Rekindling a Tradition

When today’s starchitects want to demonstrate their artistic range (and extend their brand), they design a chair, teapot, or piece of jewelry. About a century ago, the celebrated Prairie School architects, working in Chicago, chose pottery as a vehicle to design for the masses. Hired by the American Terra Cotta and Ceramic Company, they produced Teco pottery, affordable ceramics that displayed their Modernist penchant for pure geometric forms. Ironically, those pots have now become so valuable that they are only within the means of elite collectors.

Prairie Arts, a three-person operation outside of Chicago that primarily makes reproductions of decorative Frank Lloyd Wright pieces, has begun reprising a series of Teco vases—five will be released this month—aimed at buyers who can’t afford the antiques. Like the originals, each piece is slip-cast and finished by hand. “That’s really the only way you can make the types of shapes and the effects that you get on Teco pottery,” says Eric O’Malley, the product-­development director of the company. But some features simply couldn’t be replicated, such as Teco’s signature waxy green color, the result of toxic lead in the glaze. As a result, O’Malley says, “We decided to embody the spirit of Teco, rather than slavishly copying it.”

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