San Jose Pottery Tile
San Jose Pottery Tile
Designer: Ethel Wilson Harris (1893 – 1984)
Item: San Jose Pottery Tile
Manufactured by: San Jose Potteries or Mexican Arts and Crafts
Country of origin: United States
Year made: 1930s
Materials: Glazed ceramic.
Dimensions: 6” x 6”
Condition: Excellent. Two side edges fully glazed, one side edge has a few glaze skips on the outside edge that appear to have happened during its manufacture when the glaze dripped over the edges but did not make it fully over, and the top edge has a few flaked off pieces of ceramic on the back edge that cannot be seen from either the front or the back. We have added some less than professional photos to show the condition of each side edge.
References: Frost, Susan Toomey, Colors in Clay: The San Jose tile Workshops of San Antonio, Trinity University Press (2009)
Description: Here is rare and beautiful tile depicting a bullfight produced by either Mexican Arts and Crafts which was started in 1931 by Ethel Wilson Harris or San Jose Potteries while it was under the direction of Harris for the Works Progress Administration (WPA) in 1939. We have only seen two others from this bullfight series. These two entities were located in San Antonio, Texas. Harris’ earliest tiles, from 1931 to 1941, she referred to as "Mexican Arts and Crafts" which is when this tile was most likely created. In the late 1930s, Harris became the technical supervisor of the WPA arts and crafts division at San Jose Potteries.
Mexican Arts and Crafts products are commonly confused with those of the San José Potteries, which operated from 1934 to 1945. San José Potteries best work was made when the company was under the supervision of Harris, who became technical supervisor for the Arts and Crafts Division of the WPA projects in San Antonio in 1939. If this tile is by San Jose Potteries it was created under Harris’ tutelage. Since it is unsigned, as many are, we may never know at which firm it was created, but the example in Frost's book is listed as Mexican Arts and Crafts.
Harris’ potteries participated in the Chicago World’s Fair in 1933; Texas Centennial Fair in 1936 in Dallas, where eight tile panels remain in the Hall of State; the New York World’s Fair in 1939; and San Antonio’s HemisFair in 1968. Harris’ tiles and pottery were sold throughout the country, including Marshall Fields in Chicago and Fred Harvey gift shops in the west. These tiles are scarce and highly sought after by collectors.
A example from this series is illustrated on page 101 of the Frost book referenced above.