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    

Jeff Shapiro / Large Anagama VaseRare Pillin Art Pottery Very Large 21+ Tall Nudes Blue & White. Beautiful!!!!!Fabulous Peter Currell Brown Studio Pottery Slipware Puzzle Jug, ImmaculateByron Temple / 2 Early MugsBeatrice Wood "beato" Studio Pottery Vase - As IsJohn Glick / Incredible Monumental (23" !!) Vintage BowlPolia Pillin Sandpiper Vase 6" Tall Cloud Banding Signed Excellent ++ PieceVal Cushing / Large Vintage Lidded BowlVintage Lowerdown David Leach Pottery Shallow Lidded PotMackenzie Childs 2002 Blue Yellow Swirl Plate Set Of 8 Dinner PlateLaura Andreson Studio Pottery VesselMackenzie Childs 2002 Blue Yellow Swirl Mug Set Of 7 MugsMackenzie Childs 2002 Blue Yellow Swirl Plate Set Of 8 Salad Plate Low BowlRobert Briscoe / Ash Glazed Squared BowlLarge Harding Black VaseSkeleton Face Jug Raku Pottery Sculpture By Mitchell Grafton No Reserve!!!!Vivika & Otto Heino -- Vintage Small Pottery Vase -- Signed / Circa 1960sRetired 2000 Ephraim Pottery Spring Leaf Cabinet Vase Laura Klein Matte GreenA Good Vintage Christina Gray, Chester * Studio * Pottery Cat FigurineRupert DeeseSuper Rare Perfect Jim Rumph California Pottery Hippo In Bikini Beautiful! Look!Mackenzie Childs Taylor Globe Canister (lid Has Been Repaired)Salt & Pepper Wj Bill Gordy Ga Art Southern Folk Pottery Mountain GoldArts & Crafts Ben Owen Master Pottery Asian White Lidded Pottery JarMackenzie Childs Courtly Check Pottery Teapot Hanging Tile With Ribbon ,gift BoxMackenzie Childs Vintage 1993 TeapotMackenzie Childs Swirl 9" Luncheon Plate Excellent!Mackenzie-childs Majolica Hand Made Hand Painted Piccadilly CanisterMackenzie Childs Swirl 9" Luncheon Plate Excellent!Michael Lambert Bronze Creamer Or Cream PitcherNicholas Mosse Pottery Blueberry Checkerboard Mugs Set Of 2 Made In IrelandUgly Face Jug Southern Pottery Folk Art Signed By Artist DeanMackenzie Childs Napkin Rings Brittany, Bearded Iris, Aalsmeer - RetiredWarren Mackenzie Small Green Pottery Bowl MarkedGenuine Dodie Thayer Green Bean Double Dish, Pottery ~ Ceramic, Palm BeachWindy Meadows 1984 Jan Richardson Beekman Place Rare Unique Collectible HouseBeautiful J T Abernathy Blue Green Pottery Bowl SignedMackenzie Childs Fluted Plate Bowl Brittany - Retired 9" 1983Vintage Alfaraz Ceramic Stoneware Sculpture Lion Figurine Gray Art SpainMackenzie Childs Stoke Gabriel Bread & Butter Plate/saucer - Retired 8 1/2" 1983Mccarty Pottery Bunny - Nutmeg "daisy" Perfect For Easter!Rare Aalsmeer Mackenzie Childs Large Dinner Plate Mackenzie-childs Courtly Check Enamel Metal & Glass Cookie Jar - UsedMackenzie Childs King Ferry Bread & Butter Plate/saucer - Retired 8 1/2" 1983Rumph "stone Throwing Ogre" Excellent*original Condition*40 Years Old & Perfect!Two Pieces Of Pueblo Indian Pottery Bowl & Plate Signed "rose"Mackenzie Childs Fish Drawer Pulls Pair Left FacingMackenzie Childs 3 Early Mugs- Unusually Pretty, Excellent!Mackenzie- Childs Ceramic, Roost,piccadilly Pattern 2piece Nesting Chicken Dish Mackenzie Childs Fish Trivet/hot PadMackenzie Childs Stoke Gabriel Bread & Butter Plate/saucer - Retired 8 1/2" 1983Mackenzie Childs Bread & Butter Plate/saucer - Retired 8 1/2" 1983Mackenzie Childs King Ferry Bread & Butter Plate/saucer - Retired 8 1/2" 1983W J Bill Gordy Pottery Hand Made Small Blue Green Pitcher Cartersville GeorgiaEphraim Pottery Beautiful Lotus Vase 100 Made For Cerf Mackenzie Childs Ceramic ,majolica Simon The Goose Watering Jug,newMackenzie- Childs Taylor -hitchcock Field, Majolica Serving Platter,newMackenzie-childs Original - Fluted Glass Clown Vase Mana Arizona Apache For Goldwater Bowl - $19.99Art Deco Arts Crafts Pottery Ceramic Table Lamp Base Unknown Birds Vase Vessel