Kataro Shirayamadani (American (born Japan), 1865-1948)
Crocker Art Museum, gift of Dr. and Mrs. Herzl and Betty Friedlander
Maria Longworth Nichols founded Rookwood, one of America’s most important and productive art potteries, in 1880. She began as a china painter, but soon expanded to pottery production and ultimately hired numerous artisans to work with her. The earliest pieces produced at Rookwood reveal the use of a variety of decorating techniques, but in 1884 artists began blowing colored slips through an atomizer, an early variant of the airbrush. This underglaze, slip-decorated ware was designated Rookwood Standard and characterized works produced at Rookwood during the period between 1884 and the turn of the century. Among Rookwood’s most highly prized pieces in this line are works by Kataro Shirayamadani, who decorated this ewer with Rookwood Standard glaze, which was then embellished with a silver mount. Shirayamadani came to Rookwood from Japan in 1887 and became the company’s most innovative designer. His designs often blend the influences of his Japanese heritage and the international Art Nouveau movement. Rookwood was also well known for their vases and mugs portraying Native Americans. Two of the best decorators in this line of production were Grace Young and Matthew Daly. This vase, by Grace Young, features a full-length portrait of Suriap, a member of the Ute tribe, which originally occupied a vast territory in Colorado and parts of Utah and northern New Mexico. Ute, which means “land of the sun,” gave the state of Utah its name. The portrait was made from a photograph taken in 1868 by Antonio Zeno Shindler, who worked at the Smithsonian Institution from after the Civil War until the turn of the 20th century. Shindler took the photograph when Suriap was in Washington, D.C. as a delegate.