Handcraft in Modernism

Scheurich West German "Strawberry" Floor Vase (LEO Design)

While I do buy (and sell) some Modernist ceramics, my heart is still committed to turn-of-the-century design.  When I do acquire Mid-Century pieces, however, there are a few guidelines I try to observe.  First: the piece should lean back in style, not forward.  They should reflect design of the past rather than attempt to break new ground.  I always prefer textured, tactile glazes and shapes which are not too streamlined or avant garde. Second, I usually prefer matte glazes which I feel blend-in best with the earlier Arts & Crafts aesthetic. And third, I always like ceramics which display obvious signs of handcraft—like the extra large vase shown above.

The vase above, made by Scheurich in the 1960’s or 1970’s, is glazed with two distinct layers: a simple red  underglaze and a crusty brownish-black overglaze. At some point, before final firing, the heavy, textured overglaze is scraped away (by hand) in a regular, scale-like pattern.  And, while the arrangement at first appears consistent, upon closer inspection one sees that the pattern bears the telltale irregularity of any human handicraft.  The Germans call it Erdbeere (or “Strawberry”).  I call it strikingly handsome.