George Ohr Vase, ca. 1894
What can you tell me about George Ohr, the "Mad Potter of Biloxi"?
Well, I know that he chopped his own wood, built his own kiln, and I think he rode around town on a bicycle. Just kind of listened to his own drummer.
He was a real hard-core Arts and Crafts potter from Biloxi, Mississippi. He had a handlebar moustache that reached down to his knees. And he had bulging muscles. He dug his own clay from the Tchoutacabouffa River and he'd be wheelbarrow-ing it through town. He had arms like Popeye. He was an artist, so he was a little wacky; it's okay. He was very attached to the pieces that he made. He called them his mud babies. And so let's say you were to go there and watch him make a pot. He would sometimes sign your name on the side of the piece and then he wouldn't let you have it. So consequently, most of what he made stayed within his possession. In October of 1894 his pottery burned down in the great Biloxi fire and he lost everything he had-- and he was poor to begin with. But he loved his pots so much that he went into the ashes and he salvaged boxes of his pots. And where he used to call them his mud babies, after the fire, the ones he saved he called his burnt babies. And this is one of his burnt babies.
You can see on the surface this kind of gnarly texture? It's because it blistered the glazes, because it was an intense and dirty heat-- a lot of ash was mixed in with it. So it liquefied what was on the surface of the pot and mixed it with ash. So we know this pot dates to 1894 or earlier. Also, this particular mark which says "G-O-E OHR, BILOXI" is one of his earlier marks. Now, you bought this from...?
An online auction.
Online auction, okay, and you paid?
$1,200 is about twice what it's worth. This piece today is worth retail about $600.
They used to be unsaleable, but his work has become so valuable over the years that they've risen considerably. This probably went from $100 to $600 in the last ten years. What's interesting to note, though, is that the architect Frank Gehry is building a new George Ohr museum in Biloxi, Mississippi. And people are already anticipating price rises for Ohr's work because of that museum, which is going to put George Ohr on a world stage. So while it's not worth what you paid for it, I think it's only a matter of time before we get there.
Okay, very good.
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Last Tango in Halifax
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