West German pottery (sometimes referred to simply as Fat Lava or German art pottery) has become increasingly popular in recent years.
Sculptural shapes, tactile designs and painterly qualities combine to create a range of ceramics that is genuinely striking.
What we really love about West German pottery, however, is that it is both collectible and relatively affordable.
It’s not often that you get to say that, particularly when you consider that they date — and emanate — from the epicentre of one of the most fascinating periods of modern history.
This guide runs through some of the key considerations we feel you should be aware of when shopping for West German pottery.
There are a few practical considerations to bear in mind when shopping for ceramics:
- Shop for ceramics that will match your interior themes. Buying a vase that clashes with everything you own just because you like it is going to create more problems than it solves.
- Remember to pay attention to the height of pottery when shopping for decorator items for shelves and tabletops. Fail to do so and you run the risk of it not fitting or looking clumsy.
- If you want to use your pottery to display flowers, always remember that the flower stems should be no more than twice the height of the vase.
- Shop for pottery that matches your lifestyle. If you have young children or pets, try to opt for more robust designs and avoid floor vases.
What is West German Pottery?
West German pottery is a name given to pottery made in West Germany during the 50s, 60s and 70s — an era viewed as something of a Golden Age of ceramics where potters experimented with colour, glaze and shape.
- West German pottery comes in some hugely distinctive shapes, styles and colour schemes that are unique to this period of production. The most famous of these looks is probably the unmistakable Fat Lava style.
- West German art pottery is ideal for would-be collectors. Items tend to be robust (facilitating international shipping), pieces are relatively affordable and you can find many variations on a handful of themes so you can build a collection with a sense of continuity.
- One of the enduring qualities of West German pottery is that it dates from such a fascinating time in modern history. Seeing the porcelain mark of a country that was formed and dissolved in such dramatic fashion is not something you get used to.
Noteworthy West German Ceramic Studios
There were many ceramic studios in West Germany in the post-war decades. If you are new to the field, here is a brief introduction to some of the most recognisable producers:
- Perhaps the largest and most prolific studio of the era was Scheurich. Unlike many other producers, Scheurich is still in operation today, albeit with a different focus. It remains a hugely recognisable German brand.
- ES Keramik was another large producer with a reputation for quality and striking designs. ES Keramik tended to be lax about marking their pottery which can cause issues for collectors.
- Few studios could compete with the quality and craftsmanship of Ceramano and Ruscha. The Ruscha 313, for example, is one of the definitive pieces of German art pottery.
West German pottery has become synonymous with ceramic art and it’s not hard to see why. While there are many distinguishing features of the period, there are three key elements to be aware of:
- Perhaps the most recognisable feature of pottery from this era is the Fat Lava glaze which gives the pottery its tactile quality. There is debate about who coined the term and when, but it has since become synonymous with West German pottery from the era.
- In much the same way as mid-century furniture designers placed an emphasis on form and function, West German ceramic artists challenged ideas about handles. No longer something that was simply attached at the end, handles changed shape, size and position in this era, at times with dramatic effect.
- West German pottery is famed for the use of bold, bright colours. Often offset against the black pumice lava glaze, these pieces are great way to add accents into neutral décor schemes.
How to Identify West German Pottery
Unfortunately, identifying West German pottery is rarely straightforward as studios were lax about marking their pieces. However, here are three tips that can help:
- The first and easiest way is to look for branded stickers. Around one in five of the pieces that we source have some form of removable branding that can help identify the manufacturer.
- The next place to turn to is the base of the piece to check for pottery marks. West German pottery can have up to three identifying stamps that designate piece number, country of production and company. However, many pieces only have one or two of these marks; some have none. Note, an absence of markings does not mean that a piece is fake and such items can still hold value.
- The colour of the base can also help you identify the maker, if not the actual piece of pottery. Most manufacturers used an off-white clay. However, the likes of Ceramano, Roth and Carstens all used a brick-red clay, which could help you narrow your search.
West German Pottery Value
People often ask about how to establish the value of West German pottery. We feel that focusing solely on the monetary value of these ceramics is limiting. However, some vases can fetch large sums so if you are unsure how much to pay or what to ask for, consider the following:
- The complexity of the design is a good indicator of value. Intricate pieces are likely to have been hand thrown, which makes them rarer and more desirable.
- Similarly, pieces with fine lips, ridges or handles could hold more value as fewer pieces are likely to have survived unscathed.
- Look out for recognisable designs in unusual colours. Red is very prevalent throughout Fat Lava pieces. The same shapes with blue accents, for example, can command higher prices.
View our West German pottery range and start your collection today.