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    

Rose Cabat - Mid Century Modern, Studio Art Pottery, Purple Glaze Feelie VaseJonathan Adler Porcelain Platinum Glazed Aorta Sculpture Triple Bud Flower VaseRose Cabat - Mid Century Modern, Studio Art Pottery, Blue Glaze Demitasse CupHans Sumpf Pottery Bird Bath Stan Bitters Design, Mid CenturyEarly Pewabic Pottery Blue-green/tan-gold Vase Ca.1903-19071956 Vintage Harding Black Texas Studio Art Pottery Modernist Footed VaseWonderful Vintage Mackenzie Childs Lamp FinialHenry Hammond 1914-86 Studio Pottery Tea Bowl Barnard Leach & Staite Murray LinkYename Seigan Studio Pottery Stoneware Hagi Chawan Tea Bowl In Signed BoxTrevor Corser 1938-201 Leach Pottery St Ives Studio Tea Bowl Bernard LeachFabulous Vintage Mackenzie Childs Lamp FinialJohn Bedding St Ives Pottery Studio Stoneware Tea Bowl Chawan Bernard Leach LinkMotoko Wakana Stodio Pottery Lidded Pot Water Jar St Ives Link Japanese PotterToshiko Takaezu: Monumental Bowl, Signed Studio Pottery, Everson, Cranbrook1975 Jim Rumph Mind Circus "contemplating" Lizard Coffee Mug Vintage Kate Malone Studio Pottery Early Work - Soap Dish Blue Green Signed Fong Chow For Glidden - Mid Century Modern, Studio Art Pottery, Bowl #2Mackenzie Childs Authentic Knobs - 13 Total - Swirl & Courtley CheckFong Chow For Glidden - Mid Century Modern, Studio Art Pottery, Bowl #1**rare**theo And Susan Harlander Brooklin, Ont Pottery Vase VintagePigeon Forge Pottery Glazed Owl Plaque Tile Vintage 1962Fong Chow For Glidden - Mid Century Modern, Studio Art Pottery VaseKatharine Pleydell Bouverie 1895-1985 Studio Pottery Shallow Dish Leach LinkWarren MackenzieWarren Mackenzie1999 Patricia Garrett Cabbage Lidded Bowl | SignedWarren MackenzieRare Set Of 4 Mackenzie-childs Vintage Retired Large Handled Coffee MugsVintage Mid Century Modern Scheier Studio Art Pottery Figural BowlCharles Counts Vase W/incised FiguresVintage David Keyes Cat Face Wall Pocket Tacoma Art Pottery Vase Sconce FunkJeff OestreichHanging Mirror Made By Marguerite Wildenhain At Pond Farm, 1970'sMccarty Pottery Jade Cotton Row Pasta Bowl Vintage, Mint, Red ClayMackenzie Childs Pottery Large Fish PlatterDesirable Large Mackenzie-childs Serving Plate Platter – Hand-painted – 1994Vintage Mid Century Modern Vivika Otto Heino Studio Art Pottery Vase BowlVintage Large! Pottery Planter Mana Apache Turtle Made In Usa ArizonaEarly Leach Pottery St Ives Studio Slipware Vase Bernard Leach Or Michael CardewWarren MackenzieR.h. Diebboll Stoneware Pottery Jug 'monarch Man' A Surreal Folk Art Face Jug By Ron DahlineStunning Denis Vibert Sullivan Maine Art Pottery Vessel VaseMid Century Signed Claude Burt Ceramic Plate Decorated 7 ¾ Inch DiameterMackenzie Childs Courtly Check Enamel Deep Squarage Bowl - LargeBeautiful Unbranded Ivy Motif Art Studio Pottery Vase In The Zanesville StylePatricia Garrett :: Pair/2 Cabbage Leaf 5 1/2" Candlesticks Art Pottery Usa Nr!Katharine Pleydell Bouverie 1895-1985 Studio Pottery Lidded Pot Leach LinkMalcolm DavisVintage Italian Intrada Fleur De Lis Pompei Honey Pottery Vase W/handles Nr YqzJade Snow Wong Unique, Rare Studio Pottery Vase Chinese American HistoryMalcolm DavisGlen Lukens Studio Slump Glass Dish Signed Rose Tourmaline No Reserve AuctionVintage Small Blue Vase SignedMackenzie Childs Courtly Check Enamel Tea Kettle - 3 QuartGordaon And Jane Martz For Marshall Studios Bookends Ceramic Tile And Teak, RareDavid Leach Lowerdown Studio Pottery Stoneware Vase Bernard Leach Son Dl083Jonathan Adler Set Of 2 Vintage Capuchine Striped B&w Designer Vases - Rare Find~ Small Patricia Garrett Great Impressions Art Pottery Melon Cup Bowl Pot ~Mackenzie Childs Courtly Check Enamel Colander - Small