Theophilus Brouwer was one of the most innovative figures in the late 19th and early 20th century. Brouwer was a noted eccentric who lived and worked in a castle on Long Island, and he is nearly as famous for his castle grounds as he is for his pottery in the modern era. However, among pottery enthusiasts, Brouwer pottery, which is also known as Middle Lane Pottery, is considered a rare collectable that is typically valued between $1,000 and $5,000.
The only way to really be certain that you have a Brouwer piece is to have your pottery professionally appraised, but you can also look for certain markers that can offer you more confidence in labeling a piece as coming from the Middle Lane pottery studios. These markers include Brouwer’s signature firing technique and his unusual impressed marking.
Wild Firing Technique
One of the truest “marks” of a Brouwer Middle Lane pottery piece isn’t a mark at all-it’s the open firing glaze technique that made Theophilus Brouwer famous in the Arts and Crafts pottery world. He pioneered the open firing technique, which directly exposed a glazed piece of pottery to the kiln’s flames. The flames interact with the glaze and create stunning colorations and patterns. This glazing technique is truly Brouwer’s best signature; however, he also marked much of his pottery with unique impressions.
Whale Jaws and the Letter M
The most common Brouwer pottery marking is the name “Brouwer” impressed in cursive above the letter M, which is surrounded by a rudimentary figure. As a part of his eccentric decorating, Theophilus Brouwer erected a whale’s jawbones as an arched entrance to the grounds of his castle home. These jawbones came from the body of a whale that washed ashore on his grounds, and Brouwer was more than happy to put them to use. The figure surrounding the “Middle Lane Pottery” M is purported to be a simplified version of the whale’s jawbones.
Occasionally, pieces can be found with variations on the standard impressed Brouwer marking. These are typically either Brouwer’s name or the whale jawbones surrounding the letter M. Brouwer’s signature is typically present on pieces produced at his West Hampton workshop, which operated under the name Brouwer Pottery for a time. Pieces produced at his East Hampton workshop were created under the Middle Lane Pottery label, so they are more likely to feature the M and jawbones.