The Rookwood Pottery Company is located in a 88,000 square foot production facility in the bustling Over-the-Rhine neighborhood of Cincinnati, Ohio. This company was first founded in 1880 by pioneering artist Maria Longworth-Nichols. She quickly built the company into a world-renowned ceramics studio, attracting the attention of famed artists and ceramicists all over the world.
Today, Rookwood continues to build upon its rich heritage and creates the highest quality Art Pottery and Architectural Tile in the United States. With a team of just over 70 employees, we are committed to providing our patrons with a one-of-a-kind luxury experience and product. We cultivate a culture of artistic inspiration, balancing our history of quality and excellence with the forward-thinking momentum that is at the core of Rookwood’s soul. We take pride in our process, people, and product, and we hope you find the perfect Rookwood pieces to cherish in your home for decades to come.
All art pottery and architectural tile are manufactured in-house by our talented team of artists and employees. As a piece cycles through the building, it touches at least thirteen sets of hands from start to finish. The design process for every Rookwood project begins with pencil and paper. Our talented artists are tasked with designing initial concepts that include key elements to the piece before beginning to work in clay. Once a design is finalized and approved, the sketches and renderings are passed to one of Rookwood’s expert mold makers. The piece is then carved into a three dimensional form, and a plaster mold is created from the final piece.
Rookwood uses plaster molds to individually cast ceramic pieces by hand. A liquid form of clay that is formulated from minerals directly from the earth is then poured into the plaster mold. This liquid clay, called slip, is then set into a solid state after the plaster pulls the moisture from it. Once a piece is removed from the mold and the clay is “leather hard”, our artists go back and touch up each detail, mold seam lines and attach additional pieces by hand. The pieces are left in open air until “bone dry”, and are then loaded into the kiln for their first firing, called the “bisque firing.” The kiln is fired to approximately 1300 degrees. This first firing removes all chemically bonded water from the clay, creating a ceramic material that is then ready for glaze to be applied.
Each piece is glazed by hand using Rookwood’s proprietary glaze formulas, made up of minerals and elements found in the Earth. The pieces are then placed back into the kiln for their final firing, called a “glaze firing.” This run through the kiln brings the clay and glaze to its final form, with the kiln firing to about 2,165 degrees Fahrenheit. The clay body is no longer porous, and the glaze achieves its final finish. The minerals that comprise our glaze formulas determine the glazes final color and finish. Each piece is left to cool for several hours in the kiln until it is safe to handle. The pieces are then carefully brought into our quality control department for final inspection to deem whether or not the piece meets our high standards.
Want to see our process for yourself? Experience the Rookwood Pottery Company in a guided tour! Learn more about tours and events here.
Founded on Thanksgiving Day in 1880 by Maria Longworth Storer, Rookwood made history – the first large manufacturing enterprise founded and owned by a woman in the United States and launching the art pottery movement in America. Within a decade, Rookwood pottery gained international acclaim, rivaling European and Asian firms that had been in existence for hundreds or thousands of years.
As we celebrate our 140th anniversary, Rookwood is focusing on the same pioneering efforts of its founder – creating home goods and building products that meet demand in the home and tile marketplaces. “Building on our legacy and making it new again,” explains chief executive officer Micah Carroll. Utilizing its iconic glaze lines and handcrafted expertise, Rookwood artists have created a broad range of new products that are both timeless and trendsetting. Bridging the past and future, Carroll says, provides an opportunity to “stay true to Rookwood’s innovative core, both building on the past and looking to what might be next as consumers search for ways to implement everyday luxury into their lives.”