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    

Large Signed Karen Karnes Studio Pottery Stoneware Casserole, Vermont, 1970'sShimaoka Tatsuzo Stoneware Dish W/ Cord Pattern, Living National Treasure, JapanMackenzie Childs Courtly Check Enamel Canister SetSigned Karen Karnes Studio Pottery Stoneware Covered Box Jar, Vermont, 1970'sOld Man Antique Oil Can Face Jug Folk Art Sculpture Pottery By Mitchell GraftonSuperb Vivika And Otto Heino Blue Crystalline VaseMackenzie Childs Green Fish Platter Retired 19" Long & 10.5" WideRose Cabat American Studio Pottery Cucumber Feelie VaseMackenzie Childs Lidded Toureen Bowl Gold Coins Flowers Piece De ResistanceMuseum Quality Edwin And Mary Scheier Studio Vase1970s Hawaii Glazed Large Pottery Bowl In Earth Tones By Toshiko TakaezuSmall And Unusual Vivika And Otto Closed Form Weed Pot, Signed, Dated 1983Great Otto Heino Birds On A Wire VaseLarge Paul Soldner-early Studio Pottery BowlMackenzie Childs Courtly Check Enamel Tea Kettle - 2 Quart - Brand NewVintage Art Pottery Squirrel Figurine Brown Green Glazes Frankoma?1971 Rumph Pottery Beauty And The Beast Mug, Lizard Handle, 4 Star Rarity, Nr27 Mackenzie Childs Round KnobsRare Mackenzie Childs Blue Morning Glory Lidded Pottery Cannister JarGenuine Mccarty's Pottery Bowl NutmegHtf Large Vintage Douglas Ferguson With Pigeon Forge Pottery Signed Black BearGenuine Mccarty's Of Merigold Pottery Large BowlHtf Ceramic Arts Studio Madison Wi African Lady & Man Wallpockets! No Res. Auct.Awesome 1998 Retired Mackenzie Childs Teapot, Sugar, Creamer, Set - Perfect!Ephraim Faience Pottery 2006 Laura Klein 10" Cherry Orchard VaseSalmon Falls Stoneware Dover,n.h.- Helen Berg Rare Red Hearts Goose & 2 Bear !Superb Thrown Seal Mark Signed Studio Pottery VaseEphraim Pottery - Experimental 2-sided Holly Xmas Ornament! - 6" Long!**dame Lucie Rie Sgraffito Cup**Beatrice Wood Large Beautiful 16" Lava Bowl Mid Century Signed BeatoVintage Original Mackenzie Childs Store Display Wall Hanging Pottery Knobs OoakKaren Howell Rabbit In The Moon Set Of BowlsMackenzie Childs Courtly Check 4" Ribbon X 10 Yards (30 Feet)Mackenzie Childs Canister Mackenzie Childs Finial Retired In BoxCeramic Arts Studio Pierrot & Pierrette Shelf Sitters - Rare Black/blue ComboNicholas Mosse PotteryMackenzie Childs Honeymoon Sweet Pea Green And White With Gold Trim Large CanistCeramic Arts Studio LeopardsMackenzie Childs Pottery 11 1/8" Fluted Dinner Plate - Monet PatternMackenzie Childs Pottery 11 1/8" Fluted Dinner Plate - Taylor Keukenhof PatternMackenzie Childs Taylor Butter House King Ferry PatternRetired ~ Obscure Mackenzie Childs 2000 Harlequin Ltd Edition Sm Fish Bowl !Large Museum Quality Warren Mackenzie BowlMagnificent Maignon Daga Large Sleeping Cat Curled Up Granite Base Not SignedEric Leaper Newlyn Studio Pottery Bull Design DishPigeon Forge Pottery Blue Brown Dip Set Signed Douglas FergusonSquat Round Pair Of Studio Pottery 'pillow Pots'/ Ikebana Vases - Artist MarkScarce Vintage Maigon Daga Raccoon On Marble BaseMackenzie-childs Butter DishMackenzie Childs Pottery 11 1/8" Fluted Dinner Plate - King Ferry PatternRowe Pottery Williamsburg Abby Aldrich Folk Art Churn Cobalt Bird, 1987Covered Jar Buffalo Maw Paw Pottery Adam & Claire Dorn Mana Southwest Az 1971Lot Of 4 2001 Mackenzie-childs Fish Knobs -3 Left And 1 RightMonroe Salt Works, 5 Luncheon Plates, Moose PatternVintage Mississippi Mccarty Pottery Candle Holder PlateSet 2 Monroe Salt Works Christmas Santa 10 7/8" Individual Pasta Bowls / PlatesMackenzie Childs Pottery 11 1/8" Fluted Dinner Plate - Taylor Aalsmeer PatternCommon Ground Pottery Grasshopper Vase, Art Pottery, Arts And Crafts PotteryDroll Designs Large Oval Covered Vegetable Bowl Hand Painted Pottery Exc. Cond.