Saturday, April 10, 2010

Blue Mountain Pottery

Blue Mountain Pottery became famous for their green flow glazes that were fashioned after the colors of the trees in the northern ski resorts in Collingwood, Ontario back in the 1950s. They used the red clay discovered in the ski mountains and some of the early tourist pieces were made from U.S. white clay blanks. Later and especially for the millennium pieces in year 2000 they imported white clay from England, but the majority of the pieces were made from the local red clay. Blue Mountain Pottery sadly closed their doors in 2004 as a result of cheaper pottery competition from Japan.

Many of the employees branched out to their own pottery companies in the 60s and 70s with each developing their own unique style and glaze processes. The Blue Mountain factory continued to thrive long after the other potteries folded in the 80s. Blue Mountain was in deep trouble in the mid 80s and the retired former sales manager came back to revive the company. Under Mr. Robert Blair’s ownership BMP went on for 20 more years and their pottery became a Canadian icon. Today it is much sought after by avid collectors in Canada as well as many collectors in the U.S. and overseas especially in the British Isles, Australia, and New Zealand. Examples are periodically on display at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto.

Collectors have been searching out some of the rarer glazes that were produced for a much shorter time than their traditional green color. Plum was made in the 1960s, Harvest Gold and Red were made in the 1970s and a collection of Mocha (brown) and Slate (Grey) were crafted by the head glazer in the 1980s. The early animals and functional tablewares were produced in the traditional green glaze. In 1967 for the Canadian Centennial Celebration Blue Mountain Pottery brought a potter over from Italy to head up their in-house wheel throne pottery with an observation deck where visitors could watch the pottery being thrown on the potter’s wheel. Look today for the head potter, Dominic Stanzione’s amazing large hand thrown vases that were produced in this observation tower from 1967 to 1973. The studio line vases were hand thrown and glazed in mostly Red, Mocha, and Slate and the much sought after trademark glaze of Dominic’s was the Orange and Gold and a Blue Crater type Glaze that was featured and won a prize at Canada's Centennial Expo exhibition in Montreal.

The Blue Mountain Pottery animals range from cats and dogs, to farm roosters and horses and on to water fish and ducks, forest and jungle animals. Many more hippos, tigers, kangaroos and sheep were exported to the U.S. and overseas. The only animal I can think of off hand that they didn’t produce was a goat. Their Romar Collection was a limited edition line of adult and baby animals with certificate. The Romar name came from the combination of the owner’s name Robert and his wife Marion. The first was the Thoroughbred Horse and Colt, then Jumbo Elephant with baby, etc. The most expensive animals today are still the Noah’s Ark Collection that consists of a double faced sitting Noah and 12 animals in the Noah’s Ark glaze of a matt gray with gold and brown highlights. These were mounted on a mahogany base and the giraffe is the hardest one to find . Not as many giraffes were made and of those made few survived as they were tall and thin and would easily tip over.

Miniature animals were made and sold first in their factory store. Many visitors who came to tour the factory on their Northern vacations would take home a $2.00 mini souvenir. They were made in about seven or eight different colors, and the brown white wash color referred to by the collectors as ghost is the hardest to find . A close second is the Dominic Orange Gold color, the Granite Navy with white color and/or the red color.

To be a Blue Mountain Pottery collector you can stick to the traditional green glazed animals and vases, only collect tableware and functional pieces, some will collect only a much loved glaze color and most like myself can’t resist a piece and collect all colors, all shapes and all sizes. The BMP collectors’ club has managed to document well over 1000 separate items and there is always a never before seen piece that will show up at their spring conventions. Their open house is always interesting as many Collingwood residents and former employees will bring new pieces in, sometimes to be identified but more often than not a piece will be discovered that was never catalogued or made available to the general public. Click on the Blue Mountain Pottery Title on this article to see some examples of BMP that's for sale in my Ecrater store.