What to know about the site:
The Museum of Ceramics houses an extensive collection of the wares produced in East Liverpool and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Through the skillful use of photographs, artifacts and life-size dioramas, the Museum of Ceramics’ exhibits depict the growth and development of East Liverpool and its ceramic industry. Additional displays on the social, political and economic history of East Liverpool explore the impact of industry on the community.
Located in the former city post office, the museum is a graphic example of the adaptive use of old buildings. In 1903, the Federal Government purchased the 10,000 square foot lot at East Fifth St. and Broadway to build a post office. The cornerstone was laid on July 8, 1908 and construction on this handsome granite and limestone building began in earnest. Construction was completed and the new post office opened to the public on June 15, 1909. The post office remained in the building until 1969, when a new post office building was constructed on the other side of town. In 1970, the state of Ohio purchased the building in anticipation of developing a museum.
The building was designated The Museum of Ceramics in 1980. The building is entirely constructed of fireproof materials, has forty-two windows in all, and contains many interesting architectural features. These include the ornately decorated domed ceilings, solid oak trim, and a beautiful marble and terrazzo floor. The southeast corner of the main lobby displays a Roland Schweinsburg painting of James Bennett's first pottery, circa 1938.
Lotus Ware: Lotus Ware is considered to be possibly the finest porcelain ever produced in the United States. It was made during the 1890s by East Liverpool's own Knowles, Taylor & Knowles pottery.
Lotus Ware pieces exhibited distinct artistic influences of the time. Art Nouveau and Moorish or Persian were among the strongest of these motifs. The Art Nouveau-oriented pieces were sublimely naturalistic--shells, winding tendrils, leaves, coral branches, and berries were common forms. These adornments were usually hand-formed and applied, but sometimes pâté-sur-pâté ("paste upon paste") was practiced. This is a fiendishly difficult technique in which the worker carves semisolid, unfired clay before it dries and crumbles under his touch.
Lotus proved to be so delicate that only about one in every twelve pieces made it through these kilns unscathed. Of these survivors, approximately a third were either accidentally broken (or even stolen) by factory workers. Because of the World's Fair awards and the endless stream of rave reviews, however, KT&K felt obliged to continue. Lotus Ware had become not merely a product, but a mission—and a bold statement that American potteries could compete with such European stalwarts as Limoges, Wedgwood, and Minton. The bottom line did eventually rule. Production difficulties and financial losses meant that Lotus Ware was produced for just four short years. By 1896, KT&K had ceased to manufacture Lotus.
Today, only about 5,000 pieces of Lotus Ware survive. The most comprehensive collection is on display at the Museum of Ceramics. There are a number of substantive private collections in the East Liverpool area as well. Lotus Ware continues to command attention among discerning collectors of American porcelain. Among porcelain devotees and ceramics scholars, the lustrous glaze that distinguishes every piece of Lotus is still considered peerless.