Teco Pottery was born out of the American Terra Cotta Tile and Ceramic Company established in Terra Cotta, Illinois by William Day Gates in 1881. The company produced fireproof building materials such as drain tiles, bricks, urns, and other architectural building materials. Gates used his company’s resources to develop clays and glazes for what would become by 1885 his art pottery line, Teco Pottery. The name “Teco” was formed from the first two letters in “Terra” and “Cotta” and the pottery line was not sold commercially until 1902. By the time Teco Pottery ceased production in 1930, over 500 designs had been developed.
Although Teco Pottery is often compared to Grueby, the pottery’s classic green glaze, for which it is especially known for and called “Teco Green,” was developed without outside influences. Teco Green is a smooth, micro-crystalline matte glaze. Some examples of Teco Green exhibit a charcoaling effect which is the result of an applied metallic-black overglaze. Other pieces are matt colors of gray, blue, brown, red and yellow. An unusual glaze called “Aventurine” is a high gloss glaze of gradient colors, typically reds to blacks.
Teco Pottery was generally marked with a stamped, elongated “T” with the letters “ECO” aligned vertically under the right side of the “T”. Later examples were stamped “TECO” within a rectangle. Earlier pots had rare paper labels.
Teco Pottery shapes are described as organic, architectural or geometric and influenced by the Prairie School movement made popular by architects Frank Lloyd Wright, George Grant Elmslie and Louis Sullivan, all of whom were invited by William Gates to design Teco pots. Although many Teco pots are simply designed with consistently high-quality glazes, Teco architectural designs with buttresses and handles or applied elements such as flowers and leaves, generally command higher prices.