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Petra on pottery

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

Category Archives: 1950s

Since I do not find their pieces very often and having a soft spot for Atelier Van Eyk, I feel every piece by Anton and Dorothea Van Eyk deserves a post. So here it is, my latest, a globular vase looking somewhat like…… a pumpkin.

It is a peculiar piece, I think, compared to the 1950’s work that is probably more known (see below), so I am not very confident on putting a date on it. Of course, roughly speaking it would be between 1940-1960, unless it is a fake. The hand thrown body of the vase is a traditional globular shape and for a Van Eyk piece it seems quite large, being 16 cm/ 6.3″. It has a smooth white clay body with a thick orange glaze. The glaze decoration has the same elegant simplicity and shows similar care in spacing en execution as the other pieces I have from the 50’s. The thickness of the glaze and the colour combination I have not seen before, though.

I have this little black vase with a white twirl in the dents on all four sides, that seems more typical of their 1950’s work. It is around 7 cm/2.8″ in height and shown below left, next to a portrait of Anton and Dorothea Van Eyk.


For comparison and to broaden the scope beyond my own collection, I also gathered some images below of the more known work by Atelier Van Eyk from the 1950’s. I got part of these from the website of the current Atelier Van Eyk which operates, in line with the wishes of Anton van Eyk, as a place for art exhibitions, workshops, music recitals and theater. Link: Atelier Van Eyk . The images with the striped teapot and spotted vases….I can not remember the source of…. (archive of Wilhelmina Spolders?). Should you know the source, please let me know, so I can give due credit.


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Figurines by Schmider, design by Anneliese Beckh (1956)


With the acquisition of the elephant dish (below right), my Schmider figurines collection must now be pretty much complete. That is to say, I am not aware of any other type of figurine I could add in this particular series. If anyone else has seen a variation, of course I am dying to hear about it!

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Of course I have been busy collecting the past two years, but I have not had much time to write about it. Hence no new posts appeared for quite a while. Also my little ‘photo studio’ setup had been dismantled and I had to find a new space in the house for taking pictures. This involved a grand vase clear up. Boxes full of pottery moved to the garage and I can not wait to unpack them in the future and look at them with fresh eyes, hoping to rediscover a lot of stuff, that did not deserve to disappear into a box in the first place. But still, for now the necessary space is available once again and  I guess the WGP collecting virus inevitably involves moving around vases.

In the mean time I also discovered Pinterest as a handy medium to keep me on track with my acquisition policy. Yes, I now have one – an acquisition policy I mean- and I am sort of sticking to it… A vase clogged house and an empty wallet makes focus and a bit of prudence important. This policy consists of a neat Pinterest board with all the vases I really wish for, locked from public view of course, so I can covet them in private. Every time I am starting to feel restless from all the lovely WGP vases on auction on Ebay, I take some time to meditate on my policy board and wait for my Zen to return.

Of course, so I found, it gets kind of complicated when several items listed in my acquisition policy are up for sale. Since they are in the policy, I should probably get them, right? With always lots of WGP on the market and not much natural prudence in my overall personality, this is of course what happened. What a boost to my collection though! Worth every penny and inch of space! Even got a Roth Guitar vase for quite a good price, considering the crazy prices. But it does leave me dead broke and until there is some cash flow to speak of, I am not allowed to add any more jewels to the family treasure chest, so judged my husband (bless him, he is very prudent). He is not even buying the “good investment” argument.

Here is where some of the money went…

Carstens Atelier vase designed by Gerda Heuckeroth, marked: 7090-50

Carstens Atelier vase by Gerda Heuckeroth, marked: 7090-50

Bay vase by Bodo Mans, marked: 71-35

Bay vase by Bodo Mans, runic pattern marked: 71-35

Dümler & Breiden Domino vase, marked: 615-30

Dümler & Breiden Domino vase, marked: 615-30

Oberhessische Keramik Walther Becht vase, marked: WB 147-19

Oberhessische Keramik Walther Becht vase, marked: WB 147-19


So, for the time being, instead of buying, I am doing something I like almost as much as collecting. That is, looking on the Internet at the collections of my fellow WGP collectors. There are some amazing collections out there and they are a source of inspiration for my acquisition policy. Also, I have made a public board on Pinterest, called Petra on Pottery like my blog, on which I have started downloading the pictures of my collection. Lots of new acquisitions on there too, among them the four in this post. So, hopefully -this way- returning the favor to all those collectors who, like me, are trying to deal with their ‘issues’ by dreaming up an acquisition policy while trying not to actually buy anything (just jet…). Have fun!


My Atelier Van Eyk collection has been substantially enlarged with a recent find of a 27 piece service. For sure I now have the largest online collection by this potters duo. Hardly anything ever comes up on google, ebay or where ever, so I think this is not being presumptuous.

The service was beautifully made. Like the other two pieces I featured in earlier posts, these are terra sigillata dating from 1950. On the bottom of the coffee pot it is signed “Handmade Holland Van Eyk” (see picture at the bottom of this post). The service is quite modern in its appearance, functional and to the point. The decoration is of a nice simplicity and the whole set looks very unpretentious and effortless. The pieces feel very nice when you handle them. You can tell they were designed with their future user in mind, each piece fitting nicely into your hands and pleasant to the touch.

Despite of its modern simplicity, undoubtedly influenced by the Bauhaus design philosophy (planning to getting back to that in a later post), the service has a certain sweetness about it.  It has a perfectly smooth surface, decorated with all these little dots which are about the same size and equally spaced right around the pieces. Notice the single dot on the top end of the handle of the little sugar spoon (see picture at the top of the post). The shapes are super basic and nicely proportioned, emphasizing and echoing the simple circular shape throughout the whole set. Also there is this nice balance between the white glazed surfaces and the red terra sigillata. It all fits perfectly and so much care seems to have been put in the design and execution of this service.

I think this is the special thing about handmade pottery as apposed to industrial pottery. Anton and Dorothea van Eyk actually made these pieces themselves. In all these subtle ways you can catch a glimpse of their spirit through the work of their minds and hands. The service shows such an artistic sensitivity and beauty in its simplicity, I absolutely love it.

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.

I turned out collecting some Italian pottery next to my German collection, because when looking for German pottery I noticed these vases that looked German, but where somehow a bit odd. These turned out to be Italian. Italian and German vases from the 1950s can look alike, but there is something about the choice and combination of colors and the ‘looseness’ of the decor in Italian pieces that hints at a different origin. Also Italian pottery makers in the 1950s more often seemed to favor texture for their pieces and a figurative decor rather than abstract patterns. But these are hunches. I know way too little about Italian pottery to make any general statements.

I do find it harder to get hold of good Italian pieces. Either they are way too expensive because Fantoni made them (or someone close to that) or they are just not that good (not even good kitsch). But every once in a while I stumble upon something well worth my while, like the vases in this post.

These were made by the Fanciulacci Brothers (Montelupo, Italy) and they are simply super. The pieces are decorated with a combination of an unglazed chamotte clay and incised figurines with colored glazes. You can find this in several decors of which two varieties are shown here (front and back).

In the 1950s people were leaving the dark days of war and shortage behind. In the recovering cities, architects and city planners were building a new future for a baby booming population. This meant building for a better life, with better housing in better neighborhoods. In some places, more of the old city was being demolished to make way for the ‘new and improved’ than had been destroyed during the war. Such was the enthusiasm for the fresh start. Brighter days were lying ahead.

This also called for a fresh, new style indoors. Of course a lot of people would still go for a more traditional style in their homes, but if you were anywhere near hip, you would go for modern patterns for your walls, your furnishing and your vases. It was the only proper match with your ‘Good Design’ furniture. Modernist architects had banned ornament years before the war, deeming it irrational, immoral or even a crime according to Austrian architect Adolf Loos. So simplicity and functionality were to be the rule in modern architecture and design. But although three dimensional ornament would be absolute taboo, in a two dimensional plane designers could go absolutely wild! And so they did. Inspired by art, science or technology, mostly abstracted patterns were produced in every color you could think of. Color and pattern, rather than being foolish embellishments, were enhancing the functional shapes and spaces dictated by architecture and taking the chill out of the modern. With modern pattern design ornament came back with a vengeance.

(Hover over the images for a description)

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