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    

Alan Wallwork Medium Size Pod Vase C.1960s Studio PotteryPewabic Stratton Studio Art Pottery Purple Iridescent Lustre Cabinet VaseMassive British Mike Dodd Studio Pottery Vase Leach Hamada Art Interest NrVintage Mccarty Pottery Bowl Dish Art Pottery Merigold Mississippi MccartysYunomi Book Shoji Hamada, Warren Mackenzie, Voulkos, Natzler Lucie Rie, PotteryRare Large Vintage Signed Mackenzie Childs Torquay Turtle Tureen&ladle-perfect!Vintage Rumph Mug Stein John Wayne "the Duke" `w0w~l00k~Porcelain Cabinet Vase Made By Vivika And Otto Heino'entomphobic Clown' A Surreal Folk Art Face Jug By Ron DahlineBernard Leach - Classic Porcelain Vase Pottery, Personal Stamped Bl And St IvesPeter Callas Rare Anagama Woodfired Tray (student, Peter Voulkos) Studio PotteryJeff Oestreich Studio Pottery Roof Shingle Green Celadon Tea Bowl CupKaren Karnes Rare Pair Glazed Low Stoneware Bowls Stamped Studio Pottery (pair)Phil Rogers Glazed Porcelain Yunomi (student Of Bernard Leach And Shoji Hamada)Catalina Island Pottery Rare Toyon Red Vintage Ceramic Art Deco Pitcher HandmadeRichard Batterham Faceted Stoneware Bowl (student Bernard Leach) Studio PotteryFrans Wildenhain Rare Lava Glaze (husband Marguerite Wildenhain Of Pond Farm)Linda Christianson Classic Bucket/basket (student Of Warren Mackenzie) HandmadeX Rare Edith Harwell Albany Slip Art Pottery Pitcher Fairhope AlabamaMary Law (student Of Byron Temple) Soda Fired Covered Jar "house Pot" HandmadeSet Of Three Mackenzie Childs Courtly Check Enamel CanistersHard To Find Andersen Studio Stoneware Barred Owl, Art Pottery Maine Bird DesignCup With Leaves By Potter Michael Simon Warren Mackenzie StudentJohn Leach (eldest Grandson Bernard Leach) Tenmoku Glazed Yunomi Pottery Stamped2002 Mackenzie Childs 6 Ruffle Edge Lollipop 9" Hand Painted Plates Never UsedMackenzie-childs Pink Roses Honeymoon Coffee Mug Cup Dodie Thayer Lettuce Cabbage/ Lettuceware Pottery Butter DishSmall Plate With Two Fish By Potter Michael Simon Warren Mackenzie StudentMackenzie-childs Large Platter, Rare Retired Pattern, Bearded Iris, Dated 2002David Shaner Studio Pottery BowlSmall Bottle With Spout, 4 Fish By Potter Michael Simon Warren Mackenzie StudentMccarty Pottery Mississippi RabbitScott Parady - Wood Fired Tea Bowl, Chawan, Tea Ceremony, Cha-nu-yo Shino GlazedBowl With Lid And Handles, 2 Fish (casserole) By Georgia Potter Ron MeyersCliff Lee - Iconic Porcelain And Oxblood Yunomi, SignedMary Law (student Byron Temple)tall Soda Fired " House Pot" Jar, Stamped PotteryRare Mackenzie Childs Keukenhof Pottery TeapotScott Parady Anagama Woodfired Med Bowl (student Of Ken Ferguson) Studio PotteryRichard Dewar Incised And Glazed Stoneware Yunomi Signed Handmade Studio PotteryJoanna Constantinidis Classic Glazed Porcelain Yunomi, Stamped Studio PotteryMackenzie- Childs Tureen/centerpiece- Rare Retired Madison Pattern-2000Cup With Two Black Spots By Potter Michael Simon Warren Mackenzie StudentVintage 12 Pc. Lot Of Eva Gordon Ceramic-hand Crafted Signed-fruit-vegetablesSuperb Hand Decorated Salt Glazed Cat Design Salt & Pepper Pots, Michael Mosse?Mccarty Pottery Mississippi Jade Bamboo VaseCharles Counts Large Drip Glaze Japanese Style VaseMccarty Pottery Jade Plate 11"/recent Estate Find/set Of 2Mac Kenzie Childs Checkered Heart PlateOld Spouter Nantucket Small Salt Or Pepper Shaker~ Vgc Vintage 1950sStudio Pottery:warren Mackenzie - Large Vase With Lugs And Impressed SealOtto Heino Bowl Vivika Mcintosh Deese American Art PotteryStudio Pottery:warren Mackenzie - Cut Sided Shino Vase, Impressed SealMichael Cardew Large Mug. Signed.Jade Plates 11"/recent Estate Find/set Of 2/mccarty PotteryMccarty Pottery 9" Candle PlateMackenzie Childs 2002 Dinner + Salad Plates Blue SpiralCeramic Tea Bowl By Us Potter Jeff OestreichMackenzie Childs Victoria & Richard Egg Cup With Alphabet DecorationPumpkin Sculpture, Not A Face JugCeramic Tea Bowl By Us Potter Jeff Oestreich