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Nora, Expert in Fine & Decorative Arts: Renaissance through Contemporary
Category: Antiques
Satisfied Customers: 14265
Experience:  Liberal Arts BA College Degree, Post-Graduate Christie's Education in London, 10 Yrs Art World Experience in NYC, President & Founder own Corporation. Member AOA & ISA, USPAP Compliant through 2019
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Good morning, I was given a very unique floral vase with no

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Good morning, I was given a very unique floral vase with no manufacturers trademark or stamp, but the signature J O'Brien in cursive with a flair on the J and an ellipses after the O. I have had difficulty identifying it.

I believe the vase is earthenware (as it has a light salmon pink unglazed base) it stands 19cm high and is 11cm at the base. The design is a very deep blue and dark turquoise background with a striking bunch of orange/yellow impressionistic tulips. The tulips have raised detail and green leaves surrounding them.

It is not a particularly attractive vase due to the colours, the design is like a gloomy interpretation of Van Gogh's sunflowers.

Can you help?

Kind regards, ***** ***** Munro

Hi Mr. Munro~
My name is ***** ***** I would be happy to help with your question.
Would it be possible for you to send me photos? A full image with the design and a clear, in-focus close-up of the mark would be ideal.
When taking a clear close-up try using the macro function on your camera. It looks like a small flower icon. This will allow sharper focus at a closer-range.
When evaluating an item, photos are essential to helping me come to a correct assessment.
If there is a toolbar with a paperclip icon showing above the box where you type in responses, then follow the steps on this link for sharing photos:
A super easy method, which is free and no sign-in required is to go to:
1. Click "Computer".
2. Double click the image you want to upload.
3. Click "Start Upload".
4. When the image appears on your screen, just copy the link from that page and paste it on this page. The address I need will look like this example:
I look forward to seeing the images. If you are unable to send images right away, that is fine – there is not a time limit here.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Good morning,

Thank you for your prompt reply. I apologise for the delay in response, I was away from my desk.

I have taken some photos to help identify the vase as requested. They are not the best quality (they are not as crisp as I would like), but the signature photo is very clear as you will see.

Front design:

Side view:

Back design:

Side view:

View from the top:

The base:

Close up of the signature:

I hope this helps solve the mystery!

Kind regards,

Stu Munro

Hi Mr. Munro,
The images came through just fine, thank you.
Please allow me some time today to study these and to write you assessment.
I will post it here when complete.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Dear Nora,

Thank you very much. I appreciate your help and await your findings eagerly!

Kind regards,

Stu Munro

Hi Mr. Munro~
Thank you for your patience.
This is a 20th century studio art pottery vase.
The material appears to be terracotta.
It was hand thrown, not molded. The floral design was executed by hand on the surface and color glazes added.
The design is done in a modern version of late 19th – early 20th majolica art pottery with incised decoration. And that early style was made to mimic metal enamel cloisonné work.
Generally studio artist are fairly hard to trace. They are mostly regional solo artists.
However, there is a chance that you vase may be a work by a known ceramic artist who is also a professor at the prestigious Art Institute of Chicago, named William John O’Brien.
I would suggest contacting him and asking if he indeed is the maker of your vase, or if he would know who made yours.
Here is a link to his bio at the school
and his email:
Feel free if you have further questions about your item.
Please only leave feedback when you feel satisfied your question has been answered.
Our conversation will continue as long as you please, even after a rating is left.
Nora and 2 other Antiques Specialists are ready to help you
Hi Mr. Munro~

Thanks for the positive rating! Much Appreciated.

Please let me know what transpires in your contact with this Mr. O'Brien.

I would be happy to help you with any items in the future.

When you post a new question, use the specific ask for expert function and please add "For Nora" or "Hi Nora" at the beginning of your question so as to ensure that I will be the one who answers your question for you.

The only items I do not assess for value are clocks, coins, watches, sewing machines, swords and firearms.

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Hi Nora,


Thank you so much for your advice - so in depth, much more than I could have imagined! I have a small collection of Majolica pottery, so I expect that's why I liked the vase.


I have contacted Mr O'Brien to ask if it his his work or one of his contemporaries.


I will let you know if and when he replies!

Kind regards,

Stu Munro

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Hi Nora,


I've just received this response from Mr O'Brien:


"Hi Stuart this is not my work. It looks to me like early century production pottery. Terracotta with majolica overglaze, all best, Bill"


I should think the vase's artist would be impossible to identify, so I'm not sure whether to insure it now. I think I'll just use it to keep flowers in!


Thanks again,


- Stu

Hi Stu,

I am glad that Mr. O'Brien responded back to you.

Based on comparables, a signed studio pottery in glazed terracotta, origin unknown, a fair insurance, or replacement value would be $150. If the maker was well-known or highly collected among studio pottery enthusiasts, it could surely have been figured out since the signature is very clear (in many instances they are illegible). There are thousands of small studio artisans in the US alone, it is a hand craft cottage industry and most are not listed or known outside of their local communities.

Nevertheless, it is a well-crafted and eye-catching hand made decorative art and should very much be enjoyed for such.

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Hi Nora,


Yes, I agree. I will enjoy it for what it is - maybe the artist will be well known by the time the Grandkids inherit it, you never know!


Thank you again for all your help and knowledge. It has been wonderful to talk to you and I will not hesitate to ask you again and recommend you to my friends.


All the best,


My pleasure, Stu - and thank you for your kind words.