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    

Rare Stig Lindberg Stoneware Gustavsberg Horse Springare Sculpture C1950s SwedenGood Large Susan & Richard Parkinson The Cricketer Figure - MarkedRose Cabat "feelies" Vase | Mid Century Modern American PotteryRose CabatVtg 1955 Harding Black Texas Modern Studio Art Pottery Bowl No Reserve Signed Shimaoka Tatsuzo (1919-2007) Japanese Studio Pottery Bottle VaseStephen Polchert Vase Signed Mid Century Modern Vtg Studio Art Pottery CeramicsVtg Mid Century Modern Studio Art Pottery Weed Vase Pot SignedBeautiful Vintage Purple Blue Studio Art Crafted Seed Pot Pottery Vase Jug YqzTim Rowan / Anagama GuinomiBen Owen Iii / 1987 Mulberry Cabinet VaseLot 3 Mackenzie-childs Maclachlan Collection,plate,trivot,& Thistle Box,1 SignedOriginal Marcello Fantoni / Large 1950's "onion" VaseDavid Shaner Studio Pottery Vessel / Vase Archie Bray Karen Karnes / Vintage Lidded JarAuthentic Signed Pablo Picasso Original Ceramic 6" Bowl PicadorJim Malone / Large Hakame Vase With BrushworkSheila Fournier Studio Pottery Stoneware Tall Square Vase 1960's / 1970'sMalcolm Davis / Shino Pouring VesselEdna Arnow / Large Mid-century Volcanic BowlMark Hewitt / Large Early "wmh" Wood-fired BowlRandy Johnston / Shino Bowl With 3 Lobes / Warren Mackenzie InterestRetired Mackenzie Childs Freckle Fish Green Perfect PlatterSigned Doris Spivack Clay Vase Art Pottery 6" Tall Pair Of Mackenzie Child's Candle HoldersSet Of 3 Retired Mackenzie Childs Freckle Fish Small Dishes / BowlsSet Of 2 Rare Retired Mackenzie Childs Torquay TrivetsLot Of 6 Retired Mackenzie Childs Freckle Fish Knobs / Pulls - 3 Left & 3 RightGunnar Nylund / Mid-century Vase / (nymolle Interest)Yunomi Book Shoji Hamada Warren Mackenzie Voulkos Natzler Lucie Rie PotteryVintage Mackenzie-childs Rose Petal Globe Canister Covered Urn Cookie Jar RareRetired Mackenzie Childs Freckle Fish Large Pink Serving PlatterRare Jonathan Adler Studio Line Pottery Vase Numbered 44/100Edgefield Ferrell Pottery Jug Stamped South Carolina Sc 2008Door Pottery Large Vase~bleeding Heart With Maple In A Yellow GlazeRare Iron Mountain Stoneware 2 Green Splotches Over Tan Pottery TeapotMackenzie-childs 1991 Maclachlan Rectangular Thistle Box ~ No Lid ~ ExcellentBjorn Wiinblad Rosenthal Modern Blue & White Floral Studio Cylinder Vase 9" Catawba Indian Reservation Native American Pottery Handmade Pot Fire Clouds Older Mccarty Large Bowl - Mississippi PotteryNicodemus Pottery Owl Ohio Studio Art Pottery Modernist Ruth Faktor Israel Ceramic Judaica Art Sculptural Tile Bride W FlowersPewabic Pottery Detroit Studio Art Vase 2008 Blue-green Signed WuMary Burton Crystalline California Studio Art PotteryVtg Modern 60s Studio Pottery Abstract Tree Jane Dart Pratt E.m.u ProfessorRon Meyers Salt Glazed Studio Pottery Candlestick, Perfect ConditionMackenzie Childs Ruffled 8 1/4 Inch Bowls Set 4Mccarty Pottery 1990s Large Pig Merigold, Ms Nutmeg Brown & Cobalt BlueEarly Signed Randy Johnston Yunomi - Warren Mackenzie/minnesota Pottery InterestRetired Mackenzie Childs Torquay Buttercup Frank & Mustard Lunch Plate / PlatterRobert Maxwell Mid Century Modern Art Sculpture Big Mouth Critter Vase BowlVintage Signed 1987 Karen Howell 5" Tile Trivet Rabbit Carrot Star Moon Night Mackenzie-childs 2001 Bearded Iris Ruffled 18" Large Centerpiece Bowl Excellent Ephraim Pottery Green Arts And Crafts Vase By Kevin HicksMccarty Pottery 1990s Wilbur The Pig Nutmeg & Cobalt Blue Merigold MississippiVintage Mccarty Plate - Mississippi PotteryEphraim Faience Pottery "plum Leaf" Cabinet Vase By Mary Pratt, 2005Vintage British Studio Art Pottery Doniau Cudd Bangor Flambe Dragon Figure 1980Vintage Wellfleet Pottery Blue Wallpocket Vase Heather 7.5" Tall... Nice!Heath Ceramics Shallow Salad Serving Bowl In Dark Brown W/ Metallic Glaze