Pillin Pottery

Polia Pillin began her studies of ceramics in Chicago, at the Hull House, after she’d established herself as a talented painter years earlier. By the late 1940s, the artist and her husband, also an artist in his own right, set up shop in Los Angeles. It began, as many great things often do, in their garage. Make no mistake – these two were a pair and one simply could not create without the presence and efforts of the other. William was the one who appreciated unexpected finds in glazes while Polia saw what every piece should look like in her mind’s eye. Unlike other potters, whose markings vary over the years, Pillin art pottery pieces are marked with a stylized Pillin signature.

Pillin Pottery may not be as mainstream as its other artistic counterparts, but there is an elegance and sophistication found in this Polish artist’s works. Polia and William Pillin worked as a team from the moment they founded their pottery studio in 1948. While William shaped the various pots, vases and other designs, Polia hand painted each one. It doesn’t take long to realize her favorite subjects included living things – dancers, birds, fish, horses and other “women of interesting allure”.

She was inspired by Picasso. And, much like Picasso, whatever vessel was presented to her by her husband, she allowed that to define what the project would ultimately become. An odd-shaped plate or tile worked nicely as a canvas to paint an upright woman with long flowing hair with a blackbird perched on her knee. A full vase was ideal for a plump fish and the more contemporary vases that were tall and narrow were just right for her to explore shapes, lines and color combinations.

It comes as little surprise then that many experts cite the artistry, more so than the shapes, as most interesting. There’s a subdued mystery that seems to be crafted into these works of art. Part of that could be because these art potters aren’t mainstream and frankly, we don’t know as much about these artists as we do those associated with the Roseville Pottery or Weller Pottery names. Either way, though, there’s no denying the markings and when you come across one, you know you have discovered a jewel. It’s believed much of these Pillin Pottery works remain undiscovered.

The Rich Arequipa Pottery History

Located in Marin County, California, Arequipa Pottery has a very interesting history. In what began as a tuberculosis sanatorium in the early 1900s for wage-earning women diagnosed with TB was soon renowned for its unique approach in combining health care with pottery making. This approach served many purposes, including as a solution for paying the medical costs of treating the patients. More importantly, it was believed the therapeutic benefits were remarkable. What’s most interesting is that it was in business for just a few short years – between 1911 and 1918.

For whatever reasons, the massive San Francisco earthquake in 1906 affected women more than men when it came to breathing difficulties and other health-related problems, which is why the sanatorium was initially opened. And, too, because of the limitations in the medical field during that time, the only cure that was known amounted to little more than rest and relaxation. As we know, though, pottery making as its own way of keeping fine dust particles in the air, which likely and unknowingly exacerbated the tuberculosis. Still, the results of their creativity lives on in the pieces that are still available.

The vast majority of the clay used during this time was locally dug by younger boys who had the strength to handle the tasks. The patients/artists would spend a few hours a day (or less – depending on how they felt on any given day) working on their pottery. They were led in their efforts by the likes of Albert Solon, Fred Wilde and a few other respected ceramists of the day. That said, the creative efforts were 100% original to the patient; the ceramists were there strictly in a mentoring role.

Another interesting note was the introduction during this time of slip trailing, which is careful carving of leaves, vines and other decorative patterns into the damp clay.

As it happens, Just Art Pottery has one of these lovely creations on our New Arrivals page. The rare Arequipa Pottery vase stands 5 3/4″ tall and has an elegant matte greenish-blue finish. It’s in mint condition with no chips or cracks. It’s really indicative to both the attention to detail in its slight curves and lines.

This really is a fine way to collect American art pottery, especially considering the rich history behind it.

Cabat Ceramics

Born in 1914 in New York City, Rose Cabat knew early on where her place was, at least in terms of who she was destined to be with. Shortly after marrying the “boy next door”, whom she dated all through high school, Cabat made the decision to to see what kind of, if any, magic she could bring to the American art pottery scene. The avenue she chose was ceramics, mostly because her husband Erni brought home clay one day with the goal of making a few dinner plates. Sensing her interest, he soon bought his wife a membership to Greenwich House. It was here that both her talent and passion soared.

Times were difficult, but Erni found an interesting way to create a potter’s wheel for his wife: he repurposed a washing machine. When they weren’t working in a munitions plant during World War II, the couple were busy with developing Rose’s talent.

She soon found her “niche” and what emerged was her trademark “feelie” vases. It truly set the pace for mid-century ceramic offerings. The one common denominator amongst those who know work and attempt to explain it is that it was incredibly personal for her. It was more than a talent or passion, it was, in many ways an extension of who she is as an artist.

The gorgeous oversized vases are the epitome of the emerging styles from the forties, fifties and sixties. It’s the bold, though matted color combinations such as green and blue or orange and brown. The dramatic center expansions and the way they contrast with the very narrow vase necks – so narrow, you might be able to easy a single flower into it; and her trademark trimmed foot rings all come together to define these gorgeous and dramatic vases. She also created bowls, though it was those “onion” vases she is best known for.

Her husband was then, and always remained, her biggest fan until his death. Rose, now older than 95, is the oldest practicing pottery artist in the United States.

Mid-Century Trends in Art Pottery

Those colorful and funky designs found in what’s referred to as “mid century” art pottery is often what many of us refer to as vintage; it’s definitely trendy, but finding a single adjective or definition is where the challenge begins.

Vintage. Mod. “1960s style”. Art Nouveau. Art Deco.– these are all used to describe the colorful movement in art pottery and general home décor during the 1950s and into the 1960s. But what defines this very specific line of American art pottery? And how do you differentiate between the real thing and those “dime a dozen” pieces that were so common during this time period? Here’s a bit of info that can help you when you’re ready to explore what this particular line offers.

There are no shortage of names, styles or even materials that are identified with this time period. A personal favorite is Blisscraft of Hollywood. That, of course, isn’t ceramic pottery, but it is indicative of the trends of the day – and you can’t mention these trends without there being an acknowledgment of the parts that define the sum.

Roseville Pottery, which comes as a surprise to many, is often included in that sum. Many of the Roseville vases that were made in the early 1900s are easily found in today’s literature on mid-century pottery. It makes sense. Roseville Pottery is so versatile that it works with, well, anything – from ultra contemporary design efforts to those art nouveau pieces to the designs that came from the same time period the pottery was made. Think about, say, the Roseville Sunflower line. It’s colorful, timeless and frankly, works with any art déco piece you can imagine. The point is to not discount this particular line – it serves its purpose in every era.

Finally, another important element in this distinctive art pottery is the color and specifically, the color combinations. Think vibrant oranges, rich greens, vivid pinks and reds – they all come together on a whim, which is the only way when you’re combining artistic effort and color.

With more of us turning once again to mid-century art pottery and everything that it implies, you can expect to see a surge in prices, too. Still, it’s a great way to add to a collection and frankly, it’s ideal for those who’ve just discovered American art pottery and are looking for a starting place.

Howard Pierce Pottery

Many of our clients don’t realize we have an entire section of other American art pottery.  On this page, we feature


many pottery makers, including Howard Pierce Pottery.  While many of us focus our time and attention (not to mention our money) on some of the more mainstream art pottery companies, there are some gems out there that might not always get the attention they deserve.

Howard Pierce founded his southern California studio in the 1940s after being artistically trained at the Art Institute of Chicago and the University of Illinois.  Initially, he’d set up shop in Claremont; however, he eventually settled in Joshua Tree in 1968 – both in California, and in both locations, he enjoyed a robust business that served him well.  Most people equate Howard Pierce Pottery with the whimsical figurines such as cats and chickens that were his trademark for many years.  He appreciated the dimension a set of uneven heights allowed and as a result, he usually created pairs.  The subtle glazes and contrasting shades will draw you in to see the detailing up close and personal.  One example of just how intricate the detailing is can be found on the Howard Pierce “Two Chickadees”.  There are significant shading efforts, especially on the raised ceramic and they are perfectly placed as only a true artist can accomplish.

Murtle the Turtle - Joshua Tree, CA (Photo courtesy of Potteries of CA)

Most Howard Pierce pottery is marked with his name; however, those smaller pieces are almost never marked in any kind of way.  Unlike some of the other American art pottery companies, Pierce initially focused on distributing his wares to local florists, which he would have been content with maintaining.  During the mid-1950s, he had received so much positive feedback from the florists and their customers, he decided to take his business to the national level.  From there, his porcelain figurines were soon found on store shelves around the country.

After Pierce had relocated his business to Joshua Tree in 1968, he created several large statues for installation in parks and other public areas.  Many measured twelve feet or more in height and the vast majority remain in place today, where they are still enjoyed


by those who live within the communities they’re housed.

Howard Pierce continued to create his art pottery until his death in 1994.

Arequipa Pottery

Logo-JustArtPottery Between the years 1911-1918, Arequipa Pottery existed first as a way to provide therapy to patients at a California sanitarium and then as a financial endeavor that might had been successful were it not for World War I.  Arequipa, meaning "the place of peace" was the brainchild of Dr. Philip King Brown.  After having founded the Arequipa Tuberculosis Sanatorium, it was his belief art would play a significant role in one's recovery efforts.  Soon, he attempted to make it a profitable company, if for no other reason than to offset the costs associated with providing supplies to the patients.  After having brought on board a few different people to assist in the management efforts, Dr. Brown brought in F.H. Wilde.  Wilde was experienced in the details of starting an art pottery and knew how it make it financially successful.  He promptly took to his new position and did quite well until the war made it unfeasible to continue. 

Still, the patients, who were most likely pre-teen and teen girls, were allowed to display their artistic wares at the Panama Pacific Exposition in 1915.  They were allowed to keep a small percentage of their pieces that sold as well as small salary.  It was Dr. Brown's belief this type of therapy was as important as proper nutrition and the medications used to heal the girls' physical ailments.  As mentioned above, Arequipa Pottery was not able to turn a profit and eventually, it came to rely solely on donations until they too began to decrease.  1918 marked the final year of the art pottery company.  Many of the pieces these young patients were responsible for creating are on display at the Smithsonian Institution.  The pieces that are in circulation are considered quite valuable and each is one of a kind since the patients either created at will or would complete a piece and promptly begin another project.

On a final note, it wasn't until 2001 another showing that rivaled the size of the 1915 Panama Pacific Expo displayed Arequipa Pottery.  While many pieces remain at the Smithsonian Institute, there are a significant number that can be found in Oakland's Museum of California.

Donna McGill – Just Art Pottery

The Top 10 Pottery Searches for August, 2009


Below are the top ten most searched pottery collections for August, 2009.  The searches reveal consistency with few changes.  Clearly, the trends for Roseville are still strong, as it dominates four of the ten spots.

Roseville Pottery- Patterns A-E – Some of the patterns in this group include the incredibly sought-after Roseville Apple Blossom, the delicate Roseville Azurean and the ambitious designs in Roseville Capri.

Roseville Pottery – Patterns F-L – This group includes the Roseville Juvenile and the Roseville Laurel.

Weller Pottery – Beautiful and deep coloring with lean lines define Weller Pottery.  A perfect example that defines the Weller Pottery themes is the Camelot Vase.

Roseville Pottery – Patterns S-Z – Look for the Roseville Savona with its rich gold coloring and the vivid reds that define the Roseville Silhouette.

Roseville Pottery – Patterns M-R – This group has the unique shaped Roseville Pottery Magnolia Brown Cider Pitcher.

Rookwood Pottery – If you've not seen the Rookwood Faience Pottery Pears on a Branch Tile, now's the time.  This exquisite tile measures 10" in height and is 6 ¾" wide. 

Van Briggle Pottery – Known for its many markings, this collection has something for everyone.

McCoy Pottery – Look for any of the McCoy Pottery Vases.  Each is beautiful in its own right.

Newcomb Pottery – The blues and greens set this collection apart.

Fulper Pottery – Elegant and refined are commonly used to describe Fulper Pottery.

Despite the foothold Roseville Pottery maintains, Grueby's arts and crafts style, and the contemporary styles of Ephraim and Door Pottery just missed the Top 10.

Donna McGill

More Modern Day Art Pottery Masters

There are so many accomplished potters on the scene today that it's sometimes hard to choose who to feature.  This time though, the decision was easy.  Jeremy Briddell and Adam Silverman are two artists whose works are currently on display alongside the classic masterpieces of Gertrud and Otto Natzler at the Museum of Contemporary Craft in Portland, Oregon.  The exhibit organizers chose these two men because their pottery demonstrates the influence that the Natzlers' work has on ceramics today. 
Jeremy Briddell began as a studio assistant for Missouri ceramicists John Balestreri, Jun Kaneko and Ken Ferguson.  He earned both a Bachelor's and Master's degree in ceramics.  His work is considered to be a modern expression of mid-century modernism and resides in some very prestigious collections, both public and private. 
Briddell currently works from his home in Tempe, Arizona with his wife Cyndi Coon, who is a multi-media artist.  Together, they showcase their creations on a website called Laboratory 5.
Adam Silverman has been making pots pots for friends and family for over 25 years, but he didn't decide to turn pottery into a career until after he worked as an architect and started a successful clothing business.  After the tragedy of 9/11, Silverman's priorities changed, and he decided to leave the profit-driven business world.  He has been a professional potter since 2002 under the name Atwater Pottery. 
Adam Silverman combines contemporary designs with non-traditional glazes to create modern day masterpieces. His work resembles classic art pottery, but has its own distinct personality.  He has been featured in several US and international publications, including the May 2007 issue of the New York Times and the September 2008 issues of the UK's Elle Decoration.
Silverman's most recent accomplishment is becoming the Studio Director of the new Heath Ceramics retail studio facility in Los Angeles.  September 2008 marked the 60th anniversary of this mid-century era pottery, and they celebrated by partnering with Adam Silverman to open a second retail location.  Silverman's pottery can be purchased from several galleries, including Heath Ceramics.

Just Art Pottery

Natzler Pottery Currently on Display

If you're going to be in Portland sometime between now and January 25, 2009 you're in for a treat.  The DSC_4825 Museum of Contemporary Craft is hosting an exhibit entitled The Ceramics of Gertrud and Otto Natzler.  The nearly 100 pottery pieces on display are from several private collections and West Coast museums.  Altogether, the items represent a range of forms that the Natzlers created over the course of many years.
The magical combination of Gertrud's forms and Otto's glazes earned the couple attention and accolades from almost the very beginning of their partnership.  Just four years after they began exhibiting their pottery, the Natzlers won a silver medal at the 1937 World Exposition in Paris.  When German occupation forced them to flee Austria, they quickly opened for business in Southern California. 

The Ceramics of Gertrud and Otto Natzler exhibit includes the viewing of two documentaries, The Ceramic Art of the Natzlers, Artists of the World Series (1966) and Earth, Fire, Water and Wind: The Ceramics of Otto Natzler (1992).  This is a rare opportunity to see the Natzlers at work in their studio and hear them tell about their ideas, processes, and products in their own words.

The museum has also posted an audio podcast of a lecture by Otto Natzler on their website MuseumofContemporaryCraft.org.  The lecture was originally delivered at this same museum in 1975 along with a retrospective entitled Natzler Ceramics.

In order to demonstrate the influence that the Natzlers' work has on ceramics today, there are are selected vessels on display by two contemporary artists, Jeremy Briddell and Adam Silverman.  The entire exhibit is open each week Tuesday through Sunday from 11:00 A.M. to 6:00 P.M., with a late closing of 8:00 P.M. on Thursdays.  For more information, contact the Museum of Contemporary Craft at 503.223.2654 or online.  There is a detailed, illustrated brochure about the Natzlers and the exhibit at  http://www.museumofcontemporarycraft.org/pdf/2008_08_Natzlers.pdf.

Just Art Pottery

Teco Art Pottery Collection 2008

Just Art Pottery is pleased to announce we are now taking preorders for the 2008 modern Teco Art Pottery Collection™ .  The modern Teco collection is a line of high quality reproductions that maintains the integrity of original, antique Teco Pottery.  The 2008 collection makes a great compliment to the seven vases offered in the inital 2007 modern Teco Art Pottery Collection™.

Each piece from the Teco Art Pottery Collection is produced in the United States.  Each of the vases in the Collection is hallmarked with the company logo as a guarantee of quality and authenticity and to ensure no confusion with original, antique Teco Pottery.  The 2008 offering of the Teco Art Pottery Collection™ includes the following five vases and is offered in the seven colors shown.  New colors for 2008 include aqua and orange.


2008 Modern Teco Art Pottery Collection (From Left to Right)


Teco Art Pottery Collection™ Prairie Matte Green Vase


Teco Art Pottery Collection™ Pogoda Matte Green Vase


Teco Art Pottery Collection™ Zen Green Floor Vase


Teco Art Pottery Collection™ Genie Green Vase

Teco Art Pottery Collection™ Apollo Green Vase

Place your order now for shipment in late September 2008.

Just Art Pottery