Newcomb College Pottery is the product of the Old South’s transition to the twentieth century. Designed at the Sophie Newcomb Memorial College (adjunct of Tulune University in New Orleans, Louisiana), this art pottery reflects the arts and crafts ideals of the time. As part of the Arts and Crafts movement, pottery produced from 1900 and onward were hand thrown and hand decorated. Muted matte colors and florals, with occasional animals, seemed acceptable work for the female artists and, as some argue, paved the way for woman’s rights and place in the workforce. The pottery also blossomed in its design and glaze and, like the changing time, matured to the masterpieces we know today.
Newcomb College Pottery is easily identified by its shape, soft but waxy semi-gloss finish, and the pastel decorations carved in relief, with medium-blue grounds. Decorations echo the New Orleans environs; bayou oak trees, daffodils and crocus flowers, and occasional aquatic animal grace the vases. Early artware display clear, high-gloss glazes with yellow or violet hand-painted flowers. The predominant marking of the pottery was “NC” with the letter “N” inside a larger “C.”
Every year, between ten to fifteen female artists formed and decorated pottery at the Sophie Newcomb Memorial College. They were under the supervision of art professors William and Ellsworth Woodward. Noted designers include Sadie Irvine, Henrietta Bailey, and Anna Francis Simpson.