Aesthetic Movement of the late 1800s and well into the Arts and Crafts Movement of the early 1900s, innovation in art and design became the goal of artisans. Both movements were about traditional craftsmanship and beauty in decorative art.

Potters of the time created pieces that showcased their art. And each potter had his own style, rather than following the trends of the day. For example, the highly detailed and vivid Moorcroft pieces of the period contrasted greatly with the austere elegance of Ruskin Pottery. Yet both epitomized the ideals of the Arts and Crafts Movement, and both are highly collectible today.

William Moorcroft

At the age of 25, William Moorcroft studied art at the National Art Training School in London, as well as the Royal College of Art, and to complete his education, he spent some time in Paris, immersing himself in the study of Art Nouveau. In 1897 he became an art pottery designer for James Macintyre and Company.

Moorcroft’s interests in fluid form and botanical art drove the designs that are now easily recognized as his. He was also inspired by the works of designer, William Morris and the ideals of the Arts and Crafts Movement.

Moorcroft’s idea of creating a design that followed or worked with the shape of the pot proved successful and he opened his own studio in 1910. Moorcroft pottery was and is still made in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, an area well-known for its potters.

Moorcroft pieces continue to be produced using the traditional methods used in its early days of production. The pieces are turned on a lathe and the decorations are added before the pots are fired in the kiln. Even the colors are added by hand in a way that allows them to meld into each other when fired.

Ruskin Pottery

Ruskin Pottery was named for John Ruskin who played an integral role in the Aesthetic Movement of the late 1800s. In 1898, Howson Taylor, who, like Moorcroft, was inspired by the Arts and Crafts Movement and the ideals of William Morris, founded the Birmingham Tile and Pottery Works with his father, Edward Taylor, with a view to creating beautiful pieces of art pottery. 1904 saw the name changed to Ruskin Pottery and it also brought great success. The pottery lured buyers from both sides of the Atlantic, winning awards and orders.

In the few decades Ruskin Pottery was in productions, it worked with glazes known as Souffle Ware, Lusterware and Flambe Ware, using a variety firing times in the kiln. Taylor took his recipes to the grave as the documents were destroyed upon his death. Ruskin Pottery is not as common as Moorcroft, due the short period of the company’s existence. But pieces still show up in antique shops, auctions and online venues.

Price Guide to Moorcroft and Ruskin Pottery

Rare pieces of both Moorcroft and Ruskin pottery can sell for many thousands of dollars. Less rare pieces can easily begin at $100. With Moorcroft and Ruskin pottery, size matters, although it’s not the only factor considered when valuing the pieces. The large pieces can fetch as much as $3000 or more. With Moorcroft, however, much of the valuation is based on the design and how those fluid details work with the shape of the piece.

Both Moorcroft and Ruskin Pottery are highly collectible and lucky foragers can occasionally find them inexpensively in unlikely places. Collectors interested in vintage art pottery should research in advance of purchasing in order to ensure authenticity and a fair price. Learn the marks and what to look for in design. It’s also wise to pay attention to the condition of the piece