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    

Gertrud & Otto Natzler / Mottled Purple DishPolia Pillin Pottery Jar Horse & Harlequin Studio Vivika & Otto Heino Bird’s Nest Vase Pottery Mid Century Modern ArtMonumental Gerry Williams Studio Pottery Lamp Heino Scheier Mid Century ModernTheo & Susan Harlander Brooklin Pottery Sgraffito Modernist Cubist Bowl NrRare 1940 Karl Martz Signed Studio Pottery Bowl Mid Century ModernVintage Alan Caiger Smith's Aldermaston Pottery Lustre Cider Flagon - Vgc Mackenzie-childs Maclachlan PlateMackenzie-childs Maclachlan Lidded BoxBeatrice Wood "beato" Studio Pottery Vase - As IsVintage Rumph Art Pottery 1970's Hand Made Cigarette Eating Goblin Troll AshtrayWarren Mackenzie Pottery Covered Box - Stamped Marked - UniqueMackenzie Childs Large Soup Tureen Covered Casserole Dish Rare Patricia Garrett Great Impressions Cauliflower Veggie Covered Bowl SignedMackenzie Childs Rare Canister Set. Set Of 3. Retired And Hard To Find. Ephraim Pottery Estate Fresh Mint Green Blue Frog On Lilly Pad Candle HolderMackenzie Childs Fish Knobs, Set Of Two9 Mackenzie Childs 9" Fluted Ruffled Plates 1994-1995 Victoria & RichardPolia Pillin Art Studio Pottery Mid Century 3 Women Large Platter - As IsFine Vintage 1971jim Rumph Dick Nixon Tankard Stein California PotteryMackenzie Childs Retired Torquay Canister (9") Plus Lid HeightRetired Mackenzie Childs Sweet Pea Shaker Set With Tray-1994 Mccarty Pottery Candle PlatePatricia Garrett Great Impressions Pottery Purple Squate Onion VaseFreiwald Art Pottery Bat Amphora Luster Flambe Nouveau Symbolist Harpy Surreal Beatrice Wood Pottery Tea Set Rare Glaze4 Mackenzie - Childs Napkin Rings Bearded Iris Aalsmeer King Ferry Brighton PavMackenzie Childs Myrtle Plate 9" 1983...mint Great!Polia Pillin Studio Art Pottery Oval Plate Two WomenLimited Edition Pewabic Tile Northland Marshall Fredericks Gold Glaze "the Boy"George Ohr Art Pottery Workshop Biloxi Ms 1901 PostcardEphraim Raven TileMackenzie Childs Keukenhof Ruffled Edges Plate -retiredBrouwer Pottery Embossed Flower VaseOtto Heino California Studio Pottery Large Hanging Wall Plaque / Charger!Pair Signed W J Gordy Georgia Pottery Blue Coffee MugsMackenzie Childs Ceramic TeapotNicholas Mosse Landscape Salad/fruitbowlHarding Black Pottery Pitcher Turquoise 1980 Hand Made PotMackenzie- Childs Piccadilly Au Gratin Large Oval Baking DishVintage Mackenzie Childs Brittany 5¼ Inch Spoon W Original Store TagMackenzie Childs Hand Painted Wine Goblet/glass Carolyn PatternRobert Maxwell Studio Pottery 'crackle Glass' Coasters, Set Of 4, Rare, McmMackenzie-childs Taylor Small CanisterVintage Mackenzie Childs Brittany 5½ Inch Spoon With Original Store TagWho Made This Large Vase Signed "hewell"? (chester Hewell Interest?)Mary Rose Young Mulitcolored Striped Pottery Bowl With Lid Dated 1996Lg Signed Dated 1988 Jess Lord Texas Studio Art Pottery Vase W BrochureLuna Garcia Terra Cotta Pottery Gigante Serving Platter Black, ScallionsEd Eberle - "ladder - Camp Series" Large Porcelain Bowl With SgraffitoMackenzie Childs Torquay Square Childs Bowl Checkered Palm & Devon ClayVintage Italian Artist Signed Adriano Colombo Lo Scricciolo Sculpture - BankerJ Edward Barker Gorgeous Swirl Pattern Pottery Vase Squatty Gorgeous Art 6 1/2" Retired Mackenzie Child's Shallow Bowl 1991Mackenzie-childs Taylor Glen Park Small Oval Serving Dish Vintage Mackenzie Childs Fish Knobs Pulls - Left & Right -green- 2004 PerfectMackenzie Childs Retired Tassel In Pastels - Yellow, Lilac, Rose, Green, AquaNicholas Mosse Blue Pansy Salad Or Luncheon Plates , SixRetired Mackenzie Child's Bowl 1991William Gordon Stoneware Bottle Or Flask Handled Vase Celadon Glaze Mcm 1950s