> Overbeck Pottery: Epitome of Arts and Crafts Ceramics

A History of the Overbeck Pottery Company

The Overbeck sisters are well known in the ceramics world as true adherents to the spirit of the arts and crafts movement. Each piece was hand-shaped and formed, and no two are the same. They made their pottery in their home, and no molds or employees were ever used.

The four sisters who were actually involved in the pottery were Margaret, Hannah, Elizabeth, and Mary. Margaret was born July 3, 1863, Hannah on March 14, 1870, Elizabeth on October 21, 1875, and Mary on January 28, 1878.

Margaret attended the Cincinnati Art Academy during the 1892-1893 term, studying watercolor, wood carving, casting, and oils. She learned the art of China painting from Marshall Fry at Columbia University, and spent a year working as a decorator at a pottery in Zanesville, Ohio. Later, she was an art instructor at Sayre Institute in Lexington, Kentucky, and eventually taught drawing, watercolor and China painting at DePauw University from 1899 until 1910.

Hannah attended Indiana State Normal School (now Indiana State University) in Terre Haute, and graduated in 1894. Elizabeth studied with her sister Margaret, and then under Charles Binns at the College for Clayworking and Ceramics at Alfred. Mary also studied with her sister Margaret, and learned China painting and design directly from Marshall Fry at Columbia University.

From 1903 until 1916, designs from the sisters appeared regularly in Keramics Studio, a monthly magazine founded in 1899 by Adelaide Rubineau. They won many monthly design competitions, and the March 1907 issue was almost completely devoted to Margaret's designs and treatments.

The official Overbeck Pottery began in 1911 as a way for the sisters to support themselves, an idea conceived by Margaret. Sadly, Margaret passed away in that first year, leaving the fledgling endeavor to her three sisters. They worked their clay in a west facing room of their home with large windows, used the basement as a glazing and damp-room, and had a kiln in a small out-structure in the backyard. They became a staple in the small town of Cambridge City, Indiana.

By 1931, the home was advertised as a tourist attraction and their works left with visitors to homes all across the country. Just as it appeared they were hitting their stride, Hannah passed away leaving the unfinished work to Elizabeth and Mary. During the next five years, the two sisters enjoyed great recognition. In 1936 Elizabeth passed away, leaving Mary the last remaining sister. She continued producing pottery until her death in 1955, ending forever the production of Overbeck Pottery.

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