With its distinctive, natural shapes and matte glaze Van Briggle pottery is known worldwide. I’d been curious about it’s history since moving to Colorado Springs and was delighted for the chance to tour the former location of its headquarters. It turned out the story of the couple behind the ceramics was even more interesting than their artistic place of business.
It was fascinating to hear about how Artus Van Briggle first noticed a special, defunct “dead glaze” on Ming vases in the Louvre during their shared art training in Paris. He then experimented to create glazes himself with the help of a scientist, using different techniques and Colorado clays once they lived here. Anne and Artus Van Briggle met, married and began their entrepreneurship when one-third of Colorado Springs’ residents at that time were being treated for tuberculosis. Artus was one of these people. When sadly he died, Anne took over operations of the company and ran it for several years and added artistic designs of her own to the vases and other pieces.
Many folks were involved over the years at the company. During a video interview one former employee said that when he first started working there in a different capacity he saw the people working on the actual pottery and thought, “it looked like magic to me … and I [eventually I] started throwin’ on the wheel.”
In 2012 the factory ceased producing pottery and is now fully the Colorado College Facilities department work space and offices. The building was preserved in all of its Dutch farmhouse-style glory — with especially fancy details like fake shutters and gargoyles, which were added at the time as marketing to catch the eyes of then-passing train passengers.
It was a pleasure to find out about this couple and others involved in the creation and production of these pieces over the years – always signed with an intertwined (back-to-back) “A” symbol for “Anne & Artus.”
The way the building was converted was also of interest because the giant kilns had to be removed and the chimneys propped up with steel beams, in order to preserve its external appearance while making the interior space usable for carpentry projects and large equipment.
A memorial wall and historical status were added at different points and a Lorelei statue this year (2017) in the adjoining gardens where the Horticultural Art Society sold a glorious selection of spring bulbs at a fundraising sale.
The Woman’s Educational Society coordinates the annual tour and the proceeds fund scholarships for Colorado College students.