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    

Michael Simon / Huge ( 15" X 13") Platter With Fish / Warren Mackenzie Interest Doyle Lane Pottery/ceramicsGertrud & Otto Natzler / Folded Blue DishSequoia Miller / Exhibition Pagoda FormEphraim Faience Art Pottery VaseEphraim Faience Art Pottery Cabinet Yellowstone VaseVintage Signed Polia Pillin Modernist Female Portrait Flower Lidded Pottery BoxJack Troy / Shino Porcelain GuinomiRichard Aerni / Large Vibrant BowlEphraim Faience Art Pottery VasePorcelain Vase With Matte Crystal Glaze, Made By Laura Andreson In 1975..F Carlton Ball Signed Large 15.5" Tall By 12.5" Wide Mid Century Modern Art Vase''rare'' Harding Black Pottery Mid Century Modern Bowl 11 1/4'' Douglas Ferguson Pigeon Forge Art Pottery Bowl 12" Diameter Studio Ceramics Beautiful Blue Vase Made By Vivika And Otto Heino In 1995.Edward Eberle / Porcelain Figural VaseOld~ Shearwater Pottery Pitcher Green Early Vessel With Dripping Glaze, Made By Marguerite Wildenhain At Pond FarmSet Of 6 1990-1993 Mackenzie-childs Victoria And Richard Plates 7"Vivika Otto Heino Rare Vintage Blue Green Matte Incised Art/studio Pottery BowlNew Unused Mackenzie Childs 10" Tall Flower Vase Courtly Check Enamelware Pigeon Forge Pottery Tennessee White Owl Douglas Ferguson 6 1/4" Tall SignedMichael Lambert Tea Pot "struttin"Older Rae Dunn Butter Pot Small CrockRare Two-handled Vessel Made By Marguerite Wildenhain At Pond FarmVintage Karl Rumph 1976 Mind Circus Inc. Figurine 9" X 5" X 3"Early Jane Peiser Studio Ceramic Vase Marked Jgp New York State Potter Tim Rowan Wood Fired Pottery Vase UnsignedLarge Decorated Vase Made By Otto Heino In 1999.Rose Cabat Feelie Arts & Crafts Studio Pottery Lavendar Mint ConditionLaura Andreson Turquoise Crackle Glaze Studio Pottery Bowl 1946Lovely Vintage Tacoma Art Pottery Art Nouveau Faces Vase 10" TapMackenzie Childs Pottery Cookie Jar Mackenzie-childs Fluted Serving Bowl New Glen ParkCharles Counts Beaver Ridge Rare Art Pottery Bird Hand Signed Incised Solid ClayKevin Snipes Girl "hey" ... "oh Boy!" ~ Porcelain Vase Fine Art BasquiatEphraim Faience Art Pottery Laura Klein Boston Fern Cabinet VaseLarge Mackenzie Childs Decorative Multi Colored Plaid TiebackRae Dunn Small Covered Butter DishBeautiful Mccarty / Mccartys Pottery Quail Casserole/ Jade&cobalt / Mississippi1999 Mary Gates Dewey Studio Handcrafted Pottery Feline #24Vintage Karen Howell Rabbits & Stars Hand-made Tray Ceramic Pottery Dish BunniesNew Unused Mackenzie Childs 10" Courtly Check Enamelware Serving Fork Spoon SetAurora Pattern Mackenzie-childs Footed Enamel Compote - Original Tags4 Unused Mackenzie Childs Courtly Check Nesting Bowl Set Enamelware 6" To 11"Mccarty Pottery Jade Popcorn Bowl W Lip, New Mccarty Pottery Nutmeg Clam Shell Bowl, NewPewabic Teal Step Vase, Art Deco Pottery, Detroit, 1960s, Midcentury, Mcm, BlueMater Potter Ken Shores (1928-2014) Signed Character PieceMccarty Pottery Older Vtg Nutmeg & Cobalt Mommy Bunny Rabbit Sleeping Big EarsUnusual 1980 Signed Bastine Pottery Brown Sponge Ware Hanging Vase? Mackenzie Childs Decorative Multi Colored Polka Dot Ball TasselEmil Cahoy Colome Sd South Dakota Pitcher Pottery 5.5" Tall + Info SheetMackenzie Childs Fish Soap DishCathra Anne Barker Signed 13 Inch Ceramic Plate Under The Sea ThemePatricia Garrett Great Expressions Giant 19 1/2" Squash VaseMackenzie Child's Decorative Fish PlatterUnique Signed Ellen Shankin Pottery 7" VaseZsolnay Pottery, Pec's Austria Hungary Vintage 1971 Jim Rumph Republican Figural Horse Tankard Mug Sculpture Signed