• Murder and Mayhem in Miniature: The Lurid Side of Staffordshire Figurines For most of us, ceramic figurines conjure sentimental images straight out of children's books, tame kitsch at its worst. But once upon a time, these little sculptures had an edge. The subjects that graced Staffordshire pottery more than 200 years ago weren't for the fainthearted: Imagine giving grandma a figurine that mocked discriminatory marriage laws or portrayed a gruesome series of animal att…
  • Diablitos in the Details: The Curious Tale of Mexico's Most Peculiar Pottery In the rural Mexican state of Michoacán, devils, mermaids, saints, sun gods, and drunks can all be found mixing it up and having a great time. Each of these characters, and many more, inhabit the strange universe depicted in sculptures produced in the tiny town of Ocumicho. "Though sanitized into angels and last-supper scenes for tourist markets, authentic Marcelino figures are almost always ob…
  • Who Killed American Kitsch? For home-front America, World War II was a time of shared sacrifice, when people gave up simple pleasures to support those fighting overseas in the greatest struggle the civilized world had ever known. After the war, though, society breathed a collective sigh of relief and went out looking for a bit of fun. One of the easiest things to do was to update one’s décor, as Donald-Brian Johnson discove…
  • Cowan Art Pottery of the Art Deco Era I’m the curator here at the museum in Rocky River, a suburb west of Cleveland. I look at Cowan pottery from a historian’s angle because this is part of Rocky River’s cultural history. I’m not a collector, but I personally enjoy and value Cowan pottery. I was on the board of trustees of the library about 10 years ago and did a lot of work to make sure that the Cowan Pottery Museum continued and was…