While much art pottery of the 20th century was produced by companies such as Rookwood, Roseville, and Weller, some of the most innovative work came out of the private studios of independent artists, who produced one-of-a-kind pieces on production schedules of their own making.

The studio art pottery movement in the United States is primarily about objects produced after World War II, but the inspiration for many studio ceramists was George Ohr, the self-described Mad Potter of Biloxi. Ohr built his first Mississippi pottery in 1883, using clay from the Tchouttacabouffa River. He was famous for taking conventional and classic vase shapes and then deforming them, glazing them in garish and dripping colors, or both.

Another pioneer of the studio art pottery movement was Otto Natzler, who, along with his wife, Gertrud, was a mentor to fellow Californian Beatrice Wood in the 1930s and ’40s. The forms thrown by Gertrud were mostly traditional, although her spare shapes were in keeping with the Mid-century Modern aesthetic of the day. Otto’s role was to glaze his wife’s work—during their long partnership, he created recipes for more than 1,000 glazes.

As for Wood, who became known for her figurative pieces and use of lustrous glazes, she first achieved notoriety by hanging hanging out with Marcel Duchamp and the New York Dada artists in the early part of the 20th century. She came into her own as a ceramist in the late 1940s, when she moved to Ojai, a rural farming community north of Los Angeles. Wood established her studio across the street from the Indian spiritual leader Krishnamurti, which further enhanced her Bohemian reputation and allure.

In fact, Southern California was a hotbed of postwar studio art pottery. Contemporaries of Wood included potters Vivika and Otto Heino and artist Peter Voulkos, who came to Los Angeles in 1954 to teach.

For several years, Voulkos shared a studio with a former student named John Mason—both men worked on a scale never before seen in art pottery. Voulkos would stack two or three tall pots on top of one another until he had built an imposing, rough-hewn structure. For his part, Mason’s vertical sculptures left the traditions of pottery entirely behind—he was inspired by the abstract-expressionism of the 1950s.

By the 1960s, the influence of pop and figurative art was being felt by studio ceramists. Robert Arneson, who taught at U.C. Davis and became known for using his own image in heroically scaled caricature busts on pedestals, pioneered a genre of funk ceramics, which had a strong influence on the works of students such as David Gilhooly, whose comical frog sculptures never failed to elicit a smile...

Meticulous, trompe l'oeil porcelain master Richard Shaw was another graduate of Davis, while Viola Frey, whose massive, multi-colored figurative sculptures were like enormous cartoon panels, except in 3D, influenced three decades of students at the California College of the Arts.

Meanwhile, up in Seattle, Robert Sperry, Rudy Autio, Howard Kottler, and other professors at the University of Washington were mentoring artists such as Irv Tepper and Patti Warashina, who excelled at porcelain. Michael Lucero, who is best known for his hanging shard figures and massive, meticulously painted ceramic heads, came out of the same program in the late 1970s.

Other art pottery artists of note include Ken Price, Peter Shire, Roseline Delisle, Adrian Saxe, Ralph Bacerra, and Mineo Mizuno from Southern California; Ron Nagle, Bill Burke, and James Lovera from northern California; Betty Woodman from New York; Warren Mackenzie from Minnesota; Richard DeVore of Colorado; and Jun Kaneko of Nebraska.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Gouda Design

Gouda Design

Stuart Lonsdale and Kim Lindley's excellent tribute to and reference on Gouda Dutch Art Pottery and Delftware. The … [read review or visit site]

Cowan Pottery Museum Associates

Cowan Pottery Museum Associates

Dedicated to raising awareness of the ceramic art work of R. Guy Cowan and his Cowan Pottery Studio in northeastern… [read review or visit site]

The Pottery Studio

The Pottery Studio

This 7,000-plus page site lives up to its self-billing as a 'knowledge base' with examples of work from all major a… [read review or visit site]

Clubs & Associations

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Signed George Ohr Biloxi Miss. Rare Double Handled Glazed Vase 10 1/4" X 6 1/4" Large Edwin Mary Scheier Studio Pottery Bowl Robins Egg Blue Glaze Stunner NrAlan Wallwork Studio Pottery Stoneware Split Sphere Signed "aw"1929 Rometti Umbertide Allegoria Vase Italian Avant Garde Design, Gio Ponti EraRare Paul Soldner Studio Pottery Double Winged Abstract Groove Raku Chalice VaseVivika & Otto Heino Studio Pottery Chawan Tea Bowl W/ Mottled Gun Metal Glaze'cheshire Cat' A Surreal Folk Art Face Jug Sculpture By Ron DahlineVintage Sheila Fournier 1915-2000 Studio Pottery Bronze Bowl Robert C19791930's Gio Ponti Ceramic Vase Richard GinoriVtg Mid Century Modern Clyde Burt Studio Art Pottery Geometric Bowl SignedDavid Cressey Phoenix Planter Architectural Pottery Pro Artisan Mid CenturyTom Coleman / Celadon BowlWarren Mackenzie Matching Yunomi Pillin 9 Dancers Decorated 9 1/2" Bowl Anagama Shigaraki Wood Fired Studio Art Pottery Vase Quartz Crystals~stampedMark Hewitt / Wood-fired Chalice With Scroll HandlesVtg Mid Century Modern Vivika Otto Heino Ca Studio Art Pottery Planter Pot EamesWarren Mackenzie PlatterVtg Mid Century Modern Vivika Otto Heino Ca Studio Art Pottery Weed Pot VaseImportant Polia Pillin 3 Sided Face Bird Vase Mint Gorgeous Colors Polia Pillin Vintage Mid Century Modern Vase Horse Art PotteryPolia Pillin Original Unique Pottery Creation With Certificate Of AuthenticityVtg Mid Century Janet Leach St Ives Studio Art Pottery Vase Sculpture Hamada EraVivika & Otto Heino Studio Pottery Squared Tea Bowl W/ Abstract Designs,incisingMackenzie Childs Wittika Cake Stand Green/brown60s Mcm Modern Crackle Glaze Studio Pottery Wall Sculpture Jane Dart Pratt EpicVtg Stephen Polchert Mid-century Modern Studio Pottery Vase Natzler/grotell EraRobert Briscoe / Ash Glazed Lidded FormVtg Mid Century David Leach St Ives Studio Art Pottery Bowl Eames Hamada EraMackenzie Childs "piccadilly" Covered Butter Dish~~damageKaete Brittin Shaw / Porcelain Bowl Mackenzie Childs Maclachlan 10 3/4" Appetizer Plate 2nd EditionGreat Mccarty Pottery Fruit, 7 PiecesFreiwald Art Pottery Owl Vase Amphora Jugendstil Nouveau Symbolist SecessionKarl Martz Rare Vase 1938Rupert Deese Studio Pottery Mid Century Modern CaliforniaMackenzie Childs "piccadilly" Large Baking DishHarding Black PotteryMackenzie Childs "piccadilly" Rolling Pin ~~ RetiredMackenzie Childs Honeymoon 4" Flower Pot (sweet Pea)Rare - Karen Howell Pottery 1987 Rabbit Bunny Bunnies Carrots Cobalt Blue Bowl Mackenzie Childs "piccadilly" 1 Quart CassseroleMackenzie Childs Honeymoon Mug (dandy Lion)James Mckinnell / Rare Miniature VaseMerritt Island Pottery Chalice Or Stem CupMackenzie Childs Hand-painted 2(multicolored) Fish Knob- Right & Left FacingMackenzie Childs Honeymoon Dinner Plate (dandy Lion)Rare Mana Arizona Southwestern Rabbit Bud Hawk Pottery Pitcher SignedSalt-fired Stoneware Olive Tile With Shibui By Otto And Vivika HeinoMackenzie Childs "piccadilly" Bowlderole Large Covered DishRed Wing Bean Pot Sd South Dakota Advertising Hartford, Sd Nice!Red Wing Bean Pot Sd South Dakota Advertising Faulkton Nice!Large Alfaraz Bull Vase/mid-century Modern Pottery/made In Spain/15.75" TallNicholas Mosse Pansy Oval Platter, New, Rare, Retired, Spongeware 17” X 12”Freiwald Art Pottery Owl Amphora Vase Jugendstil Nouveau Symbolist Secession Abstract Ceramic Personage Signed Kaneko Scheier EraMackenzie Childs "rare & Retired" Honeymoon Plate Green "sweet Pea" Mckenzie Childs Black White Checker Strainer 20"Polia Pillin Colorful Small Round Box With Lid. A Mysterious Woman Holds A Bird~Stangl Pottery Bird - Blue Jay With Peanut