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Petra on pottery

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

A slightly wet gardening season is coming to an end and again it was not much of a tomato year I am afraid. Well, all I have to do now is watch the garden die gracefully in a blazing explosion of color (I love autumn) and move on to pottery season! Of course it is not like I totally forget about pots during spring and summertime. In fact, I managed to get hold of some really lovely pieces.

Here are three ashtrays, one in the shape of a pelikan and two shaped as fishes, from around 1956 by West German manufacturer Schmider. They are designs by Anneliese Beckh. She was Schmiders main designer between 1950 and 1983.  Of course, nowadays you can find ashtrays in the weirdest shapes possible, but mostly on the kitsch side of the spectrum. Beckhs ashtrays still have a hint of Art Deco, in the choice of colors, the matte glaze and the stylized animal shapes. Also, pots in the weirdest shapes possible were not all that common in the 1950s. So, an ashtray in the shape of an animal must still have been quite an exclusive accessory for a smoker.

Animal figurines, animals in painted decoration or molded additions to pots have been  a part of West European pottery since forever. But functional pots that are totally shaped like animals, like these ashtrays, seem to be more incidental. On average, European pots have a tendency to look like…. well, pots. We do have some well known human shaped pots like the Toby jug (18th century) or the face jugs by the Martin Brothers (late 19th century). Other examples appear through time ever so often. For the best examples of animal shaped vessels you would have to go back to medieval times or preferable look at non-European pottery. Pre-Columbian pottery for instance  is well known for its, so called, animal effigies. I added some examples from different ages below to give you an idea. Just to make the point that, while you can take it for granted that Anneliese Beckh designed these ashtrays in the shape of a pelikan or a fish,  in the grand scheme of things, I think that makes them rather special.

Hover over the pictures for information on the item.

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