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Petra on pottery

featuring West German art pottery, Fat Lava and more 20th century ceramics

It has been a while since my last post. I have to admit that from early April till about October vases have to take a backseat to my other passion, which is gardening. Now that the garden is well on its way (just did my round of slugs), it is time for some more Fat Lava.

Many friends, growing up in the 1970s, vividly remember their parents’ lava vases and on top of that, they remember hating them. Seeing my collection always brings back some of those memories. They still tend to have trouble appreciating the 1970s vases, especially the ones that were very common back than. The vase on the left seems to have been quite ordinary, according to a friend.  I really love that little vase. The frothy black and white lava over a shiny orange glaze. Where do you still see orange like that! Well, nowhere of course, because it did involve a bit of highly unfriendly cadmium…..but still, how wonderful it looks. My friend on the other hand, had seen too many back in the days and she was still fed up with them to the brim. Unsurprisingly, she did not care much for the little orange lava vase.

My parents never had any hip vases, being more into antiques, so I have no bad memories to project on my precious vase collection. Still, I do like the feedback of people who have a vivid memory of West German vases. It can be quite an eyeopener and a shock too. How can you not like this vase?! You must be blind!

Also, it is funny how in studio pottery of the 1970s the thick lava glazes and the bright colors seem to have been virtually (or totally) absent. Judging from a good number of books on German studio pottery, commercial art pottery and studio pottery lived in two separate universes. While I am fairly capable of dating commercial art pottery by the decade, with studio pottery I would need a whole new frame of reference. At least the factory vases, like fashion and painting of the 1970s, are screaming 1970s to you. The top studio potters made a far more subtle and ageless product that could be quite wonderful, but how different. It is almost as if there is something like an introverted vase, a studio gem that takes some time getting to know and an -in your vase- extroverted factory vase you have a hard time to forget. Another eyeopener.

Finally, I ask myself: Where has the lava glaze gone? It must have been quite a revolution when this thick, textured glaze entered ceramics production. It was applied in many different ways, very beautifully in combination with smooth glazes. Fat lava vases were sold in large numbers, like ABBA records. Still, studio pottery of the time seemed to ignore the new glaze almost completely and I have not seen it applied much after the 1970s. Why not? Why not apply it again in modern ceramics. The fatter the better, that’s what I say!

If any young, aspiring ceramics designer out there wants to give the fat lava glaze another shot, go for it! And be sure to visit the More than Fat Lava exhibition for inspiration. It is opening in Amsterdam on June 18, 2011. Further information on the Pottery and Glass forum.

Hover over the pics for details on the vase.

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