My collection of West German ceramics was initially a byproduct of my developing interest in mid-century modern furniture, which in turn was properly sparked when I inherited several items of furniture from my grandparents. Having spent a considerable portion of my life in Germany, I was marginally aware of ceramics of this time, but paid them little attention. As my interest in them developed, I began to realize that German ceramics from the 60s and 70s are creatively bold, sometimes eccentric, artefacts of a unique period of time in Germany (and the rest of the world), both historically and culturally.
Many things that were once the height of design or fashion end up being relegated to boxes in the basement, eventually ending up in thrift stores and fleamarket stalls. Some of these items eventually turn into coveted collectables, others remain defiantly fringe. There is a small and apparently growing number of collectors of these pieces, many of them from English-speaking countries rather than Germany itself. A brief ebay search of the term “fat lava” (which usually refers to the intentionally bubbly, crusty appearance of some of the glazes used) will yield hundreds of items, some priced a lot higher than you might think. A trip to any random German fleamarket, however, especially outside of big cities like Berlin, is an affordable treasure trove of “fat lava”. So what’s the appeal? The variety of colors, glazes, and shapes produced seems endless. Even uniquely appealing pieces can still be found and bought for ridiculously low prices. In a contemporary setting, West-German ceramics provide cheerful pops of color and transform even the blandest background into something visually fun.
Resources on collecting West-German ceramics are few and far between at the moment. A must-read for anyone with an interest in this collecting niche is Mark Hill’s book Fat Lava West German Ceramics of the 1960s & 70s. Head over to Mark’s website and order a copy. Another very educational publication on the topic (if you read German) is the book Deutsche Keramik und Porzellane der 60er und 70er Jahre by M.P. Thomas. A fantastic online resource frequented by knowledgeable, enthusiastic, and very helpful fellow collectors is the Pottery and Glass forum.
I look forward to sharing the rest of my collection (and future finds) with you right here on my blog.