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    

Vintage Riccardo Green Glaze Mid Century Modern Geometric Studio Pottery Vase Vntg Pale Aqua Green Mid Century Modern Geometric Studio Pottery Vase RiccardoRare Huge Vintage Studio Pottery Warren Mackenzie Vase Pot Signed StunningVintage Leach Pottery St Ives Studio Stoneware Z Bowl Bernard Leach Design No.1'super Nice Demon' A Surreal Mug Cup By Folk Art Face Jug Maker Ron DahlineVntg Pale Gray Pink Mid Century Modern Geometric Studio Pottery Vase RiccardoBeatrice Wood Signed Beato Green Volcano Glazed Pottery VaseVintage James Lovera Vase Studio Pottery Mid Century Modern C.1962Mccarty Pottery 2-bisque Rectangular Light PendantsMid Century Modern Maija Grotell Style Fish Fossil Studio Art Pottery Bowl YqzVintage Leach Pottery St Ives Studio Stoneware Z Bowl Bernard Leach Design No.2Mccarty Pottery Wall SconceVintage Huge Mccarty Pottery Merigold Miss Ms Water Bottom Lidded Vessel BowlDecorated Porcelain Vase With Bird Heads, Made By Otto Heino In 2000Mccarty Pottery- 2 White- Bisque Hanging PlantersHarding Black 1958 Pottery Bowl, Studio Piece Mccarty Pottery Merigold, Ms Vintage Candle Plate (rare 6") Green/blue/whiteNo Reserve £150 Retail Sue Binns Studio Pottery Tea Pot Country StyleWarren Mackenzie Stamped Faceted Stoneware Pottery Bowl Mint Condition.Warren Mackenzie Decorated Yunomi Cup Stoneware - Stamped, Mint.Mccarty Pottery Vtg Nutmeg & Cobalt Large Bunny Rabbit Sleeping Big Ears UpVintage Signed Maw Paw Southwest Arizona Tribal Studio Art Pottery Pitcher YqzRare Maigon Daga Studio Art Pottery Figure Grumpy Cat Stone Great GlazeStoneware Vase With Apple Ash Glaze, Made By Otto Heino In 2006Harding Black Texas Studio Art Pottery Chun Glazed 10" BowlEdna Arnow Mid Century Pottery Figure, Sparrow 4" X 3"Warren Mackenzie Stamped Scored Covered Jar Stoneware Pottery Mint Condition.**charles Counts Pottery Studio Bowl**Vintage 20th Century Modern Pottery Bowl NrMccarty Pottery White PendantBeautiful 1970's Dove - Mccarty Pottery Vintage Midcentury Cat Planter David Stewart Lions Valley Stoneware Clay PotteryJapanese Stoneware Studio Pottery Cup & Saucer Mashiko Hamada Red Lustre SignedEarly Decorated Vase Made By Vivika And Otto HeinoDavid Leach Lowerdown Studio Pottery Lidded Pot No.3 Bernard Leach Son Dl090Warren Mackenzie Matte Yellow Yunomi Cup Stoneware - Stamped, Mint.Warren Mackenzie Rare White Yunomi Stoneware Cup - Stamped.Important Charger With Fish Decoration, Made By Otto Heino In 1998Karen Karnes Mid Century Studio Pottery Large Casserole Glaze Drips Mint!Kent Fiske Art Glass Vase Gold Aurene Overlap Feather Deco Signed 1977 ExcellentVintage Pottery John Ffrench Design Arklow Studio Ireland Container Jar With Lid4 Vintage Marshall Studios Pottery Coffee Cups Martz Signed Mid Century Usa MadeWeed Pot Made By Vivika And Otto Heino During The 1970's, Museum ExhibitedPorcelain Vessel Made By Otto Heino In 2005Superb Large Studio Pottery Charger 16" Bernard Rooke Alan Wallwork InterestLarge Vintage Modern Weed Pot Signed Studio Pottery Mid Century VaseStoneware Tile With Fish Decoration, Made By Otto Heino In 2001.Lot Of Three Souvenir Coasters Made By Vivika And Otto Heino1971 Rumph Pottery - Dragon Laying In Pond W/ Frog Ashtray - Incense Burn - ArtRare Early Bernard Rooke Studio Art Pottery Organic Shaped Vase Signed A1Art Pottery 1970 By Toshiko TakaezuChris Powell Vase In The Rookwood Glaze & Style Arts & Crafts Studio PotteryFulham Pottery Quentin Bell Qb Signed Vase 6"Unknown Maker Studio Pottery Bowl Blue Turquoise Spiral Cobalt Glaze Ss MarkVintage Mid Century Mod Susana Espinosa Studio Pottery Dish Plate Girl With BirdWellfleet Pottery Vase - Cape Cod Ma - Mid Century Modern (m813)2008 Robert Alewine Pottery Face Jug Signed T. Faulkner 6 1/2"Bjorn Wiinblad Studio Pottery Head Face Cup Bowl Denmark 1985Mccarty Pottery Nutmeg Vegetable Bowl, NewDebbie Fecher Movers Signed Art Pottery Porcelain Sculpture The Highs And Lows