Archive for September, 2010


In Part I, I introduced three different types of pottery, and how each is made. Part II will discuss the aesthetics of art deco pottery, including the use of shape, color, texture, design, glaze and paint, and how these artistic elements reflect the trends of the day.


White (the most popular), light yellow, beige, icy blues (the most fashion-forward and mod — the infamous seafoam blue makes many appearances!).  I’ve found quite a bit of black as well as metallic gray and red.

Geometric, angular, uniform, mathematical, graduated, concentric.  Modern and simple, not over-designed.  Each art deco vase contains one or two artistic themes that are repeated or reflected throughout the piece. (PIC)
Smooth surfaces seem to be the norm — polished, high gloss. This reflects the wide use of glass and shiny metal used in architecture during the Great Depression. I’ll discuss gloss later in this article.
Acid Etching — a process used by famous makers such as Lalique, Tiffany, and Daum (among others).  Acid etching involves introducing a particular type of acid to a surface to cause a “reaction”.  This reaction affects everything it touches, so artists usually covered the parts they wanted to remain in the original color with a wax pattern.  This creates different effects and, ultimately, the surface design of the material. (PIC)
“Crackling” — an effect created with paint and a reactant, seen often nowadays on wooden furniture and mirrors. The surface appears to be “cracked”, and was then glazed to protect the pottery. Artisans used this technique with art deco glass as well.
as is evident in the wall paintings of the modern art deco period, some artists painted avant garde shapes and lines on pottery vases. Any painting directly placed on the pottery had to be covered with a protective glaze. Depending on the artist, painted pottery pieces can fetch a handsome amount at auction, given their individuality, although some replica designs were mass-produced.

Most pottery pieces shine with a high-gloss glaze.  Research indicates that the most popular 1920’s and 1930’s high-gloss glaze was a bright tin-enamel. As an interesting side note, modern-day high-gloss glazes are sold as “deco” glazes.

Whether painted or geometric, high-gloss black or shiny seafoam, art deco pottery can contain a myriad of stylistic elements and exhibit artisan techniques, offering modern-day art deco connoisseurs chances to purchase or admire one-of-a-kind vases.

Throughout history, artists and sculptors have molded, fired, and glazed clay to form a myriad of items, from ancient urns to your daily coffee mug. Possibilities for creativity within this medium seem as endless as the countless pottery pieces collected over time. As interesting as some of these pieces are, I’ve recently been exploring the genre of art deco pottery — and especially, art deco pottery vases.
The process of making pottery can be as simple as molding wet clay and baking it. However, the artisans of the art deco era had many other advanced techniques to utilize in making their pieces completely unique. First, let’s consider the three major types of pottery.

They are:

Earthenware – the most organic, “natural” type of pottery. imagine ancient peoples using clay dug from the earth to form mugs, pots, tables, etc. and heating the molded item over a hot hot flame until it dried or set. In more modern days, Earthenware meant for domestic use had to be glazed to seal the porous surface.
Stoneware — very simply, the hotter the flame, the harder and more solid the clay becomes. People noticed that when they used high high heat when curing their pottery, the item became almost as hard as a stone, hence the name stoneware. Stoneware needs no glaze since the surface is considered non-porous and therefore waterproof. Pottery meant for use in human consumption nowadays will most likely be stoneware; however, it still maintains the look of organic earthenware without the glaze.
Porcelain — the Chinese found that by adding a feldspathic material (material containing feldspar, a naturally-occurring element composing almost 60% of the earth’s crust) to their clay when making stoneware, they created a white paste. This white paste, when fired, can either take on a smooth, shiny, almost glassy appearance or a slightly translucent form that is usually glazed with a lead-based glaze. The latter of these two became widely used and revered among Europeans during the 1700’s.
No matter the type, the skill and experience of the artisan comes into play when choosing the most perfect firing temperature. More valuable pieces will have been treated with the correct flame and the most careful temperature judgment.
In the early 20th century, commercial advances and the industrial revolution introduced the ability to mass-produce pieces, resulting in a decline in original true works of art pottery. However, during the Great Depression and the early 1930’s, artist-potters in Western Europe and the United States revived the ancient forms of Japanese and Chinese potters and began experimenting with new materials and clay composition. In other words, many pottery pieces (including art deco pottery vases) were made in small or singular batches, resulting in more valuable and artistic collectors’ items.

Part II will discuss the aesthetics of art deco pottery, including the use of shape, color, texture, design,glaze and paint, and how these artistic elements reflect the trends of the day.

So what exactly is Art Deco, and why is the style so historically revered?  Does Art Deco refer to a time or a style, or simply an idea?  During what years was the Art Deco style the biggest?  

The Art Deco aesthetic exploded during the Great Depression.  Decadance within demoralization.  Bigger than life while living small. Having something unique and imaginative to look at while the world around you is slowly sinking…

During the 1920’s to the 1940’s, “style” became important.  Paper catalogues, the Pony Express, and word of mouth were replaced with billboards, automobiles, huge Hollywood movie musicals, and radio advertisements.  Art Deco Vases capture the lavish, overstated consumer ideas of this trying time in world history.  Each vase speaks to each person today as differently as it did when it was crafted.

Think, for instance, of the famous Chrysler Building (NYC). The architecture and exterior styling are so metallic — strong — modern — geometric — equal.  Much akin to our current economic times, people living during the Great Depression were searching for some sort of symmetry and balance in their lives.  Art Deco style beautifully illustrates that ideal.  

As for Art Deco Vases, the artistic mediums of glass and / or ceramics provides malleability and flexibility, but are fragile at the same time — much like the human spirit during times of trouble.

Today, you can easily own a piece of history.  Art Deco Vases are as varied as our current styles and tastes — there’s something to fit any budget and home decor.  This, and more, make these unique artisan pieces so attractive and accessible.



Thrift store find!

OK – so it’s not “authentic” or even antique, but it’s amazing what you can find at your local thrift store. A BIG plus for me is that this cheap cool art deco style vase perfectly accents my new home’s decor! And I’m a sucker for green. 😉 Go explore and let me know what you find!