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 Studio Pottery Stoneware Split Sphere Signed "aw"Doyle Lane California Studio Pottery Burnt Orange Weed Pot W/pronounced LipBridget Drakeford Fine Porcelain Bowl. Copper Glazed And Carved Studio CeramicsEnormous Signed Karen Karnes Lidded VesselSigned Scheier Studio Pottery Bowl W/ Vibrant Matte Blue Glaze, Circa 1960Monumental 18" High Michael Casson Studio Pottery Art Vase Jug Incised Leach NrEdmund De Waal Porcelain Cup. Signed Celadon Coffee Can. British Studio CeramicsTall Vtg 1963 Polchert Mid-century Modern Studio Pottery Natzler Era Vase-ex-nr!Edmund De Waal Studio Test Pots. Porcelain Samples British Studio CeramicsColossal Studio Jug Signed Alan Caiger Smith (monogram) - Date Code 1962 Jack Doherty Soda Glazed Porcelain Jug. Art Studio Pottery Pitcher.Studio Pottery Vase In The Style Of Doyle Lane , James Lovera , Or Otto Natzler 9 Mackenzie Childs Drawer PullsRare Vintage 1971 Rumph "bloody Mary" Ugly Witch MugBernard Forrester Charger - Wall Plate Glidden Pottery Fong Chow Studio Vase Green Mesa Prototype Mid Century Modern Polia Pillin Lady With Bird Small Plate FlawsGenuine Mccarty's Of Merigold Pottery Water Tumblers Amber Color Six EachMackenzie Childs - Taylor Medium Pitcher - Retired Item - AalsmeerLeaf Shaped Dish Signed D. Ferguson Pigeon Forge PotteryFace Jug Judge Toads Likker Handmade Folk Pottery Whiskey Jug By WildmudNicholas Mosse PotteryWonderful Set Of 2 Nutmeg Tumblers Mint Mccarty Pottery Of Merigold, MississippiMackenzie Childs Owl Mug Svend Bayer Wood Fired Stoneware Jug. Ash Glazed British Studio PotteryNicholas Mosse PotteryMackenzie Childs Soap Dish (2)This Little Piggy Mint Mccarty Pottery Of Merigold Mississippi27 Mackenzie Childs Round KnobsVintage Pillin Small Vase Woman And Bird Lavender Color As Is Condition15" 2kg Vintage 60-70's Studio Art Wall Plaque West German Pottery Fat Lava EraRare Ephraim Faience Pottery Century Studios Dragonfly Vase 2009 Number 3 Of 50Some Pig Mccarty Pottery Of Merigold, Mississippi Mint Nutmeg BeautyVintage Gerry Williams Studio Art Pottery Vase Decorated Glaze Scheier EraStunning Tall Vintage Bill Campbell Art Pottery Table Lamp & ShadeGreat Smaller Michael & Magdalena Frimkess Vase Floral Design~ Patricia Garrett Great Impressions Art Pottery Realistic Pumpkin Pot W/lid ~Mackenzie Childs Dublin Hill Fluted Dinner Plate ~retiredRare And Unusual Large Karen Karnes Experimental Porcelain Casserole Art PotGlidden Pottery Set Of Three Circus Mugs #202pJade Tumblers From Mccarty Pottery Of Merigold, Mississippi Mint Condition Mackenzie Childs Tea PotMackenzie Childs Pottery ~~ Dinner Plate ~~ "monet" PatternMccarty Pottery Jade Vegetable Bowl Merigold MississippiMackenzie Childs Pottery ~~ Dinner Plate ~~ "brighton Pavilion" Pattern Rowantrees Hand Thrown Pottery Blue Hill Maine Yellow Bird Jam Jar Cover & PlateLarge & Lovely Mint 1/2 Gallon Plus Jade Mccarty Pitcher Merigold, Mississippi Mackenzie Childs Aalsmeer Candle HoldersTroika Mid Century Modern Art Pottery Pair Of 2 Wheel Vases. SignedJemerick Art Pottery Large Encyclia Orchid Vase 2008 Mint ConditionMackenzie-childs Courtly Check Enamel Set Of 4 Bowls 7.5"x2.5" Black/white CheckVintage Tesuque Pueblo Poster Paint Rain God Pottery Figure, Signed On BottomCeramic Arts Studio LeopardsPair Of (2) Val Cushing Vintage Stoneware Coffee Tea Mug Cups Studio Pottery~vintage Pottery ~heavily Glazed Vase Blue With Yellow Iris Flowers~a Beauty! Set Of 10 Mackenzie Childs Cabinet Knobs / PullsLarge Oxney Green Bowl, Ship Decoration In Blue & WhiteMackenzie Childs Plate Torquay Kelp And Urchin #2 Signed Br Victoria & RichardMackenzie Childs Plate Torquay Kelp And Urchin #1 Signed Br Victoria & RichardSigned Thad Hess 1959 Mid Century Pot Volcanic Lava Foam Drip Glaze, Natzler Era