Skip to content

Petra on pottery

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

IMG_7918 IMG_7920 IMG_7915 IMG_7906

Left to right: plate by Anna-Lisa Thomson for Upsala Ekeby Havsflora series 1951-60 (Sweden), plate signed Venezia Italy, plate signed 364 Italy, vase by Steuler marked 315/35.

IMG_7923 IMG_7925 IMG_7909 IMG_7942

Left to right: vase by Oberhessische Keramik marked U4/24, vase by Oberhessische Keramik marked U3/20, vase by Schlossberg marked 509/25, three vases by Spara by Turkish designer Halidun Kutlu 1970s.

IMG_7912 IMG_7938 IMG_7935 IMG_7944

Left to right: vase by Dumler & Breiden (?), three vases by Bay with peacock decor


Keramiek als spiegel van de tijd - liggend

Photography and concept Heleen Haijtema. Dorothea Roth, vase, 1970-1975, Roth Eberhahn West Germany. Collection Petra Mesken

In September 2015 a new exhibition will open in the renowned Princessehof National Museum of Ceramics in Leeuwarden, the Netherlands. I am very exited about this, because 11 objects (vases, jugs and wall plates) from my collection will be in it! The exhibition will focus on ceramics mirroring the trends and social changes during the 20th century. Think of women’s liberation, the rise of the teenager, the rise of exotic travel destinations, space travel, individualism, consumerism, massproduction etc. About 400 ceramic objects will be showcased alongside other objects like furniture, paintings, film, photographs and an original 1960s caravan, offering a picture of the turbulent 20th century and its Zeitgeist. 

Obviously, I can’t wait for it to open. It should be a very interesting exhibition. And on the exhibition poster, none other than my beautiful Roth Ebernhahn guitar vase.

If you are in the neighbourhood, be sure to go see it!

The 20th century – mirroring time in ceramics can be seen in the Princessehof National Museum of Ceramics, Leeuwarden, The Netherlands from September 5 -2015 until July 3 -2016.

More info via this link: The 20th century – mirroring time in ceramics

Lots of new items to see in the Picture Gallery! Here are a few to get the idea.

IMG_7187Krösselbach Fayence pitcher vase height: 22 cm design by  Cläre ZangeIMG_7142IMG_7181IMG_7174IMG_7268IMG_7169IMG_7191IMG_7133IMG_7253IMG_7238IMG_7184

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.

  The Filigran decor by Ruscha is probably one of the most desirable decors in West German pottery. From a picture it is not always easy to spot that this is actually an early (and very pretty) example of a commercially produced lava glaze. The amalgam of female figures, dear, fishes and loose geometric shapes are inscribed in the foamy off white glaze.  My own little, treasured copy of the Filigran decor featuring in this post, is only 12 cm/4.7 inch tall, but as you can see it will fit a whole lot of decor on it. Sadly, the Filigran decor is not very photogenic. Its beauty is best appreciated ‘life’, but I did my best with the pictures to give you an idea. The decor was supposedly quite difficult to get right. I can only guess this had something to do with the unpredictability of the lava glaze during its firing, in combination with the inscribed decor. For this reason the Filigran decor was only produced for a short period of time. Being pretty, being rare and being Ruscha, collectors are willing to pay a fair amount of money for this decor nowadays. Only Roth’s Guitar vases can (still) top this. But for all its rarity, somehow you can find a Filigran (as well as a Guitar vase) on Ebay any day of the week. So, providing you have the means, you can easily get your own copy. Adele Bolz was the designer of the Filigran decor. She is quite well known to collectors of West German pottery, although her career as a decor designer was relatively short. She had started in ceramics after a career as a ballet dancer was stopped short, because of a severe illness she caught at the end of WWII. Not much is known of her education as a designer. In 1955 she began at Arno Kiechle, designing several popular decors for wall plates and vases in a multicolored engobe technique. Ruscha managed to get her over to their team in 1959. Next to the legendary Filigran decor, she made numerous pretty decors for Ruscha in the elegant style that became her hallmark. She left  in 1963 for Ulmer Keramik, where she worked till her death in 1964 (aged 50).       

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.

%d bloggers like this: