Following the Sun - III

Bay West German Modernist Vase with Bas Relief "Tliework" (LEO Design)


For the next several days, we'll be sharing a few of our favorite pieces of sunny, orange pottery.  Nothing chases away the Winter Blues quite as well as a sideboard full or radiating orange ceramics!

When I've travelled in German cities, I've always enjoyed taking the subway—the U-Bahn—to get around town, quickly, cheaply and enjoyably.  In the German subway stations, two things never fail to catch my attention: 1. the fact that there are no turnstiles at the station entrance (fare payment is based on the honor system) and 2. the stations are often clad in fabulous Mid-Century Modern glazed tiles, not unlike the vases and other ceramics I've collected and sold over the decades.

After Germany's defeat in World War II, the country was desperate to get its economy going and its people back to work.  Labor was plentiful, under-utilized and cheap. Ceramics production—which is a highly labor intensive industry—took-off in Germany after the war.  And the Germans were not only producing high-end, highly-decorated "fancy wares"; Germany began to produce hundreds of thousands of pieces of high-volume, affordable, middle class ceramics for use in Germany and (more importantly) to ship around the world. Simultaneously, high-volume ceramics production in the Allied countries was coming to an end.  After the war, labor costs in America, England and Western Europe had become too expensive for making such labor-intensive, low-cost goods.  In the years after the war, global ceramics production shifted from the "victor" countries to the "vanquished" countries.  Germany recognized a need, hired great ceramics designers to create cutting-edge Modernist looks, and fired-up the kilns—resulting in massive output.

After World War II, Germany also needed to build, rebuild or refurbish its public transport infrastructure (like the U-Bahns and S-Bahns).  This happened in the Fifties, Sixties and Seventies—the period when German Modernist ceramics (and tile) production were in their heyday.  It makes sense that transport engineers and architects would source their handsome tiles from the workshops which were producing good, cheap and stylish ceramics for the masses.

The vase above, made by Bay in the 1960's or 1970's, reminds me of the bas relief tilework in more than one German subway station.  Standing on such a train platform, I've marveled at the stylish use of Modernist ceramic tilework.  I've also figured that the station tiles looked great in the 60's, became passé in the 80's, and looked "retro-cool" (again) by the 2010's.  I'm so glad the tilework was never replaced.  Click on the photo above to learn more about this handsome vase.

More orange-glazed vintage pottery tomorrow and in the days to come.


Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (

We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques ( or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (

Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only).  917-446-4248