The Swirls and Story of Niloak Pottery

Niloak Pottery

A Brief History of Niloak Pottery

Niloak Pottery was founded by Charles Hyten, a talented potter and entrepreneur. Hyten started the company in 1909, and by 1910, he had produced his first line of art pottery.

Niloak Vase

“Niloak” ('kaolin' clay spelled backward) pottery was hailed for its most sought-after product, the mission swirl. The Niloak Pottery Company opened a special plant just to manufacture this line, which Charles Hyten operated. 


Niloak’s famous mission pottery was made using a unique production process involving blending different Arkansas clay colors. Then, the clay was thrown on the potter’s wheel, where the colors swirled together beautifully.

Niloak Jar


The firing process was also unique. Niloak pottery was fired at a lower temperature than other art potteries, which gave it a distinctive matte finish.  Hyten learned that different temperatures of firing the clay brought out a variety of colors. While the outside of the piece remains soft and unglazed, the interior’s glaze makes it waterproof. In contrast, the Hywood line was finished in high gloss and semi-matte glazes or solid and drip glazes. Pieces were typically marked with an imprinted "Niloak" or "Hywood by Niloak" stamp. 

The colors used in Niloak pottery were typically earth tones, such as browns, greens, and blues.

One of the unique characteristics of Niloak pottery is its matte finish. This finish gives the pottery a softer, more organic look than other art potteries, which often have glossy finishes.

Niloak bowl

Niloak pottery was produced in a wide range of forms, including vases, bowls, plates, and figurines. Some of the most sought-after Niloak pieces today are the mission swirl vases.

In conclusion, Niloak pottery is a unique and distinctive American art pottery with a rich history and culture. Its characteristic swirls and multi-colored clay bodies make it highly collectible and sought-after by art lovers and collectors. If you are a collector of American art pottery, a Niloak piece is definitely worth considering as an addition to your collection.

Check out our Niloak selection here. We’re constantly adding new inventory, so check back often!