Painting Niagara-on-the-Lake: RJR Pottery

A unique artistic cooperative

By Niagara-on-the-Lake Museum

Niagara-on-the-Lake Museum

Fort Mississauga (1950/1964) by RJRNiagara-on-the-Lake Museum

RJR Pottery

Founded by three friends, the RJR Pottery not only featured Niagara-on-the-Lake buildings and landscapes, but it was also made locally at 17 Prideaux Street. Dr. Bruce Rigg, Mary Jones and Bill Richardson were the founding members. Each had their own occupations and saw this project as more of a hobby. With conflicting schedules, they would often complete the various steps of a project separately and leave notes for the next person to continue the process. Each tile was the one and only of its kind, which was very appealing. 

Scenes of Niagara (1950/1964) by RJRNiagara-on-the-Lake Museum

Most pieces were made of red Niagara clay; however, some were created with blank white commercial tiles made by H&R Johnson Ltd. England.

They were decorated by RJR and then fired.

The result was a crisper image which was different than those made from Niagara clay.

RJR Pottery (1950-1956) Dr. Bruce Rigg (R)Niagara-on-the-Lake Museum

Dr. Bruce Rigg (R)

Bruce was a local physician who, through his knowledge of chemistry, created the early coloured glazes that produced the unique muted tones of RJR Pottery. He often prepared the raw clay for shaping and firing, turning plates and bowls on their homemade potter’s wheel. He also decorated several pieces. 

Masonic Lodge (1952/1952) by RJRNiagara-on-the-Lake Museum

Evan’s Cottage, 36 Picton Street (1950/1964) by RJRNiagara-on-the-Lake Museum

Fort Niagara (1950/1964) by RJRNiagara-on-the-Lake Museum

RJR Pottery (1950-1956) Mary Jones (J)Niagara-on-the-Lake Museum

Mary Jones (J)

Mary was a very talented artist who was responsible for decorating many of the tiles. She had a sketchbook filled with drawings of local buildings or scenes from which she would choose to decorate the clay. She first scratched the outlines of the scene onto the clay with an ice-pick and she would then use soft colours to fill in the outlines. A clear glaze was applied over the painted scene before firing. This technique seemed to melt the colours into each other, producing soft and slightly blurred effect. The artists preferred this unique look over a clean, commercial style. 

Flower (1950/1964) by RJRNiagara-on-the-Lake Museum

St. Mark's Church (1950/1964) by RJRNiagara-on-the-Lake Museum

RJR Pottery (1950-1956) Bill Richardson (R) (1950/1950)Niagara-on-the-Lake Museum

Bill Richardson (R)

Bill operated a coal business in Town located where the Prince of Wales hotel parking is today. He was responsible for digging the clay, which was found in the dock area in the Village of Queenston, and he fired all the completed clay pieces in the kiln. In the early years, he used an oil-fired kiln located in his coal yard, but later he used an electric kiln. It took approximately 5 to 6 hours to properly fire the pottery. Bill was known to wait until the evening, so neighbours would not complain about the smoke.

St. Andrew's Church (1950/1964) by RJRNiagara-on-the-Lake Museum

St. Mark's Church, 1972 (1956/1956) by RJRNiagara-on-the-Lake Museum

Lillies (1950/1964) by RJRNiagara-on-the-Lake Museum

The RJR logo was used until Bill Richardson moved away. However, Dr. Rigg and his wife, Betty, did continue creating tiles until 1964 using the logo B+B for Bruce and Betty.

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