This ewer, designed by French artist Jacques Sicard and manufactured at Ohio’s Weller Pottery, embodies the art nouveau style in its iridescent glaze, floral design, and organic form. The striking color of the ewer was created by Sicard’s secret formula that produced a metallic luster on the surface of the vessel. The result, known as Sicardo, was thought to be one of the most progressive lines that Weller offered.
By 1872, Ohio-born Samuel Weller, founder of Weller Pottery, had opened a pottery in his hometown of Fulton, a farming community near Zanesville, Ohio.1 Early products were utilitarian wares, such as flowerpots and umbrella stands. Weller’s business continued to develop and expand under his leadership, and by the late l880s, Weller moved his operation to Zanesville. Weller was inspired by the art nouveau forms at the 1893 World Columbia Exposition in Chicago, particularly those of Lonhuda ware, which he later acquired. Much of Lonhuda’s creative energy was the product of William A. Long, a druggist by trade, whose experiments with glaze techniques established the pottery’s reputation.2 As part of the agreement of the acquisition of Lonhuda by Weller, Long stayed on as art director of the new Louwelsa line. The purchase also called for a sizeable addition to the Weller Pottery to house the new kilns needed to manufacture the Louwelsa line. This expansion enabled Weller to recruit two Frenchmen to help with the company’s production of art pottery.
During a trip to Europe, Weller met Jacques Sicard,3 along with his assistant Henri Gellie, and persuaded them to come to America in 1901. Sicard and his assistant were extremely secretive regarding their working methods, prohibiting entrance into their studio. An article in a local newspaper about the history of Weller pottery noted: “Some people think that Sicard intentionally tried to give an atmosphere of mystery to his work to create the impression that his ware was hard to make.”4 The ewer was stamped twice, once by Weller and once by Sicard, and is dated from 1901 to 1907, the dates that Sicard worked for Weller. In 1907, Sicard returned to his native France, where he lived until his death in 1923. Michael E. Crane
Adapted from Bulletin of the Detroit Institute of Arts 81, nos. 1–2 (2007): 36–37.
1. A newspaper clipping of 1958 reported Weller’s early exposure to pottery: “During early boyhood in his native Muskingum county Weller learned to throw crocks, jugs and jars on the crude kick wheels then in use. Many farm boys acquired skills in turning stoneware in the small potteries scattered over southwestern Muskingum county after the Civil War.” N. F. Schneider, “Weller Pottery,” Sunday Times Signal (16 March 1958): n.p.
2. Long’s affiliation with Weller only lasted about a year after the purchase of Lonhuda. After the dissolution, Long relocated to Denver, Colorado, to form a ceramic practice.
3. Sicard is described in N. F. Schneider, “Sicard Ware, Potter Guards Secret Process,” Sunday Times Signal (30 March 1958): n .p., as: “short in stature, and he used a cane because one leg was crippled. He was never married . ... Sicard’s name was not listed (1905 city directory) because he lived in hotels.”