JOURNAL — Art Pottery RSS



From Across the Sea

"In the old days," ultramarine blue was amongst the rarest—and costliest—of pigments.  It was made of ground lapis lazuli, carefully mined in Afghanistan and hand-carried all the way to Europe.  Even the name, "ultramarine," implies exoticism: "from across the sea." Today, ultramarine blue is not as difficult to procure—and, thus, a lot cheaper. But it is every bit as beautiful as it ever was. This vase, made by Ruscha, was glazed by master ceramicist Otto Gerharz.  Click on the photo above to learn more about it.   LEO Design's Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed.  While we contemplate our next shop location, please visit our on-line store which continues to operate  (www.LEOdesignNYC.com). Follow us on Instagram: "leodesignhandsomegifts" Follow us...

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Dynamic Tension

Though I prefer to avoid your Freudian analysis, I'll still admit that I have always liked voluptuous, round (ceramic) shapes. And while a sphere is fine, a more-complex variation on the round form can be much more alluring. Take the piece above, made in the 1960's or 1970's.  Its shape conveys dynamic tension, as though a perfectly round shape is being compressed downwards, causing it to bulge-out at the sides. It's an "upgrade" to the static (and perfect) shape—much like the slight distending in ancient columns which conveyed a visual suggestion of weight-bearing.  Learn more about this vase by clicking on the photo above.   LEO Design's Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed.  While we contemplate our next shop location, please...

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Thank You for Not Smoking

While I've never smoked—and encourage you to do likewise—I have always liked the accoutrement of lighting-up: ashtrays, tobacco jars and smoking sets. And I like finding new uses of the old objects. Here's a three piece ceramics smoking set which stacks together for storage. At the bottom, a tobacco jar; in the middle, an ashtray; and at the top, a candle holder to relight your stogie. Click on the photo above to learn more about it.   LEO Design's Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed.  While we contemplate our next shop location, please visit our on-line store which continues to operate  (www.LEOdesignNYC.com). Follow us on Instagram: "leodesignhandsomegifts" Follow us on Facebook: "LEO Design - Handsome Gifts"

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Art Meets History

I've only been to Hungary once—to the enchanting city of Budapest. It was here, at a Roma flea market, that I was first introduced to Tofej ceramics. Over the years I've collected (and ultimately sold) a handful of these pieces. Researching the pottery workshop has been a bit elusive and, during the process, one is confronted with Hungary's turbulent (and often cruel) political and ethnic history.  The Tofej ceramics workshop was located in the village of Bodrogkerestzúr in the Northeast corner of the country (some 24 miles from the Slovakian border). In the late Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries, the region had a sizable Orthodox Jewish population, many of whom were vintners, merchants and tradesmen. Alas, during World War II, Hungarian Jews were subject to...

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Feel the Sunshine

Looking at this Italian beauty, can't you just feel the sunshine? Citrusy stripes of tangerine and lime convince me that it's got to be summer somewhere—alas, not right here and now. But I can enjoy a moment along the Amalfi anytime I glance at this vessel. Learn more about it by clicking on the photo above.   LEO Design's Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed.  While we contemplate our next shop location, please visit our on-line store which continues to operate  (www.LEOdesignNYC.com). Follow us on Instagram: "leodesignhandsomegifts" Follow us on Facebook: "LEO Design - Handsome Gifts"

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Coffee & Cream

The deep brown—almost black—underglaze on this large two-handled vase is reminiscent of hot, rich coffee, while the frothy ivory overglaze simulates the cream which goes with it. Made by Jasba in the 1960's or 1970's, it is a stately—though understated—statement piece. Please click on the photo above to learn more about it.   LEO Design's Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed.  While we contemplate our next shop location, please visit our on-line store which continues to operate  (www.LEOdesignNYC.com). Follow us on Instagram: "leodesignhandsomegifts" Follow us on Facebook: "LEO Design - Handsome Gifts"

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Lava: Molten and Solidified

The glazing on this Modernist vase emulates lava rock—in both its molten and solidified states. At top, the orange glaze mimics the liquified stone in all its fiery anger.  At bottom, the rock has cooled—pocked, rough and durable. Thus, the lifecycle of lava is presented in one handsome piece of pottery. Please click on the photo above to learn more about it.   LEO Design's Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed.  While we contemplate our next shop location, please visit our on-line store which continues to operate  (www.LEOdesignNYC.com). Follow us on Instagram: "leodesignhandsomegifts" Follow us on Facebook: "LEO Design - Handsome Gifts"

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Weathered Bronze

I love metallic glazes—especially matte finishes that emulate dark bronzes, coppers and brass.  This vase, by Steuler (West Germany), is glazed to emulate weathered bronze with more than a hint of rust creeping-in.  Click on the photo above to learn more about it.   LEO Design's Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed.  While we contemplate our next shop location, please visit our on-line store which continues to operate  (www.LEOdesignNYC.com). Follow us on Instagram: "leodesignhandsomegifts" Follow us on Facebook: "LEO Design - Handsome Gifts"

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Benedictine Beauty

From the Prinknash Abbey, some 100 miles Northwest of London, comes this little hand-thrown bud vase, finished with a handsome gunmetal glaze.  It was made by Benedictine monks in the 1960's. Though small, it makes a handsome stand-alone in a small spot—or as punctuation for a larger collection.  Click on the photo above to learn more about it.   LEO Design's Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed.  While we contemplate our next shop location, please visit our on-line store which continues to operate  (www.LEOdesignNYC.com). Follow us on Instagram: "leodesignhandsomegifts" Follow us on Facebook: "LEO Design - Handsome Gifts"

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Impasto

"Impasto" is a painting technique whereby the pigment is laid-on thickly upon the canvas, often with a knife blade, creating a roughly-textured surface once dried. The term comes from the Italian verb impastare which means "to knead." Although the technique was in-use well before Van Gogh's time, it was this Impressionist Genius who embraced the method enthusiastically. Many of his masterpieces are a symphony of impasto "knife stokes"—with paint literally leaping away from the canvas below. The European studio vase above seems to enjoy an impasto glazing of red and brown pigments.  Whether the effect is achieved during application or is a chemical reaction (in the kiln), I am not sure. But the effect is bold, spontaneous and effective.  Please click on the...

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A Crystalline Frost

Like frost upon a windowpane (or morning windshield!) this teal microcrystalline glaze sparkles softly upon close inspection. The pitcher-form vase was made by Van Daalen. Click on the photo above to learn more about it.   LEO Design's Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed.  While we contemplate our next shop location, please visit our on-line store which continues to operate  (www.LEOdesignNYC.com). Follow us on Instagram: "leodesignhandsomegifts" Follow us on Facebook: "LEO Design - Handsome Gifts"

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Vienna's Ceramics Workshop

The Secessionist Movement is the Viennese contribution to the larger Art Nouveau Movement—with its focus on handcraft, simple materials and stylized naturalistic motif. And Vienna's reach was wide; throughout the enormous Austro-Hungarian Empire, Vienna was the Empire's premier tastemaker, the elegant and glittering city of culture and sophistication. However, while Vienna called the aesthetic tunes, not everything in the Empire was made within that city.  This vase was made in the mid-to-late Twenties in (then) Czechoslovakia by a company called Ditmar-Urbach. We might consider Czechoslovakia the glass and ceramics workshop of the larger Empire—due to Bohemia's long history of excellence and craftsmanship in these areas. This type of ceramics (sometimes called "Alienware" in recent years) was made mostly for export to the rest of...

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Simple Beauty

While Arts & Crafts artisans did appreciate beautiful materials, fine and expensive supplies were never a prerequisite.  Part of the Arts & Crafts philosophy was to let handsomely unadorned materials shine in their own simple ways.  Wood grains, hammered metals and functional joinery often became the most important embellishments of otherwise simple pieces.  The glazed ceramic cabochon, shown here, is just such an example.  Though set into a sterling silver mount, most of this brooch's appeal lies in the lovely and mysterious glazing upon the cabochon—which is, of course, the handwork of a talented craftsman.  It was made around 1910 and would look wonderful on the heavy winter lapel of a man or woman's winter coat.  Please click on the photo...

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International Monkey Day

On this day in the year 2000, a Michigan State University art student, Casey Sorrow, jokingly scribbled the words “Monkey Day” on a friend’s calendar.  Later that day, they celebrated the first International Monkey Day—and the “holiday” took off. Monkey Day celebrants dress in simian costumes and watch movies like “Planet of the Apes.”  In […]

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Summer, Come!

Longing for Summer?  Yeah.  Me, too. Though it's frigid outside, you can enjoy a moment in the summer sun with this festive Dutch hand-painted vase.  Its gold and burnt orange coloration will take you back to that terrace overlooking the sea.  Please click on the photo above to learn more about it.   LEO Design's Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed.  While we contemplate our next shop location, please visit our on-line store which continues to operate  (www.LEOdesignNYC.com). Follow us on Instagram: "leodesignhandsomegifts" Follow us on Facebook: "LEO Design - Handsome Gifts"

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A Sophisticated Base

Tired of too much Christmas bling?  Perhaps it's all in the presentation.  Imagine this English hand-thrown vase profuse with sprigs of holly—or holding a little potted pine tree. It was hand made by Dickerware, in the south of England in the 1920's. I think that the sophisticated gunmetal glazing makes a striking impact any season of the year—and with any interior aesthetic, Traditional or Modern. It could provide just the "base" you need to take your Holiday decor from kitsch to rich.  Please click on the photo above to learn more about it.   LEO Design's Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed.  While we contemplate our next shop location, please visit our on-line store which continues to operate  (www.LEOdesignNYC.com). Follow...

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Bright as a Berry

Like a festive, reddish-orange Christmas Berry, this Van Daalen Modernist jug is jolly without being saccharine. Its perfectly sloping sides are glazed with a microcrystalline glaze—not quite a matte finish, yet certainly not a glossy finish either.  And it's wonderful to hold.  Just the right size, shape and hand-feel.  Please click on the photo above to learn more about it.   LEO Design's Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed.  While we contemplate our next shop location, please visit our on-line store which continues to operate  (www.LEOdesignNYC.com). Follow us on Instagram: "leodesignhandsomegifts" Follow us on Facebook: "LEO Design - Handsome Gifts"

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Happy Hanukkah!

Wishing my friends and LEO Design customers a Happy Hanukkah and a Holiday Season of peace and contentment. Shown above, an English Art Deco vase with lotus bas relief and a wonderful, dappled cobalt blue glaze.  Please click on the photo above to learn more about it.   LEO Design's Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed.  While we contemplate our next shop location, please visit our on-line store which continues to operate  (www.LEOdesignNYC.com). Follow us on Instagram: "leodesignhandsomegifts" Follow us on Facebook: "LEO Design - Handsome Gifts"

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Reviving Syracusæ

Artists, designers and craftsmen are always seeking inspiration—new ideas for their next great project—and sometimes they will look-backwards, to civilizations of the past and the artifacts they left behind.  During the Post War Modernist period (1950's - 1970's), there was a boom in archaeological exploration of ancient sites—places (and their newly-unearthed objets) which proved fertile sources for creative artists "looking for something new." Syracuse (called Siracusa in Italian or Syracusæ in Latin) is an ancient city-state on the Southeast edge of Sicily, looking-out over the Ionian Sea.  Its advantageous position (and its strong alliances with Corinth and Sparta), made it the most important city in all of "Magna Graecia."  It was as large and powerful as Athens, and, according to...

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Richly Rusty

Here's another "rusty" piece—less "planetary" and more like leather.  It, too, was made by Gerda Heuckeroth for Carstens in the 1960's or 1970's.  The Modernist  "flying saucer" shape is softened by the warm, dappled, naturalistic glazing.  Please click on the photo above to learn more about it.   LEO Design's Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed.  While we contemplate our next shop location, please visit our on-line store which continues to operate  (www.LEOdesignNYC.com). Follow us on Instagram: "leodesignhandsomegifts" Follow us on Facebook: "LEO Design - Handsome Gifts"

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Martian Antecedents

  One day I looked-up and realized that I had amassed a rather large collection of "otherworldly" ceramic vases, urns and bowls—pieces with dripping, organic glazes which reminded me of distant planets, moons and other heavenly bodies.  Sometimes the representation is authentic: some pieces look like Neptune, Mercury or Jupiter.  Other times, the planet cannot be named—the vessel just looks like an artistic creation hanging low in the horizon of a Star Wars epic sequel.  Perhaps I'm drawn to the natural, the spontaneous, "the more Arts & Crafts" glazing.  Or, perhaps, I have a deeply-buried love for traveling the Cosmos.  (After all, I did take-up space in school.) This urn, made by Carstens, was designed by and crafted under the supervision of...

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Going Underground

This tallish vase by Scheurich brings to mind a dip into the U-Bahn (subway) in many a German city.  The Modernist bas relief decoration which surrounds the piece is reminiscent of the tilework to be found on the walls of typical post-War underground train stations. And it makes perfect sense: both the vase and the train station tilework were crafted in the 1960's or 1970's—a time when Germany was struggling to rebuild its economy after two devastating wars.  The labor-intensive production of ceramics and tile were well-suited to a country seeking to put many people back to work.  Luckily, many of the vases were exported to eager buyers in Europe and America.  The subway tiles tended to stay put. Please click on the photo above...

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Danish Modern Deco

One usually thinks of Art Deco existing between the Wars—starting in the mid-Twenties and peaking in the Thirties.  But the movement had a very long tail.  Think of all those movie houses and home appliances and automobiles that were built well into the 1950's.  Art Deco was popular and durable and its influence extended well after the Second World War. The vases above were made in the 1950's by Michael Andersen and Sons on the Danish Baltic island of Bornholm.  While Modernist, they bear a strong Art Deco flavor.  Crisply-cast horses frolic in a field of stylized flowers and foliage.  Please click on the photo above to learn more about them.   LEO Design's Greenwich Village store is now permanently...

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A Painted Landscape

This vase pleased me on first glance.  Blues and browns, dripping glazes—these are a few of my favorite things.  But, the more I contemplated the piece, the more I came to appreciate its wonderful artistry, its complicated coincidence.  Where I once saw jagged bands, I began to see landscapes.  Is that a sandy, desert mountain or a snow-covered Big Sky peak?  Does the darkened treeline bound an icy lake?  And is the midnight sky the same color as the lake—or just a little lighter?  Sand, water, clouds and sky.  This vase has it all!  Please click on the photo above to learn more about it.   LEO Design's Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed.  While we contemplate our next...

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Seasonally Suited

Whatever the season, this Rookwood Arts & Crafts turquoise vase will fit-the-bill. Think of springtime robins' eggs, summer skies, or wintery winds while gazing at the incised row of tulips—swaying gently in the breeze. Made in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1926. Please click on the photo above to learn more about it.   LEO Design's Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed.  While we contemplate our next shop location, please visit our on-line store which continues to operate  (www.LEOdesignNYC.com). Follow us on Instagram: "leodesignhandsomegifts" Follow us on Facebook: "LEO Design - Handsome Gifts"

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A Final Ray of Summer

One last glimpse of summer . . . with this Carstens vase from the 1970's.  Bands of marigold glazing seem to fade quietly—like an imminent sunset—into bands of midnight brown. Certainly summer, though it's clear the season won't last much longer.  Learn more about this handsome vase by clicking on the photo above.   LEO Design's Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed.  While we contemplate our next shop location, please visit our on-line store which continues to operate  (www.LEOdesignNYC.com). Follow us on Instagram: "leodesignhandsomegifts" Follow us on Facebook: "LEO Design - Handsome Gifts"

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Longing for Summer?

Winter's chill has swept through the Northeast—and I already miss the summer!  Not to worry, I can gaze at this sunny, summery vase, made by Carstens.  Though German, it brings to mind a sunny, Positano terrace.  It would also look quite-at-home centered in an impastoed Van Gogh sunflower masterpiece.  Learn more about it by clicking on the photo above.   LEO Design's Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed.  While we contemplate our next shop location, please visit our on-line store which continues to operate  (www.LEOdesignNYC.com). Follow us on Instagram: "leodesignhandsomegifts" Follow us on Facebook: "LEO Design - Handsome Gifts"

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Rusty Ruscha

It's like a cloudy day over The Red Planet, the handsome glazing on this Ruscha West German pitcher made by glaze master Otto Gerharz.  It's part of a growing collection of "otherworldly" pieces I've been finding—ceramics pieces with interesting glazes reminiscent of faraway moons and planets (whether real or imagined).  They are beautiful on their own, but I like to imagine them hanging in the futuristic scenic designs of some science fiction Star Wars movie.  Click on the photo above to learn more about it.   LEO Design's Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed.  While we contemplate our next shop location, please visit our on-line store which continues to operate  (www.LEOdesignNYC.com). Follow us on Instagram: "leodesignhandsomegifts" Follow us on Facebook:...

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The Arno Rises

On this day in 1966, Florence's Arno River began to rise—and, by the next day, had surpassed its banks, flooding parts of the Renaissance city with as much as 22 feet of water.  It was the worst flood in over 500 years and countless priceless artworks, books and buildings were damaged or destroyed.  Among the lost treasures was the little ceramics workshop, Fratelli Fanciullacci, first established in the mid-Nineteenth Century.  The studio lost most of its equipment, molds, kilns and tools. It lost most of its stock—that which was in-production as well as that which was finished and awaiting shipment to the U.S. and the rest of Europe.  Most critically, the workshop lost its talented crew of artisans—who could not...

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All Hallows’ Eve

All Hallows’ Eve (or Hallowe’en) means “Holy Night” and was first celebrated in Western Christian countries on the night before All Saints’ Day—1 November.  Hallowe’en is actually just the first day of a longer, three day “triduum” called Allhallowtide—comprising All Saint’s Day (1 November), its vigil (31 October) and All Souls’ Day (2 November).  Pope Gregory […]

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Halloween Eve

With one night left, let's get into a Halloweeny mood with this textured, matte orange vase by Scheurich. Two vibrant shades of orange create a dappled surface on this rounded cylindrical vase—which is topped with a short, corseted neck.  It is sure to make an impression—by itself or as part of a larger collection—and you can learn more about it by clicking on the photo above.   LEO Design's Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed.  While we contemplate our next shop location, please visit our on-line store which continues to operate  (www.LEOdesignNYC.com). Follow us on Instagram: "leodesignhandsomegifts" Follow us on Facebook: "LEO Design - Handsome Gifts"

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The Other East

West German ceramics is interesting and collectible.  I've been buying and selling it for years.  But I still get a special thrill when I pick-up a piece of East German pottery.  And I can't help but think of the talented ceramics artists who just happened to end up on the wrong side of the daunting Berlin Wall.  It seems East German designs have a cooler, greyer, more dour-looking aesthetic than their West German cousins.  And, perhaps because East Germany was cut-off from the Modernist art world of the late Mid-Century, their interpretations seem more informed by the early Modernism at the turn of the Twentieth Century.  That puts their mindset right into my decorative sweet spot! The piece above, made by Veb Lausitz in...

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"It's Lonely Out In Space..."

A couple of weeks ago, I had the great pleasure of seeing Elton John in Pittsburgh—one of the stops on his "Farewell Yellow Brick Road" world tour.  Naturally, he sang "Rocket Man" among the many hits he performed that night. In recent years, I've found myself intrigued by (and collecting) ceramics pieces which bear a resemblance to faraway planets or moons—whether actual or fanciful.  This piece, made by Steuler in West Germany, has a glaze which brings to (my) mind an otherworldly, gaseous planet, perhaps one hanging in the background of a rough-and-tumble Star Wars set piece.  "D'you pack your bags last night, pre-flight?" Please click on the photo above to learn more about it.   LEO Design's Greenwich Village store...

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Shingle. Tingle.

A rich orange glaze flows down, over the staggered arrangement of "fish scale" decor—reminiscent of the shingled roof of a faraway land of make believe.  It was crafted by Jasba in the 1960's or 1970's and you can learn more about it by clicking on the photo above.   LEO Design's Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed.  While we contemplate our next shop location, please visit our on-line store which continues to operate  (www.LEOdesignNYC.com). Follow us on Instagram: "leodesignhandsomegifts" Follow us on Facebook: "LEO Design - Handsome Gifts"

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Florentine Beauty

Hand-impressed "divots" are created with a wooden stylus—giving this two handled urn the appearance of a stylized strawberry ("fragola" in italiano).  It was handmade by the Florentine pottery workshop Fratelli Fanciullacci in the 1960's.  Although the studio was founded in the 19th century, the Brothers Fanciullacci were at the leading edge of Post-War Italian Modernist ceramics in the Mid-Century.  Modernist ceramics master Aldo Londi worked for Fratelli Fanciullacci before joining Bitossi after World War Two. Alas, the workshop was severely damaged during the flooding of the Arno River in 1966. The company lost most of its stock, equipment, paperwork and artisans (who were forced to move-on to other work while the ceramics studio attempted to regroup).  Although Fratelli Fanciullacci did...

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For "Holly and the Ivy"

Foamy white tendrils—like the legs of a ghostly octopus—creep over the globular form of this dark brick red vase.  Made by Steuler in the 1960's or 1970's, it would make a nicely-understated Holiday centerpiece—filled with sprigs of holly, pine & ivy, fluffy white flowers or brilliant red blossoms.  Please click on the photo above to learn more about it.   LEO Design's Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed.  While we contemplate our next shop location, please visit our on-line store which continues to operate  (www.LEOdesignNYC.com). Follow us on Instagram: "leodesignhandsomegifts" Follow us on Facebook: "LEO Design - Handsome Gifts"

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Picking-up the Pace

Here's a bold piece, made by Stangl in the 1930's.  Two architectural handles punctuate the strong Art Deco form—which further pops with a glazing of vivid orange. Johann Stangl worked for Fulper Pottery (in Flemington, NJ) from 1910.  At the time, the company was known for its pricey Arts & Crafts "studio" ceramics—art quality pieces, tastefully designed and laboriously hand-crafted.  Johann Stangl became president of the company in 1926 and, three years later, changed the company's name to Stangl Pottery.  Johann embraced the new Art Deco movement, and re-calibrated the company away from expensive, low-volume studio pieces and toward popular-priced, high-volume production which would meet the needs of a growing middle-class, post War market. The piece above would surely make a...

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Wine, Women, and Song

In Munich, Germany, on this day in 1810, Crown Prince Ludwig of Bavaria (who would later became King Ludwig I of Bavaria) married Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen. In celebration of the event, the citizens of the city were invited to celebrate in the fields in front of the city’s gates.  And, thus, was born Oktoberfest—the […]

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Prinknash Abbey

The Prinknash Abbey (pronounced "Prinish") has been associated with the Roman Catholic Benedictine order since its founding in 1096.  When Henry VIII suppressed (and took) the abbey in 1539, he rented it to a wealthy supporter—sometimes using it himself as a hunting lodge.  For the next 400 years, various aristocratic families lived on the property until the property was returned to the Benedictines (in 1928) who moved-back, converting the large home into a monastery. In 1942, while excavating for construction work, a seam of red clay was discovered and the monks began to make and sell pottery to support the abbey.  Today the abbey no longer produces ceramics works.  They continue to "blend" incense (using Arabian frankincense gum, essential oils and spices) which...

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Arts & Crafts—Refreshened

My heart belongs to the Arts & Crafts period—which starts in the late Nineteenth Century and ends with (or shortly after) World War One.  That said, I do appreciate certain Modernist pieces, especially when they "lean back" (not forward) and exhibit a high degree of handwork, craftsmanship or organic spontaneity. I also think that traditional Arts & Crafts interiors can be wisely-punctuated with a few sensational, well-chosen Modernist pieces (as long as they stay true to the principles of beauty, nature and craftsmanship).  The piece above is a good example.  Made in the 1950's by Wendelin Stahl, its somewhat severe bottle form is softened with blooms of sapphire crystals which burst forth, seemingly randomly.  Stahl had a rather small studio in the...

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Tourmaline for October

People born in October may choose between two birthstones: the opal or the tourmaline. Tourmalines were first mined in Ceylon (now called Sri Lanka) and shipped to Europe in vast quantities by the Dutch East India Company in the 1600's.  At the time, they were considered an exotic luxury.  Subsequently, they have been found in Brazil, Africa, Afghanistan and the United States.  They come in a variety of colors and some of them have magnetic qualities, due to the iron content in some examples. The Art Deco pot, shown above, is magnetic in appearance alone.  It was made by Roseville in the 1930's and its shape was inspired by classic Native American ceramics.  The glazing was named "Tourmaline," though it has...

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Now and Forever

On this day in 1982, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical, Cats, opened on Broadway at the Winter Garden Theatre.  The work, based on T. S. Eliot’s 1939 work “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats,” ran for nearly 18 years—making it the longest-running Broadway musical at the time.  Directed by theatre legend Trevor Nunn and choreographed by […]

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German-American Day

On this day in 1683, thirteen German families landed in Philadelphia, PA, soon to found Germantown, PA.  The day was commemorated through the Nineteenth Century, only falling-out of favor during World War I. In 1983—on the 300th anniversary of the landing—the date was revived and designated officially as a day to honor the contributions of […]

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An Indian Hero, for the World

On this day in 1869—at the height of Victoria’s Empire—a new world hero was born, right under the Queen’s nose.  His name, Mohandas Gandhi, was later changed to the honorific Mahatma (meaning “venerable” or “high-souled”). Gandhi was born of a merchant class family, one which could afford to send him to law school in London. […]

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Culinary Inspiration

I've tended my first-ever garden this summer—with flowers, ferns, tomatoes and basil galore.  And what does one do with too much basil?  Make pesto, of course!  So, when I found this piece, I was thematically inclined to add it to the LEO Design collection.  It was made by Josef Emons & Söhne in Rheinbach, Germany in the 1960's.  A dollop of pesto-like glazing drips languorously over a cobalt blue undercolor.  It's a strange, unexpected and wonderful combination of color—coupled with an unpretentious, age-old ceramics form.  Learn more about this piece by clicking on the photo above.   LEO Design's Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed.  While we contemplate our next shop location, please visit our on-line store which continues...

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Sognando l'Italia

Dreaming of Italy.  I could spend my every holiday in Italy—and, if fact, am roughing-out plans to return there next June.  Art, beauty and style have always permeated the Italian mindset—whether it's ancient Roman sculpture, paintings of the Renaissance, Turn-of-the-Century gardens, or Valentino's gowns today.  And the Italian instinct for "la bella figura" is not limited to the wealthy and the worldly.  Indeed, whether countryside or cosmopolitan, simple creations are often inseminated with the DNA of charm, grace or elegance. With this vase, made by Bitossi in the 1950's, style transcends simplicity.  Though its form and its manner of decorative incising is far from unique or innovative, the piece projects ample style and sophistication—la bella figura, indeed. This country cousin would be right...

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Life Finds a Way

I am intrigued by this vase.  While I am not typically drawn to "tribal" decor, this vase reveals a slightly different approach.  Perhaps the diamond-form shields and scalloped gadrooning give it a "Roman Empire" bearing (in my eyes).  I also find the glazing unique—pools of glassy citrus green resting in the crevices between pronounced, textured cork-like elements.  My mind wanders to a parched, sandy David Lean landscape with just a promise of spring green struggling through. Life always finds a way!  The vase was made by Bay in West Germany in the 1960's or 1970's.  Find out more about it by clicking on the photo above.   LEO Design's Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed.  While we contemplate our next...

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Another View

Another Florentine beauty, also made by Ars Italica in the 1960's.  Bands of hand-impressed motifs are interspersed with rows of hand-cut "notches."  Then a jewel tone combination of blue and green glazes give the piece a fresh (and refreshing) aqueous finish.  Please click on the photo above to learn more about it.   LEO Design's Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed.  While we contemplate our next shop location, please visit our on-line store which continues to operate  (www.LEOdesignNYC.com). Follow us on Instagram: "leodesignhandsomegifts" Follow us on Facebook: "LEO Design - Handsome Gifts"

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Blue View

Like my all-time favorite movie, A Room with a View, this fresh and handsome vase was made in Florence, Italy.  Crafted in the 1960's by Ars Italica, the piece was hand-impressed with decorative styli, then glazed with bands of jade green and a refreshing "Rimini Blue." The result: a stylish blend of bold Modernism and age-old Folk naiveté.  Please click on the photo above to learn more about it.   LEO Design's Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed.  While we contemplate our next shop location, please visit our on-line store which continues to operate  (www.LEOdesignNYC.com). Follow us on Instagram: "leodesignhandsomegifts" Follow us on Facebook: "LEO Design - Handsome Gifts"

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The Dutch Surrender

On this day in 1664, Pieter Stuyvesant, director general of Nieuw Amsterdam, officially surrendered the territory to the English.  Soon the British re-named it New York—after the Duke of York, who would one day become King James II. Under Dutch control, Fort Amsterdam—at the tip of Manhattan, just below what is modern-day Bowling Green—had guarded […]

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A Real Keeper

Maybe I should keep this vase... Jasba Keramik was founded by Jakob Schwaderlapp in 1926 in Ransbach-Baumbach (half-way between Frankfurt and Köln, Germany). The company made tiles, architectural ceramics and specialized component parts for industry and manufacturing.  In time, Jasba added-on ceramic housewares and decorative "art pottery" for residential household use. In 1959, with WWII long over, Schwaderlapp sought ways to build his sales and improve his profit margins by "upgrading" his ceramics offerings.  He founded the "Ceramano" division which aimed to combine the look and quality of "studio" ceramics pieces with modern production techniques.  With a rising middle class in the post-war Western World—and demand for the fresh new Mid-Century Modernist aesthetic—the times were ripe for Schwaderlapp's gambit: to produce...

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Seaweed Sophistication

Though I am not certain who made this hand-thrown studio ceramic vase (or where it was made), it is the height of sophistication and quality.  Heavy stoneware is gently hand-formed on a wheel—resulting in an elegant profile, gently sloping shoulders, and an exquisitely-executed top spout.  Then it is finished with a sublime microcrystalline glazing treatment—a wonderful blend of organic blues, browns and greens—reminiscent of the swaying "laminae" of underwater seaweed.  Click on the photo above to learn more about this remarkable piece.   LEO Design's Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed.  While we contemplate our next shop location, please visit our on-line store which continues to operate  (www.LEOdesignNYC.com). Follow us on Instagram: "leodesignhandsomegifts" Follow us on Facebook: "LEO Design -...

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Citizenship Day

17 September is Citizenship Day—a day on which Americans are encouraged to recognize and appreciate their U.S. citizenship.  It’s also the day (in 1787) when the U.S. Constitutional Convention signed the Constitution.  In recent years, it has been sometimes referred to as “Constitution and Citizenship Day.” Happy Citizenship Day!

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Autumn Shades - part IV

Another suggestion of Autumn: a Dümler & Brieden "Komet" pitcher with Secessionist-inspired bas relief.  Rich orange glaze pops against a steely matte blue underglaze.  Made in 1972.  Click on the photo above to learn more about it. More Autumn inspiration tomorrow.   LEO Design's Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed.  While we contemplate our next shop location, please visit our on-line store which continues to operate  (www.LEOdesignNYC.com). Follow us on Instagram: "leodesignhandsomegifts" Follow us on Facebook: "LEO Design - Handsome Gifts"

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Autumn Shades - part II

Autumn is a time for hearth and home.  And Mid-Century ceramicists often derived inspiration from age-old utilitarian pieces, some centuries old.  This piece by Carstens Atlelier is a case-in-point.  Designed by Gerda Heuckeroth in the 1960's, it bears a flat, strap-like handle over it's ample and sensuous body.  And it's finished with an organic, matte glaze which drips over a dark brown underglaze—a color somewhere between reddish orange and orangish red.  Please click on the photo above to learn more about it. More Autumn inspiration tomorrow.    LEO Design's Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed.  While we contemplate our next shop location, please visit our on-line store which continues to operate  (www.LEOdesignNYC.com). Follow us on Instagram: "leodesignhandsomegifts" Follow us on...

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Autumn Shades - part I

Crisp evenings, the crackle of fallen leaves underfoot—some of the seasonal cues of the approaching Autumn.  Though the Autumn doesn't officially begin for another ten days, we're ready for the season here at LEO Design!  Let's start the season with this handsome Mid-Century Dutch ceramic vase from the 1960's or 1970's.  The curvaceous form is dressed in a dappled, matte orange glaze.  A perfect combination of classic and modern—all the while voluptuous, bold and strong.  Please click on the photo above to learn more about this striking piece. More Autumn inspiration tomorrow.   LEO Design's Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed.  While we contemplate our next shop location, please visit our on-line store which continues to operate  (www.LEOdesignNYC.com). Follow...

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Modern Secessionism

Mark Twain is quoted as saying, "History does not repeat itself, but it often rhymes."  Similarly, the decorative arts will sometimes "lift" inspiration from an earlier period—reinterpreting the past in a new, fresh and modified way.  The vase above, made by Dümler & Brieden in 1972, is just such an example.  While the piece has a Mid-Century Modernist sensibility, it is inspired by the earlier Turn-of-the-Century Secessionist Movement.  A short walk through Vienna will reveal no shortage of wonderful Secessionist architecture, often embellished with ceramic tile, trim and decor like the vase, shown above.  Please click on the photo above to learn more about it.   LEO Design's Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed.  While we contemplate our next shop...

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Working Man Hero

From time to time, a country, a community or a culture will re-discover its appreciation for the talented working man (or woman).  During the Renaissance, important and powerful guilds were formed to enforce high standards amongst its members and to protect the workers and the reputation of the trade.  During the Age of Industrialization, newly-formed unions ensured that tradesmen were trained, properly compensated and kept safe.  In the early twentieth century—between the wars—there was an artistic movement which sought to present the laborer (and his class) in a dramatic, dynamic, or heroic manner (think of the American Ash Can painters, Soviet poster art, or the muscular human sculpture which embellishes 1930‘s Art Deco architecture).  After World War II, the Danish...

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Summer Sun

Like a swirling, blazing Van Gogh summer sun, we end August with this enormous "floor vase" by Scheurich, West Germany.  Made in the 1960’s or 1970’s, finger-drawn swirls clear-away the outer textured “volcanic” glazing—revealing the orange underglaze below. With this vase, you'll be transported to Provence with a glance.

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Summer Blues - part VI

Let's end our parade of blue ceramics with this exceptionally handsome piece by Karlsruhe.  Formed with heavy strap handles, it is finished with a sophisticated verdigris blue—under which a hint of eggplant shows through.  I love this vase!  Learn more about it by clicking on the photo above.   LEO Design's Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed.  While we contemplate our next shop location, please visit our on-line store which continues to operate  (www.LEOdesignNYC.com). Follow us on Instagram: "leodesignhandsomegifts" Follow us on Facebook: "LEO Design - Handsome Gifts"

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Summer Blues - part V

There's something "just right" about the slope of this ceramic vessel—and the arched handle, attached.  Made by Van Daalen, it is dressed in an intriguing mottled blue glaze—reminiscent of the Earth, as seen from space.  Please click on the photo above to learn more about it. More Summer Blues tomorrow.   LEO Design's Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed.  While we contemplate our next shop location, please visit our on-line store which continues to operate  (www.LEOdesignNYC.com). Follow us on Instagram: "leodesignhandsomegifts" Follow us on Facebook: "LEO Design - Handsome Gifts"

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Summer Blues - part IV

Like an inscrutable Yves Klein canvas, this cylindrical ceramic vase by Hoy Hey wears a rich matte ultramarine blue glaze.  Let it bring a sense of centering calm to your busy office or (even busier) home.  Click on the photo above to learn more about it. More Summer Blues tomorrow.   LEO Design's Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed.  While we contemplate our next shop location, please visit our on-line store which continues to operate  (www.LEOdesignNYC.com). Follow us on Instagram: "leodesignhandsomegifts" Follow us on Facebook: "LEO Design - Handsome Gifts"

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Summer Blues - part III

Something about this unusual vase (the color, the shape?) reminds me of a rare and mysterious sea mammal.  I see the beautifully mottled skin of an exotic arctic whale.  Or the turgid, "hydrodynamic" form of a North Sea dolphin.  And, like these wonderful sea creatures, I've never seen another vase quite like this.  Click on the photo above to learn more about it. More Summer Blues tomorrow.   LEO Design's Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed.  While we contemplate our next shop location, please visit our on-line store which continues to operate  (www.LEOdesignNYC.com). Follow us on Instagram: "leodesignhandsomegifts" Follow us on Facebook: "LEO Design - Handsome Gifts"

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Summer Blues - part II

Foamy whitecaps of highly-textured glaze ride atop a midnight blue underglaze on this simple vase by Scheurich, West Germany.  Click on the photo above to learn more about it. More Summer Blues tomorrow.   LEO Design's Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed.  While we contemplate our next shop location, please visit our on-line store which continues to operate  (www.LEOdesignNYC.com). Follow us on Instagram: "leodesignhandsomegifts" Follow us on Facebook: "LEO Design - Handsome Gifts"

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Summer Blues - part I

Sea, sky and ceramics.  What could be more summery?  Especially in summery shades of blue.  For the next few days, we'll be sharing a collection of recently acquired art pottery—all in wonderful shades of summery blue.  Like the piece above.  Made by Pierrefonds around 1910, this French Art Nouveau vase wears a peppery blue underglaze while a sophisticated cornflower glaze drips over its elegant shoulders.  It is equally compelling either alone or as part of a larger collection.  Please click on the photo above to learn more about it. More Summer Blues tomorrow.   LEO Design's Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed.  While we contemplate our next shop location, please visit our on-line store which continues to operate  (www.LEOdesignNYC.com). Follow us...

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Inkpot Inspiration - part III

Our third and final "inkpot" vase is this one by Ceramano.  Called "Syrakus," it is hand-striated and finished with gunmetal, black and white glazes.  It's one of several pieces from the line, now on-view in the LEO Design on-line store.  Please click on the photo above to learn more about it.   LEO Design's Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed.  While we contemplate our next shop location, please visit our on-line store which continues to operate  (www.LEOdesignNYC.com). Follow us on Instagram: "leodesignhandsomegifts" Follow us on Facebook: "LEO Design - Handsome Gifts"

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Inkpot Inspiration - part II

This wonderfully complex studio vase intrigues me.  Made by Elmar & Elke Kubicek, it was hand-formed in the shape of an inkpot.  Then it was glazed with an oxblood, micro-crystalline glaze—enhanced with a crusty, brown froth.  Its most earthy sensibility—color, size and basic shape—is reminiscent of a heart (and not the saccharine, Valentine's Day variety).  Click on the photo above to learn more about it.   LEO Design's Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed.  While we contemplate our next shop location, please visit our on-line store which continues to operate  (www.LEOdesignNYC.com). Follow us on Instagram: "leodesignhandsomegifts" Follow us on Facebook: "LEO Design - Handsome Gifts"

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Inkpot Inspiration - part I

The "Classic Inkpot" form makes for an interesting and useful vase.  Because of its smallish size, it is a great teammate within a larger collection—as it provides size variation while standing in front of taller pieces.  And, unlike a bowl, there is no "awkward interior." The finished shoulders always look good—even when looking-down upon it.  For three days, we'll be sharing some of our most interesting inkpot vases, now in-stock at LEO Design. The piece above is European-made, from the 1960's, 1970's or 1980's.  It is glazed in a spontaneous mix of cobalt blue, rusty brown and hints of white.  Please click on the photo above to learn more about it.   LEO Design's Greenwich Village store is now permanently...

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More Birdsong

Yesterday we talked about the Fifth International Scouting Jamboree in Vogelenzang (“birdsong”), Netherlands in 1937.  Carrying-on with this theme, you’ll see above a hand-painted plaque with two fluffy birds (c. 1960’s – 1970’s). Siblings? Spouses? Mother & Chick?  I'm just not sure.  What I do know is that it's beautifully designed, nicely hand-painted and would make a handsome addition to any desk, home or office.  It was made in Denmark by Fajence Aluminia.  Please click on the photo above to learn more about it.

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The Boys March In

On this day in 1937, Dutch Scouting (the Padvinders or “Path Finders”) commemorated the end of the Fifth International Jamboree (bijeenkomst or “meeting”) with this Dutch-made ceramic transferware plate.  Dutch Boy Scouting was founded in 1910, followed by Girl Scouting the following year.  The Netherlands became part of the World Organization of the Scout Movement in […]

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Lots of LEOs - XVII

  Let's end our parade of LEOs with this whimsical offering: a Danish Modern stoneware plaque by Knud Kyhn for Royal Copenhagen. This frisky feline is caught in mid-leap, paw extended toward his feathered feast.  It's made to hang on the wall, though it could also be permanently mounted into a tile installation.  Please click on the photo above to learn more about it.   LEO Design's Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed.  While we contemplate our next shop location, please visit our on-line store which continues to operate  (www.LEOdesignNYC.com). Follow us on Instagram: "leodesignhandsomegifts" Follow us on Facebook: "LEO Design - Handsome Gifts"  

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Easy Being Green - IV

Let's wrap-up this little parade of green pottery with another studio-made piece, this time crafted by Walter & Gisela Baumfalk.  A fine crystalline glaze lies atop a metallic gunmetal undercolor.  The tapering form culminates in a lipped top band.  Please click on the photo above to learn more about it.   LEO Design's Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed.  While we contemplate our next shop location, please visit our on-line store which continues to operate  (www.LEOdesignNYC.com). Follow us on Instagram: "leodesignhandsomegifts" Follow us on Facebook: "LEO Design - Handsome Gifts"

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Easy Being Green - III

This European hand-thrown stoneware pitcher is dressed in a metallic gunmetal and mossy-green glaze. The piece has—at once—a naive, folk craft sensibility and a highly sophisticated Modernist edge.  Please click on the photo above to learn more about it. More green ceramics tomorrow.   LEO Design's Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed.  While we contemplate our next shop location, please visit our on-line store which continues to operate  (www.LEOdesignNYC.com). Follow us on Instagram: "leodesignhandsomegifts" Follow us on Facebook: "LEO Design - Handsome Gifts"

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Easy Being Green - II

Though LEO Design has a broad selection of German ceramics, East German ceramics are much less common and a bit harder to find.  The example above, by Karl Jüttner, was made in the Seventies.  A hand-incised pot is finished with an organic metallic-moss green glaze. Learn more about it by clicking on the photo above. More green ceramics tomorrow.   LEO Design's Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed.  While we contemplate our next shop location, please visit our on-line store which continues to operate  (www.LEOdesignNYC.com). Follow us on Instagram: "leodesignhandsomegifts" Follow us on Facebook: "LEO Design - Handsome Gifts"

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Easy Being Green - I

Though Kermit the Frog might disagree, green is easy. Green—the color of leaves, grass and moss—is restful, restoring, and blends beautifully with wood in an interior environment.  I especially like dark, mossy (and a little muddy) greens which give me a sense of cool comfort. The pitcher above, made in the 1960's or 1970's, was crafted by Übelacker, West Germany. The Cubist relief is reminiscent of the Modernist sculpture of Louise Nevelson.  Nevelson was born in The Ukraine in 1899 and emigrated to The States with her family as a schoolgirl.  Her sculptures were made of found objects, usually wooden, which she assembled in wall-mounted or freestanding "shadowbox" style assemblies.  They were often painted monochromatically, often black or white.  Nevelson's sculptures can...

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Space Age Ceramics - part VI

We'll end this little space trip of otherworldly, planetary ceramics with another piece by Ruscha.  Glaze master Otto Gerharz has crafted a rich—call it sublime—glaze which captures the mystery and romance of the moon.  It was made in the 1960's or 1970's and can be found by clicking on the photo above.   LEO Design's Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed.  While we contemplate our next shop location, please visit our on-line store which continues to operate  (www.LEOdesignNYC.com). Follow us on Instagram: "leodesignhandsomegifts" Follow us on Facebook: "LEO Design - Handsome Gifts"

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Space Age Ceramics - part V

Here's another wonderful glaze, made by Ruscha's glaze master, Otto Gerharz.  Unlike some of the "lunar glazes" shared in the past few days, this glaze is more verdant—like a gassy, oxygen-rich planet. One would suspect that life does exist on this organic planet. The mossy bluish-green overglaze hovers over a slightly metallic brown undercoat.  It was made in the 1960's or 1970's and you can find out more about it by clicking on the photo above. More Space Age ceramics tomorrow.   LEO Design's Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed.  While we contemplate our next shop location, please visit our on-line store which continues to operate  (www.LEOdesignNYC.com). Follow us on Instagram: "leodesignhandsomegifts" Follow us on Facebook: "LEO Design -...

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Space Age Ceramics - part IV

Form is nice—but shapes can be easily copied. It's in the glaze master's secret notebook—properly locked away—that the magic is revealed. And this glaze is sensational! Foamy waves of white pumice cling to an equally-textured grey underglaze. It all adds up to an otherworldly effect—like the gaseous clouds encircling a distant planet. Made by Carstens in West Germany in the 1960's or 1970's.  Please click on the photo above to learn more about it. More Space Age ceramics tomorrow.   LEO Design's Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed.  While we contemplate our next shop location, please visit our on-line store which continues to operate  (www.LEOdesignNYC.com). Follow us on Instagram: "leodesignhandsomegifts" Follow us on Facebook: "LEO Design - Handsome Gifts"

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Space Age Ceramics - part III

Another little space capsule: this one a Modernist vase by Anton Piesche. First the piece was finished with a metallic gunmetal glaze and then "slashed" to reveal the clay underbody below.  It's one of a small collection of "Space Age" ceramics, recently received here at LEO Design.  Please click on the photo above to learn more about it. More Space Age ceramics tomorrow.   LEO Design's Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed.  While we contemplate our next shop location, please visit our on-line store which continues to operate  (www.LEOdesignNYC.com). Follow us on Instagram: "leodesignhandsomegifts" Follow us on Facebook: "LEO Design - Handsome Gifts"

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Space Age Ceramics - part II

Like the frozen foamy crust on a yet-undiscovered moon, the glaze on this pedestaled ceramic vase has a textured, otherworldly look. Created by glaze master Otto Gerharz for Ruscha (West Germany) in the 1960's or 1970's.  Please click on the photo above to learn more about it. More Space Age ceramics tomorrow.   LEO Design's Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed.  While we contemplate our next shop location, please visit our on-line store which continues to operate  (www.LEOdesignNYC.com). Follow us on Instagram: "leodesignhandsomegifts" Follow us on Facebook: "LEO Design - Handsome Gifts"

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Space Age Ceramics - part I

Recently I've purchased an interesting collection of European ceramics which have a decidedly Space Age sensibility.  The decades of the Great Space Race were the Fifties and Sixties—coincident with the blooming of post-War Modernist design.  It is not a surprise that the world's scientific zeitgeist would affect the period's aesthetics. Shown here, an East German studio piece from the 1960's by Heiner Hans Körting (1911-1991) for Danburg Pottery.  The hand-thrown piece was modeled with an extended, tapering neck—which was carefully sliced and folded-back to create three curing handles. It was fired with warm sandy and metallic gunmetal glazes. It reminds me of an Apollo space capsule from the glory days of lunar exploration. Please click on the photo above to learn...

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Viva Italia!

From Florence, Italy, comes this little Modernist planter—with plenty of hand-executed, folk craft charm. The ceramic pot is thrown, hand-incised and pierced with a ring of little "clerestory windows" around the rim. Then it's finished with a mottled deep red glaze—a red which the Italians do best. It's a remarkable amount of hand-work on display in this little Italian beauty. Made by Fratelli Fanciullacci in the 1960's. Please click on the photo above to learn more about it.   LEO Design's Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed.  While we contemplate our next shop location, please visit our on-line store which continues to operate  (www.LEOdesignNYC.com). Follow us on Instagram: "leodesignhandsomegifts" Follow us on Facebook: "LEO Design - Handsome Gifts"

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Independence Day

What does it mean to be "independent"?  Does it mean being self-reliant?  Self-directing?  Free?  Or does it mean being separated from the rest of the world?   For me, independence means I can be myself—and actualize myself as I wish—provided I do not harm others (or the world they live in).  The flip side of "the independence coin" means accepting the differences of others—provided they do not harm me, mine or the world we live in. America's good relations with others has been good for my tiny little business.  I have travelled all over the world and built professional relationships with many good people, some of whom have become friends.  I've bought items all over the world, shipped them home, and...

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An Emperor and His Rubicon

Imagine a world political leader using bravado, war and aggression to generate popular support with his base.  That's just what Julius Caesar did—and July is named after him. Gaius Julius Caesar was born on the 12th (or 13th) of July in the year 100 BC.  He distinguished himself—amongst the Populares, at least—during the Gallic Wars.  As a Roman General, Julius Caesar led (many unauthorized) invasions into what is modern-day France and Belgium, taking the territory and expanding the Roman borders up to the English Channel and over to the Rhine.  While these cavalier exploits made him wildly popular with the Roman peasants, it displeased the elite Roman Senate immensely.  Though Caesar promoted these attacks as preventative ("attack them before they can attack...

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Rolling into July

Tomorrow we roll into July—and a hot, sticky summer.  Maybe this little guy will help to keep us cool.  He was made in Denmark for Royal Copenhagen in the 1960's or 1970's.  Let him keep you company on your desk or coffee table—and, just maybe, he'll bring you back to a crisp, cool wintery day.  Please click on the photo above to learn more about it   LEO Design's Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed.  While we contemplate our next shop location, please visit our on-line store which continues to operate  (www.LEOdesignNYC.com). Follow us on Instagram: "leodesignhandsomegifts" Follow us on Facebook: "LEO Design - Handsome Gifts"

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Scheherazade

This little Dutch bowl was made in Gouda, Netherlands and is dated 1925.  Romantic "Orientalist" tendrils of hand-painted color swirl with confidence worthy of Leon Bakst's Scheherazade stage design for the Ballets Russes.  Please click on the photo above to learn more about it.   LEO Design's Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed.  While we contemplate our next shop location, please visit our on-line store which continues to operate  (www.LEOdesignNYC.com). Follow us on Instagram: "leodesignhandsomegifts" Follow us on Facebook: "LEO Design - Handsome Gifts"

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Terracotta Twins

Father and son team, Franz Detleff Goebel and William Goebel, founded F. & W. Goebel in 1871.  Soon afterward, they discovered their niche: beautifully-crafted sculptures and figurines aimed at the collector’s market.  For the next 140+ years, the company has grown and evolved—all the while adapting its product to satisfy the tastes of the times. […]

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Gräflich Ortenburg - part IV

We end this little parade of Gräflich Ortenburg ceramics with this red and black glazed "club form" vase.  A bulbous base tapers to a corseted neck.  Made in the 1960's.  Please click on the photo above to learn more about it.   LEO Design's Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed.  While we contemplate our next shop location, please visit our on-line store which continues to operate  (www.LEOdesignNYC.com). Follow us on Instagram: "leodesignhandsomegifts" Follow us on Facebook: "LEO Design - Handsome Gifts"

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Gräflich Ortenburg - part III

This simple, beaker-form vase is "elevated" by a small (but elegant) foot.  Glazed in red and splashes of black.  Made by Gräflich Ortenburg in West Germany.  Please click on the photo above to learn more about it. More Gräflich Ortenburg ceramics tomorrow.   LEO Design's Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed.  While we contemplate our next shop location, please visit our on-line store which continues to operate  (www.LEOdesignNYC.com). Follow us on Instagram: "leodesignhandsomegifts" Follow us on Facebook: "LEO Design - Handsome Gifts"

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Gräflich Ortenburg - part II

Here's another of the Count's pieces: a conical vase finished with red glaze and splashes of black.  Please click on the photo above to learn more about it. More Gräflich Ortenburg ceramics tomorrow.   LEO Design's Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed.  While we contemplate our next shop location, please visit our on-line store which continues to operate  (www.LEOdesignNYC.com). Follow us on Instagram: "leodesignhandsomegifts" Follow us on Facebook: "LEO Design - Handsome Gifts"

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Count Alram Graf zu Ortenburg - part I

The Count Alram Graf zu Ortenburg was born in Budapest in 1925—heir to a German estate and a famous, aristocratic lineage.  When his time came to inherit the family property, he sought a way to make the estate profitable.  Since there were many clay pits in the area, he decided to open a ceramics workshop in the west wing of his castle, Schlosses Tambach, in 1946. Initial production focused on ornate, highly painted ceramic vases, bowls and teacups.  But exciting Modernist design—especially out of Italy—caught the Count's eye and he re-aligned the studio's aesthetic to take advantage of this new post-War trend. Gräflich Ortenburg's work were known for their heavy, rounded, Bauhaus-inspired shapes—made of dark red clay.  Their glazes were luxurious, thick...

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White Nights

We are just a few days away from the Summer Solstice—the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere.  The further North one goes, the longer the days will be.  In Scandinavia, Canada and Northern Alaska, the sunlight may seem endless.  In Russia, they call this season the "White Nights."  Saint Petersburg has elevated this celebration to an art form.  Beginning in late May, the city's important Mariinsky Theatre begins scheduling impressive opera, ballet and orchestral music performances.  Later in the season, carnival celebrations dot the city—including period carriages, actors dressed in Eighteenth Century costume, and reenactments of historic events from the time of Peter the Great and Catherine the Great.  And in Saint Petersburg's Palace Square, tens of thousands...

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Filtered Sunlight

Perhaps your dad has an advanced aesthetic style.  How about a handsome English Art Deco rosebowl from the 1920's or 1930's?  It was made by Pilkington Royal Lancastrian and straddles the Arts & Crafts and Art Deco periods.  The vertically-ribbed form is incised with a meandering Greek Key motif.  The piece is then finished with a dappled ombre glaze—lighter at the top and darker at the bottom.  The color is reminiscent of the way sunlight filters through increasingly deep waters.  It looks great by itself or brimming with roses, gardenias or peonies.  Click on the photo above to learn more about it. More Father's Day gift ideas tomorrow.     LEO Design's Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed.  While we contemplate...

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To Go Boldly . . .

I loved this vase—with its extraterrestrial, otherworldly glazing—the moment I saw it.  To me it looks like some far-away, gaseous, yet-to-be-discovered planet. Made by Ruscha (West Germany) in the 1960’s or 1970’s, it could easily be a set model hanging in the background of a Star Wars sky.  Please click on the photo above to learn more about it.

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Gouda You Do?

Gouda is a city in The Netherlands, well known for its cheese and for its hand-decorated art pottery.  Most of the Gouda pottery which I buy is from the 1910’s and 1920’s—and hews more closely to the “typical Gouda style” with colorful, swirling, exotic botanical motifs.  When I found this piece, I did not know […]

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Wendelin Stahl

Wendelin Stahl was born into a family of great ceramicists in a city best-known for its ceramics.  Some might argue that Wendelin became the greatest ceramicist of them all.  Born in Höhr-Grenzhausen in 1922, Wendelin studied ceramics at art school and worked in his father’s studio.  After World War II, he and his wife, ceramicist […]

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Straddling the Divide

 I've had this piece a handful of times over the years—in white, green, turquoise and carmel gold.  In fact, I had one in-stock on the day I first opened my Bleecker Street store in 1995.  I like its combination of crisp handsome paneling with its no-nonsense simplicity.  And I like that it easily straddles both schools of Arts & Crafts and the Art Deco. Please click on the photo above to learn more about it.   LEO Design's Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed.  While we contemplate our next shop location, please visit our on-line store which continues to operate  (www.LEOdesignNYC.com). Follow us on Instagram: "leodesignhandsomegifts" Follow us on Facebook: "LEO Design - Handsome Gifts"

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International Workers’ Memorial Day

Begun in Canada in 1984, International Workers’ Memorial Day is celebrated to remember those who have perished at work and to highlight the often-preventable nature of such incidents.  In the United States, 12 people die every day in work-related accidents. Worldwide, a worker is killed every 15 seconds. Advocates continue to push for safer working […]

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France’s Call to Freedom

On this day in 1792—in the midst of the French Revolution against their monarchy—Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle wrote his stirring call to arms.  Eventually called La Marseillaise, after the troops from Marseille who sang the song in the streets, the song was adopted as The Republic’s anthem in 1795.  To this day, it is […]

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Chinese Inspiration

For centuries, China held-tight the secrets of sophisticated ceramics-making—and they weren't about to share them with prying Westerners (who were enchanted with these beautiful and "exotic" works of art).  Amazingly, the Chinese achieved remarkable effects with fairly low-tech equipment: brick or mud hut kilns with little windows and doors through which fuel wood, heat and air could be added or released.  No gas, no gauges (like thermometers).  Ceramics-making is an art form which succeeds or fails with the tiniest changes in material, temperature and time.  And, if a ceramicist wishes to replicate an effect, she better know (and have written down!) the precise glaze ingredients, firing time and temperatures used at various points in the process. Form is rather easy to "steal"—and...

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