JOURNAL — Art Pottery RSS



Vienna Calling - part II

German brothers Friedrich and Karel Rudolf Ditmar moved to Vienna in 1839 where they began selling metal oil lamps.  Within a few years, they were manufacturing the lamps. They struck gold when they designed a lamp mechanism which better-moderated the oil flow to the wick—and soon this type of lamp fitting was selling worldwide. But the fashion in oil lamps was changing—favoring ceramic lamp bodies which offered more color, style and aesthetic options. So the brothers opened a ceramics workshop across the Czech border in a town called Znojmo. Their sole intention was to make ceramic bodies for oil lamps; in time, however, the workshop was producing porcelain dishes, majolica, steins and "sanitary ware" (sinks, water coolers, tubs). In 1919...

Continue reading



Vienna Calling - part I

Vienna was the crown of the expansive Austro-Hungarian Empire—and, as such, became the tastemaker for the rest of the realm. In turn-of-the-century Vienna, Secessionism (Austria's contribution to the larger Art Nouveau Movement) was all the rage, and the Movement spread throughout the rest of the Empire. But production of the decorative arts was not limited to Vienna (or Austria) alone; talented artisans in the "satellite" countries also contributed to the manufacture of Secessionist objets.   The vase here, made in the mid-to-late Twenties, was made in (what was then) Czechoslovakia. The swirling "rosettes" on the handles could have come right off a Gustav Klimt painting. And the bronze gunmetal glazing gives the piece a suitable gravitas, like the handsome Secessionist architecture which still...

Continue reading



Glowing Red

This bowl won't let us forget that Iceland is a volcanic island-country. The boldly-textured "lava" around the outer walls still seems to be glowing red-hot!  It was made by Glit and is a stunning counterpoint to a collection of larger, red ceramic pieces. Click on the photo above to learn more about it.   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 (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).  We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques (www.mahlaantiques.com) or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (www.antiquecenterofstrabane.com). Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only).  917-446-4248 Follow us...

Continue reading



Gorgeous Rose

Pink may be my least favorite color—at least within my living spaces. And, yet, I could not stop picking-up this pitcher when I discovered it. In truth, it's more of a "rose" than a "pink." And the glaze is so wonderfully curdled—fashioned by organic happenstance—that the color became almost secondary to my aesthetic appreciation. The piece was made by Otto Gerharz, under his own pottery label, Otto Keramik.  Please click on the photo above to learn more about it. Postscript: As I type this, I glance-out upon my garden, surveying my labors of the last several, 65° days.  I see dozens of plantings, many promising an abundance of blossoms—in several variations of the color . . . pink. Maybe I don't hate...

Continue reading



Minerva

I'm not sure what this Ceramano vase has to do with the Roman goddess, Minerva, but the design is named after her. It wears triangular "armor" over its tapering neck and a rich, curry glaze.  Please click on the photo above to learn more about it. Minerva is the Roman goddess of wisdom, handicrafts, the arts, medicine, commerce, poetry and war. Over the years, her importance within the pantheon of Ancient Roman gods expanded—making her one of the top three Roman deities.  Her Greek counterpart was Athena, and, like her, Minerva was famously chaste. A famous statue of Minerva was installed in the Temple of Vesta, the architectural remains of which can be seen today in the Roman Forum. This circular...

Continue reading



Crème Brûlée

How can something so simple—and unpretentious—as a crème brûlée be so utterly delightful. And who doesn't love making the first crack? I guess it's the purity, the simplicity—and the contrast of a crispy burnt topping with a creamy, cool vanilla custard. Heavenly! The piece above, made by Scheurich in the 1960's or 1970's, reminds me of a crackled, layered crème brûlée. Multiple glaze levels, probably all applied before firing, react differently to the heat. The top glaze crackles, curdles and spreads while the underglaze says mostly-intact, pooling just a little in the crevices of the top glaze. Find it on our website by clicking the photo above.   Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive...

Continue reading



Hand-Built Beauty

Though simple in form, this 10 inch hand-built vase is very handy anchoring a collection of ceramic vases, urns or bowls.  It was made in Art Nouveau France (c. 1910) by Gilbert Méténier.  The Nineteenth Century family pottery studio was run by Gilbert until the Germans began to take France—at which point he destroyed his moulds and closed-down the operation before the Nazis could take it. He and his family then disappeared; what became of them has not been widely known. Please click on the photo above to learn more about this piece.   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...

Continue reading



Baked Clay

I've always been more intrigued by ceramic glazes than I have by their forms. Perhaps there's an inner-chemist within me, dying to open a ceramics studio. Thus, a new and unusual glaze will always catch my eye—like that upon this West German vase by Scheurich. A "burnt honey" glaze is splattered with a contrasting, yeast-like overglaze. The effect reminds me of a European baked treat; perhaps a pretzel or a loaf of bread. Please click on the photo above to learn more about it.   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 (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).  We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic...

Continue reading



French Accent

Here's a sweet piece, made in Art Nouveau France (c. 1910's).  This little "cabinet vase" is dressed with flowing mustard, caramel and metallic pewter glazes.  It would provide a wonderful (little) counterpoint to a collection of larger ceramics. It would likewise suit a vignette of metallic objets, lamps or sculpture. Please click on the photo above to learn more about it.   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 (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).  We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques (www.mahlaantiques.com) or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (www.antiquecenterofstrabane.com). Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh...

Continue reading



A Distant Moon

I have a fondness for interesting glazes—especially those which resemble distant moons or planets (real or imagined).  This piece, made in West Germany by Tena Studios, has a pocked, high-texture surface, glazed with shades of blue, brown and grey.  Click on the photo above to learn more about it.   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 (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).  We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques (www.mahlaantiques.com) or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (www.antiquecenterofstrabane.com). Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only).  917-446-4248 Follow us on Instagram: "leodesignhandsomegifts" Follow...

Continue reading



Pont des Vernes

In the late Eighteenth Century, Frenchman Pierre Langeron was commissioned to dig a canal in Pouilloux—located about two-thirds of the way between Paris and Lyon. While excavating, he discovered a high-quality white clay. By 1818, Langeron had opened a ceramics workshop near the bridge ("pont"), an important local landmark.  Over the years, he (and his family) expanded the operation, starting with basic "utilitarian ware" (like hot water bottles) and adding decorative objects in time.  The company, eventually named Pont des Vernes, continued from 1818 through World War Two, eventually closing-down in 1957. The vase above, made around 1910, boasts an exquisitely tapered neck and blue and tan glazes which drip down its sides.  Learn more about it by clicking on...

Continue reading



Beautiful Blue

Every now and then, I'd see a customer silently perusing the boxes, urns and covered bowls in the shop—and, when asked, they would sheepishly admit that they were seeking a vessel into which they could inter a beloved pet's cremated remains. I would assure them that this was nothing to feel awkward about—and that, in fact, I had helped several customers select a repository for their larger loved ones as well. We would always look for something dignified, properly-sized, and aesthetically pleasing.  Sometimes the piece even suited the physical or intangible characteristics of the deceased—a Celtic carved wooden box for a Scotsman, a floral motif to suit a gardener, or a Viennese hand-tooled brass box to suit an Austrian.  This French...

Continue reading



Gouda You Do? - part III

Let's end our little parade of Gouda vases with this diminutive "cabinet" vase, made in the 1920's or 1930's.  It is hand-painted with an unusual mustard-yellow glaze—punctuated with green, cobalt and burnt orange coloration.  Click on the photo above to learn more about it.   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 (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).  We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques (www.mahlaantiques.com) or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (www.antiquecenterofstrabane.com). Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only).  917-446-4248 Follow us on Instagram: "leodesignhandsomegifts" Follow us on Facebook: "LEO Design -...

Continue reading



Gouda You Do? - part II

Here's another Gouda vase: a two-handled design, hand-painted with stylized botanicals and serpentine graphics. It is dated February 1921. "Gouda," by the way, is pronounced "How-dah" (not Goo-dah). Remember that the next time you buy a piece of Dutch ceramics.  Or cheese. Please click on the photo above to learn more about this piece.   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 (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).  We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques (www.mahlaantiques.com) or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (www.antiquecenterofstrabane.com). Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only).  917-446-4248 Follow...

Continue reading



Gouda You Do? - part I

Gouda, in the Netherlands, is known for two things: cheese and hand-painted ceramics. Three things are were needed to establish a successful "pottery town": clay, a fuel source for the kilns (in this case, peat), and an easy means of transporting the finished goods away from the factories (in this case, canals and waterways). This piece, made in the 1920's or 1930's, is hand-painted wth a wreath of autumnal leaves which rests on the vessel's shoulders. Please click upon the photo above to learn more about it.   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 (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).  We also can be found...

Continue reading



Earthy Greens

As the weather crosses the 45° mark I begin to venture-out into my garden. Having lived for three-plus decades in apartments, I'd have never guessed how much I like working in my little patch of nature. Right now it's (very) early Spring, the time to clean-up: collecting twigs, rearranging the stones, pulling the early weeds. And, naturally, planning what I'd like to do to keep prodding my garden in a particular aesthetic direction. The ground provides a certain "squishy" sensation at this time of year—and an earthy, mossy smell accompanies it.  I find it intoxicating. The muddy blend of green and brown is so satisfying to me. Perhaps this explains my long-term affection for green ceramics—especially earthy, organic, natural greens, like...

Continue reading



Wine-Country

Lunch or dinner, a jug or bottle of good wine is always on the French table. And what I admire about the French attitude towards wine is that "it's no big deal"—just one part of a simple, well-considered meal. Americans tend to fetishize wine—and its accoutrements—employing long-stemmed, obscenely over-sized crystal goblets, perhaps a different shape for different varieties of grape. In France, a good (though not costly) table wine is served in simple glass tumblers—another example of France's practical relationship with vin.  Shown here, a late Art Nouveau wine jug made by Denbac in the 1920s. A "pinecone" bas relief is finished with a microcrystalline brown glaze, topped with a dripping dose of caramel. A piece like this might have sat...

Continue reading



One More Taste

Here's another piece of Denby English Arts & Crafts "Orientware" with a bamboo-inspired cylindrical vase form. Like its line mates, it has a unique plum overglaze and an Iznik blue undercolor.  Click on the photo above to learn more about it.   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 (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).  We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques (www.mahlaantiques.com) or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (www.antiquecenterofstrabane.com). Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only).  917-446-4248 Follow us on Instagram: "leodesignhandsomegifts" Follow us on Facebook: "LEO Design - Handsome Gifts"...

Continue reading



A Taste of the Orient

The West has long had a fascination with "The East"—and, I suppose, the East has had a reciprocal enthusiasm.  Perhaps its a human interest in things that are new, exotic, different or rare. While some people accuse the West of "cultural appropriation," I view it as curiosity and fascination with "the greener grass" across the fence. Since the 1600's, wealthy Europeans have been buying and collecting Asian objets. Additionally, the West has tried (with greater or lesser success) to emulate Asian design and figure-out their production techniques—especially in the field of ceramics. At times, the Western artists would simply copy Asian items. At other times, they would "adapt" Asian designs, "re-interpreting" them for a Western taste. While these efforts may have resulted in...

Continue reading



And Even More Spring

Just one more glimpse of Spring: an Art Deco Thirties fan-form vase by Van Briggle.  Made in Colorado Springs, Colorado, it is clearly hand-crafted (compare the slightly differing handles) and is finished with a graduated ombré glaze of aqua and blue. Perfect holding flowers, standing alone, or punctuating a larger collection of vases, plates and bowls. Please click on the photo above to learn more about it.   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 (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).  We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques (www.mahlaantiques.com) or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (www.antiquecenterofstrabane.com). Or call to...

Continue reading



And a Little More Spring

Here's a bit more spring—for those looking-forward to the season. This Roseville Art Deco fan-form vase was made around 1928. It's fitted with "Moderne" botanical handles and is finished with a dappled aqua and grey glazing. Imagine it with a bouquet of white flowers—or bounteous heads of hydrangea, come Summer. Please click on the photo above to learn more about it.   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 (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).  We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques (www.mahlaantiques.com) or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (www.antiquecenterofstrabane.com). Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh...

Continue reading



Welcome, Spring!

Spring springs today—at 5:58 pm, Eastern Time!  It's the Spring (or "Vernal") Equinox, a word which means "Equal Night."  It's the date (and time) when day and night are exactly the same length. From this point forward, the days will be longer than the nights (that is, until the Autumnal Equinox on 23 September). We will also be treated to a concurrent full moon—and a "Super Moon" at that. Slightly closer to the Earth, the full moon will appear larger and brighter than usual. The last time we enjoyed a full moon during the Vernal Equinox was 38 years ago (20 March 1981—and I was a Senior in High School). This Art Deco vase, made by Stangl in the 1930's,...

Continue reading



Wearing of the Green

It's a great day for the Irish!  While I've always known that I am part Irish, every six months (or so),  23 & Me re-distributes my ethnic proportions (which today stands at 63.5% Irish). I'm proud of my heritage (not just the Irish part) and have not forgotten the desperate circumstances which compelled three of my grandparents to leave their homelands. I'm also proud of my birth country—especially when she acknowledges (and celebrates) the immigrants who have chosen to become Americans (now and in the past). I like to remind myself that almost no one immigrates to America when everything is great back home.  On the contrary, people have always come to America for a better life.  There was no brass band...

Continue reading



Silhouette Perfection

Don't let the simplicity of this Rookwood two-handled pot belie the complexity of its inspiration. It's an Arts & Crafts piece (dated 1915), though one can see just a trace of Art Deco, still distant on the horizon. A band of Celtic bas relief rests on the sloping shoulder of the piece. And the perfectly-formed silhouette—from the exquisitely delicate foot to its crisply-sculpted handles—reveals a touch of Ancient Egyptian inspiration. To me, those influences add-up to silhouette perfection. Please click on the photo above to learn more about it.   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 (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).  We also can...

Continue reading



Desert Swirl

The swirls of glaze which spiral down the sides of this Jasba Modernist pitcher remind me of a sun-bleached desert landscape. Mustard, caramel and white provide a warm, daytime effect—like that of a high-noon sun. Though the desert is not my invigorating environment, I find this piece—and its wonderful coloration—to be cheerful and optimistic. Click on the photo above to learn more about it.   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 (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).  We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques (www.mahlaantiques.com) or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (www.antiquecenterofstrabane.com). Or call to arrange to...

Continue reading



Aesthetic Discord

Rarely does one associated hammering with ceramics. Which makes this German Modernist vase, made by Fohr in the 1960's or 1970's, so unusual. The appearance of all-over planishing is reminiscent of a hand-hammered brass or copper vessel. To top things off, the piece is then glazed in a rich caramel glaze—which drips down the sides and pools within the "hammer-mark" crevices. Click on the photo above to learn more about it.   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 (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).  We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques (www.mahlaantiques.com) or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center...

Continue reading



Ancient Allure

Lidded ceramic pots always take me back to the Ancient World. I think of spices, incense and precious ointments—contained and, perhaps, dignified in a beautiful covered jar.  This one, made in Art Nouveau France, is decorated with sculptural botanical swirls, perhaps hanks of pine needles. It is finished with an organic dripping glaze in caramel, rust and brown—lifted by the light sparkle of a gold dust glaze. Please click on the photo above to learn more about this piece.   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 (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).  We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla &...

Continue reading



Perfect Form

This hearty egg-form vase—reminiscent of an ancient Egyptian "Canopic Jar"—was hand-made in Mid-Century England. Its perfect shape is softened with a dappled, multiple blue glaze. And the classic shape makes it a perfect accent in nearly any period decorating scheme—from Victorian to Mid-Century Modern. Click on the photo above to learn more about it.   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 (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).  We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques (www.mahlaantiques.com) or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (www.antiquecenterofstrabane.com). Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only).  917-446-4248 Follow...

Continue reading



Midnight/Blue

Buying "Studio Ceramics"—that is, those vases, plates and bowls which were handmade in a small artist-run workshop—is an interesting endeavor. First of all, one almost always must buy with his eye and buy with his taste. Because the makers are usually a mystery, one needs to trust his senses when selecting such a piece. Attracted, as I am, to glazes, my evaluation of studio pottery always begins with the color and finish. I also look for tell-tale signs of handwork—like the spiraling finger marks that indicate a piece had been hand-thrown. Substantial weight is a favorite feature and I like to see exposed areas (usually on the bottom) which reveal a chunky, earthy stoneware clay. The piece above, made somewhere...

Continue reading



Fat Tuesday!

It's Mardi Gras—translated "Fat Tuesday"—the final day before Lent. For Christians, Lent is a period of prayer, fasting and abstinence in preparation of Easter some 40 days later. And Mardi Gras is a day (sometimes a week) of celebration before the abstemiousness begins—a time to use up all the fat in the larder (not to mention the chocolate and other sweets). The pitcher, above, is "fat" in every way.  It's heavy. It is fitted with a thick, strap-like handle. And it is dressed in a weighty dripping-rust glaze. Click on the photo above to learn more about it.   Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where...

Continue reading



Czech, Please.

While Vienna was the artistic heart of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Czechoslovakia might be considered the Empire's glass and ceramics workshop. This "Amphora" piece—an intriguing juxtaposition of bone-dry tan glazing and luscious hand-painted cabochons—was made in Czechoslovakia but was following the Viennese trend, au courant. Click on the photo above to learn more about it.   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 (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).  We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques (www.mahlaantiques.com) or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (www.antiquecenterofstrabane.com). Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only).  917-446-4248 Follow...

Continue reading



Danish Farrier

Every few decades (at least in the past), artists and designers would remember and celebrate "The Workingman"—those men and women who labor physically with their hands and bodies. Think of the French painter, Jean-François Millet, with his paintings of peasants reaping grain in the field. Or the pair of Art Deco limestone sculptures by Michael Lantz which grace the Federal Trade Commission building in Washington, DC. Similarly, the 1960's and 1970's enjoyed a revived appreciation of handcraft—and the people who executed it. Danish Modernist artist Karl Otto Johansen created a series of "tradesmen" plaques for Bing & Grøndahl around 1970. This example shows a farrier—a blacksmith who shoes horses—dressed in a leather apron, hammering furiously upon his anvil. The piece includes a...

Continue reading



Danish Plumber

A plumber—dressed in his blue jumpsuit—strains against his wrench on this Danish Modernist stoneware plaque by Karl Otto Johansen for Bing & Grøndahl. It was made around 1970 and includes a metal eyelet (on back) with which it can be hung on a nail. Click on the photo above to learn more about it.   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 (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).  We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques (www.mahlaantiques.com) or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (www.antiquecenterofstrabane.com). Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only).  917-446-4248 Follow...

Continue reading



Welcome, March!

Welcome, March—and its birthstone, the Aquamarine. Though not an aquamarine, I admit, this vase is the closest (new) piece I have that resembles the March gemstone's vivid color. Aquamarine is a variant of the stone called Beryl (a family which also includes Emeralds). Although Beryl is naturally colorless, the "impurities" within imbue various colors to the gemstone—green, blue, yellow, white and red (the rarest). Aquamarines (and other Beryl variants) are mined in Brazil, Columbia, Sri Lanka, Africa & Madagascar, the Russian Urals, and in the American West. Once believed to be the "treasure of mermaids," they were carried by sailors as a good luck talisman. They are also considered the stone of eternal youth & happiness and are believed to...

Continue reading



Modern Orange - part III

An earthy combination of textured "orange peel" glazing curdles around an unexpectedly complimentary grey counter-finish. Such a spontaneous and organic glaze combination provides stark counterpoint to the otherwise minimalist cylindrical vase, made in the 1960's or 1970'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"

Continue reading



Modern Orange - part II

Though a made a couple of decades before the "Mid-Century," this English Art Deco vase is nevertheless progressively Modern. The simple ball-form vase is sculpted with softly rippling shoulder ridges—sending a strong Modernist signal. It's finished with a mottled glaze of two oranges. 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"

Continue reading



Modern Orange - part I

Lest we think (incorrectly) that all Modernist design was made on the other side of the Atlantic, here is an American piece, made in the 1960's. Like the more forward-thinking German mass-production workshops, Royal Haeger, in Illinois, hired talented avant garde ceramicists to keep pushing the company forward. Shown above, a simple long-necked ball vase with a teal and orange peel glaze treatment by Alrun Guest. It was attempt by the ceramics factory to keep fresh and keep relevant. 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...

Continue reading



A Modern Classic

Those who know me are aware that Ruscha is one of my favorite Mid-Century production-scale ceramics makers.  Typically it is the glazes—often by Otto Gerharz—that excite my senses. But Ruscha was also known for its interesting shapes, too, especially the Modernist classic "313" pitcher by Kurt Tschörner. It was designed in 1954 and proved so popular that the artist was asked (in the 1960's) to "modify" his design, just a bit, as a concession to the realities of mass production.  The original design had a more forward-leaning appearance and a sharper inner joint where the handle met the spout. Getting the original pitchers out of their moulds proved difficult and the rate of loss was unacceptably high. The example shown...

Continue reading



Sophisticated Handcraft

Folkcraft sometimes finds itself at the heart of beautiful design and aesthetics—and it provides meaningful inspiration for creative adaptation in the future. Designers have referenced, for instance, the decorative elements of textile works (like embroidery or lacemaking), carving (like that of Alpine Europe) or basketmaking (from Africa or the American Southwest) when creating new objects, often in a different medium. In the Swiss hand-painted plate, shown above, I am reminded of decorative "folk" embroidery—previously seen, perhaps, on the cuff of a blouse or along the hem of a skirt. It is in this "recycling" (and perpetuation) of local historical design aesthetics that different regions and cultures become associated with certain patterns and motifs.    LEO Design's Greenwich Village store is...

Continue reading



"Studio-Ish"

Yesterday, we discussed the difference between "studio" pieces and "production" pieces. The example above, made by the large-scale producer Jasba, is clearly a production piece—though it has tried hard to emulate its studio siblings. Jasba started by getting the shape just right. Notice that the simple globular form is compressed-downward, as though a gentle force were pushing upon the top of the spherical body. This conveys (aesthetically) a sense of dynamic tension—imbuing the piece with an energy that a perfect sphere does not convey. The little foot, at bottom, elevates the piece, presenting it with an enhanced sense of importance. And the jug's handle is perfectly-sized: not too big, not too small. When a company engages in large-scale production, it...

Continue reading



Studio Ceramics

The term "studio ceramics" can be a nebulous term and is sometimes used to imbue clarity of provenance to a piece of work which is otherwise a mystery. Admittedly, I have used the term many times myself. In its most basic sense, the term "studio ceramics" differentiates those pieces which are made in a small-scale workshop—usually by hand—as opposed to "production" pieces which were made in a "mass-produced" factory environment. The term "studio" implies a more artful, thoughtful, careful and rare piece—although aesthetics and quality are always in the eye of the beholder.  Most often, the term "studio vase" is used when the merchant or collector does not know the name of the ceramicist. If he did, he would quickly drop...

Continue reading



Anglo-Egyptian

This mid-century studio art vase was made in 1950's England. Its stoney, mottled blue glazing is as irresistible as is the strangely-"canopic" form silhouette of the vessel. For centuries, canopic jars were used as part of the Ancient Egyptian burial ritual. Different organs were kept in each of four jars and interred alongside the deceased's body. The earliest vessels had plain lids. In time, the lids became more elaborate, and eventually were carved bearing the heads of humans or Egyptian gods. Although canopic jars have a grisly association, one must admit that their voluptuous form is sheer perfection. The vase above seems to swell—as if by an inner force—and is capped with a satisfying rim. Please click on the photo above...

Continue reading



Heavy and Light

Can something be heavy and light? If so, I guess this Roth vase proves the phenomenon. Heavy, stone-like taupe glazing is dressed with a dash of foamy blue—a kiss of sky and clouds on an otherwise earth-bound piece. 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"

Continue reading



Painted Desert

While this vase was made miles away from the American Southwest—many thousands of miles away—it still reminds me of our North American rustic desert landscape. The soft blue skies, marbled with clouds, layered atop sand and clay, a mountain ridge in the distance, even the hand-incised drum-like "fluting" near the bottom somehow transmit an "Out West" sensibility. In actuality, the vase was hand-crafted on the Baltic island of Bornholm, a possession of Denmark. The pottery workshop, Michael Andersen and Sons, was productive during the Danish Modernist movement. This piece was made in the 1950's. 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...

Continue reading



Pinched Pot

Bretby—the English ceramics factory—was active from 1882 until 1933. During this period, they produced Victorian designs, Aesthetic Movement wares, Arts & Crafts ceramics and Art Deco goods. With such a broad range of styles, the company was always interested in exploring new ideas and new trends. This piece, from their strangely-named "Nurtenware" line, was always curious to me. Though cast in a mould, it resembles a piece that was hand-formed and manipulated—squeezed, in fact. Perhaps the designers at Bretby were taking a cue from the highly-Modernist American ceramic works of George Ohr, the "Mad Potter of Biloxi." Ohr developed an interest in ceramics at the age of 22 (in 1879). His wildly designed and crumpled pieces (many with metallic glazes)...

Continue reading



Parti, Without a Trace

Gilbert Méténier was born in the small town of Gannat, in central France, in 1876.  His father, Louis, purchased a tile factory in 1916—a curious time, considering that this was during the middle of World War One—and he established a ceramics studio there. The early works were mostly unsigned and little documentation of that work exists. In 1920, Gilbert took-over management of the family business. Under the son, the workshop grew, eventually employing a dozen workers. The pieces were now signed and sold in smart Parisian department stores and in French "spa towns" along the French Riviera. In 1940, with the Germans approaching, Gilbert Méténier closed the workshop—destroying the moulds, lest the enemy get them—and escaped, possibly to the South...

Continue reading



My Deer

This gentle little deer—a fawn, perhaps—is both relaxed and a little alert.  Did he hear a twig snap? He'd be happy to sit on your windowsill, bookshelf or desk.  He'd even look good next to a little bonsai. He was made in 1969 by Danish ceramicist Knud Kyhn for Royal Copenhagen. 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"

Continue reading



This Bear was Made for Walking

You'll enjoy watching this stoneware bear—relaxed and happy—stroll across your desk, bookshelf or mantelpiece.  He was designed by Danish sculptor Knud Kyhn and made by Royal Copenhagen.  Click on the photo above to learn more about him. And see many other Knud Kyhn pieces in our on-line shop.   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"

Continue reading



Easy Green

When I first opened my store in 1995—and before I even knew what the Arts & Crafts movement was—I knew I really liked these rich green ceramics.  Most were vases, others were bowls or jardinieres—but it was a strong collection and I loved it. As the months passed, I would sell a few pieces, buy a few pieces and try to keep the collection going.  In time, however, it became too difficult (and expensive) to add new pieces.  In more time, my collection waned (except for the handful of pieces I had at home!). Well, I've renewed my efforts to build-back my collection of green ceramics—like the piece here, finished with a semi-matte green glaze.  Because they are early (mostly from...

Continue reading



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...

Continue reading



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...

Continue reading



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"

Continue reading



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...

Continue reading



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"

Continue reading



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"

Continue reading



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"

Continue reading



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"

Continue reading



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"

Continue reading



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...

Continue reading



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"

Continue reading



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...

Continue reading



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...

Continue reading



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 […]

Continue reading



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"

Continue reading



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...

Continue reading



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"

Continue reading



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"

Continue reading



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...

Continue reading



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"

Continue reading



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...

Continue reading



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...

Continue reading



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...

Continue reading



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...

Continue reading



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"

Continue reading



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"

Continue reading



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"

Continue reading



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:...

Continue reading



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...

Continue reading



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 […]

Continue reading



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"

Continue reading



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...

Continue reading



"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...

Continue reading



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"

Continue reading



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...

Continue reading



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"

Continue reading



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...

Continue reading



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 […]

Continue reading



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...

Continue reading



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...

Continue reading



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...

Continue reading



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 […]

Continue reading



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 […]

Continue reading



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. […]

Continue reading



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...

Continue reading



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...

Continue reading



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...

Continue reading



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"

Continue reading



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"

Continue reading



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 […]

Continue reading



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...

Continue reading