The husband and wife team of Gertrud and Otto Natzler created extraordinary pottery pieces from the late 1930s until Gertrud’s death in 1971. Gertrud threw the clay and crafted it into perfectly proportioned, simple forms. Otto experimented with different glazing techniques and discovered rich, luminous glazes that set Natzler Pottery apart from the rest. Otto developed over 1000 glazes before his death at age 99. Gertrud and Otto’s pottery had numerous American, European, and international exhibitions in just their first few years together. Today, their exquisite work can be found in over 50 museum collections around the world, including such prestigious places as the Smithsonian and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
This couple’s story is as interesting as the pottery they produced together. They were both born in Vienna, Austria in 1908. Each of them had ceramics experience before they met. But the combination of her imaginative design and his talent with glazes resulted in a product much more stunning than they could create separately. March 11, 1938 was a turning point for Otto and Gertrud. That morning they received a letter telling them they had been awarded the silver medal at the Paris International Exposition, and that afternoon the Nazis invaded Austria. Later that year, they married and fled to California. Gertrud’s potter’s wheel and Otto’s small electric kiln were among the belongings that were shipped to them from Vienna. The Natzlers opened their first workshop in Los Angeles and began making the pottery that would become their legacy.
The Natzlers’ mid-century American art pottery is highly collectible today and often goes for record amounts at auction. When a collection of 9 pieces of Natzler was featured on a 2008 episode of Antiques Road Show, it’s appraised value was between $44,500 and $68,500. A Natzler piece is a valuable part of any California or American studio ceramics collection.