Pittsville Pottery: The collection
By Kris Leonhardt
After bringing in the Wilkins father and son, Wisconsin Artware Inc. — still known then as Pittsville Pottery — took a more artistic approach.
James Wilkins, a potter from Bristol, England, who once served as foreman of the art pottery department at Indiana’s Muncie Clay Products, along with his son William Wilkins, a ceramic technician, brought new styles and techniques to the factory.
Production focused on art pottery and promotional novelties for local businesses, such as the Sigel Cheese Factory and Richfield Dairy.
New products came in many shapes, using glazes James first developed for the Muncie pottery operation. Glazes were made from powdered glass and color-inducing oxides, which resulted in coatings such as peachskin and aqua matte.
An estimated 50 styles were produced over the total lifetime of Pittsville Pottery — both Wisconsin Ceramic Corporation and Wisconsin Artware Inc.
The Pittsville Historical Society boasts a vast selection of Pittsville Pottery products, many collected by Ed and Rose Arnold.
Ed grew up in Pittsville. As a child, he and a friend would visit the Pittsville Pottery dump site and salvage pieces to take home and paint.
“When he was a young altar boy at St. Joachim’s (Catholic Church), he saw the red vases on the altar,” explained Pittsville Area Historical Society President Chris Buchanan. “It must have made an impression. … After he retired, he started collecting Pittsville Pottery because he remembered the red vase.”
As a collector, Ed paid anywhere from $4 to $250 for selections of Pittsville Pottery that might have cost $6.50 when they were originally produced.
“He worked hard at it,” added Buchanan. “He would travel and go to antique shops.
“When he got older he thought, ‘What am I going to do with this?’”
The Ed & Rose Arnold collection was donated to the museum and now serves as part of a testament to the impact of Pittsville Pottery, which folded in 1943.
To view the collection, visit the Pittsville Area Historical Society at 8256 Monroe St. in Pittsville.