Leaning Forward

Bay West German Modernist Red and Yellow Striped Vase (LEO Design)

I buy plenty of Mid-Century art pottery—ceramics made in the 1950’s, 1960’s and 1970’s.  It was a period when ceramics production boomed in Germany, Italy and Japan.  After World War II, the “victor” countries (the U.S., England and France) found that their rising wages made it hard for high-production ceramics workshops to compete with the lower wages of the “vanquished” countries—countries which were desperate to get their people back to work.  This shift in global economics produced a shift in the production of middle-class household objects (including art pottery).  During this period (the 1950’s through the 1970’s), America made increasingly less “factory” art pottery while it imported more and more of it from countries like Japan, Germany and Italy.  Before the war, middle-class homes were filled with ceramic vases marked Haeger, Shawnee and McCoy.  After the war, the names on the bottoms of vases read Scheurich, Jopeko and Bitossi.

When selecting pieces to bring into the shop, I am quite particular.  Aesthetically, my heart belongs to the late-Nineteenth and the early-Twentieth Centuries.  So I tend to favor those Mid-Century pieces which “lean back” (towards the Arts & Crafts), not forward into sterile Modernism.  I like my Modernist pieces to have classical, historical and voluptuous shapes and earthy, natural glazes which express organic randomness rather than tightly-controlled execution.  Texture, happenstance and handcraft are my watchwords when buying anything Modern—and I picture the prospective purchase on an oak Arts & Crafts mantelpiece before I buy it.

All this being said, the vase shown above is a departure from my norm; just this once I’m leaning forward.  I usually avoid sharply contrasting colors (on the same piece) and I surprised myself when I gave this vase a second glance.  “What is it that makes me like you?”  Well, for one, I think the matte-creaminess of the yellow (Hollandaise?) is reminiscent of Thirties England and is a sophisticated, calming counterpoint to the high-octane red.  I also like how the bands of color are positioned thoughtfully over the underlying relief—the yellow bands are married to the “divots” and the red is mated to the X’s.

To learn more about this recently-acquired piece, please click on the photo above or come into the shop and see it—and its display-mates (most of which lean backward).


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