Trusting One's Senses


Modernist Stoneware Studio Bowl with Olive Glaze and Navy Blue Gadrooning (LEO Design)


After 28 years of buying and selling ceramics, I've gotten more confident in recognizing a nice piece of pottery when I see it.  Even when I do not know who made the piece—or when.  The Modernist bowl above is such an example.

Much of the pottery I buy was made in the Late-Nineteenth through the Mid-Twentieth Centuries.  Most of the pieces I acquire were made by "recognized" workshops with recognizable attributes (and, with luck, a maker's mark).  Even ceramic "studio" pieces (that is, pieces made-by-hand in small, artisanal shops) might have recognizable characteristics or bear a discernible signature.  Additionally, some glazes, shapes or other idiosyncrasies obviously identify the maker or the workshop to an experienced collector.

But what to do when something unrecognized comes up?  Especially if the piece is intriguing in its style, color or quality of manufacture?  Over many years, I've become much more confident on "rolling the dice" on a mysterious ceramics work which ticks all my boxes.

The stoneware bowl, above, could have been made in 1956. Or 1996.  It could be from Northern Europe or Southern Jersey.  And it could have been made by a lauded potter or a craft fair schlepper.  The heavy, nicely hand-turned stoneware is finished with a serious olive glaze, decorated with hand-painted, navy blue "gadrooning"—which adds a "whimsically serious" element of punctuation.  Overall, it is a very stately piece.

What this bowl demonstrates is that "fame and notoriety do not a quality ceramic make."  Very good ceramicists may have labored in obscurity, never achieving any measure of recognition.  On the other hand, moderate-quality workshops may have developed a devoted collector following, based simply on the name recognition of the factory.

Sometimes it's worthwhile to simply trust one's gut.  

Click on the photo above to learn more about this handsome bowl.


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

We also can be found in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (

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