Rhead was recruited by Edward Gardner Lewis, the founder of University City, to teach at the People's University there. This institution specialised in distance learning, and accordingly Rhead created a pottery correspondence course, although there were also some pottery students in residence at the Art Academy. Apart from teaching, Rhead found time to produce some vases and tiles, sometimes working with his wife Agnes. Unfortunately, Gardener become bankrupt in 1911. The French potter Taxile Doat was able to continue pottery production at University City for a few years, but the Rheads moved to California.
Rhead's first California position was in Marin County at the Arequipa tuberculosis sanatorium, where the director had decided that it would be a good idea for the patients to take up pottery. Although the Arequipa Pottery was something of a sideline for the sanatorium, Rhead was ambitious in his plans, sourcing suitable clays, experimenting with glazes and teaching decorative techniques such as tubelining (a technique also associated with his sister Charlotte). Rhead's methods were not regarded by the management as economic, and in 1913 he was replaced at the Arequipa Pottery by Albert Solon, another potter from Staffordshire. Rhead remained in California, starting his own studio pottery in Santa Barbara. The Rhead pottery lasted until 1917 and its products are now highly valued - a Rhead vase currently holds the record as the most expensive American art pottery at auction. However, in the later part of his career Rhead moved in the direction of larger-scale, more commercial production.
Rhead returned to Zanesville, this time working for American Encaustic Tiling Company. The words encaustic tile refer to the nineteenth-century revival of a medieval technique for the production of floor tiles: during Rhead's time there the company combined production of some art tiles (for fireplaces etc,) with large-scale production of more utilitarian ware. American Encaustic was reputed at one time to operate the largest tileworks in the world, but was to close in the 1930s, a victim of the Great Depression.
In the 1930s, Rhead conceived and designed a line of glazed dinnerware called Fiesta. It was based on a spherical theme in Art Deco style. The pottery came in five colors and the idea was for the customer to acquire pieces of different colors so that they could be mixed and matched according to taste. The line was introduced to the public in January 1936 and was an immediate success. The idea of mixed solid colors on dinnerware was not new (it had previously been done by two California potteries, the Catalina pottery of Santa Catalina Island in the early 1930s and the Bauer pottery) but Rhead's version was more successful. The Homer Laughlin Company expanded the line with new shapes, and eventually new glaze colors as well. It became the best selling line of dinnerware in the USA. Rhead designed a similar line called "Harlequin" which was sold in Woolworth's, an important customer of Homer Laughlin.
Bernard Bumpus (1921-2004) was the leading authority on the Rhead family, and knew a great deal about Frederick Hurten Rhead's background in England. In the 1980s Bumpus curated an exhibition at the Geffrye Museum, Rhead Artists and Potters which toured other UK Museums including the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery. He hoped to take a version of the exhibition to the USA, but, despite American interest in the Rhead family, this project foundered.
A detailed study with good illustrations. It was published in connection with an exhibition held in 1986. It is better on Rhead's American career than his English background.
The colorful world of Fiesta ware The colorful world of Fiesta ware; The sturdy dishes prompt collectors to scour estate sales and eBay for the rare and sublime.(VARIETY)
Sep 15, 2010; Byline: KIM PALMER; STAFF WRITER Fred Mutchler treasures his vintage dishes -- so much so that he built an 800-square-foot...