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A Little Bit About WGP and Fat Lava

I know that some of you will probably know much more about this than I do, being a relative newbie who started this intensive pottery crash course two years ago, but for those of you who are new to the term WGP, I thought it might be nice to give a little bit of background information.

'WGP' stands for 'West German Pottery', a term used for ceramic homewares from the 1950s, '60s and '70s. Things like vases and plant pots, but also wall plaques, trinket dishes and boxes, lamps, and large dishes used as fruit bowls or centre pieces. Things you might have in in your living room or bedroom. Generally, kitchen and tableware are excluded from consideration. These were produced too of course, and often by the same manufacturers, but the more high end, artistically expressive pieces would often issue from a separate 'Art Department'. 

In the 1950s, post-war Germany, now divided into East and West, was entering an era of renewed growth and optimism. Artistic expression, freedom and playfulness had long been repressed by the Nazi regime, but now came a many-faceted explosion of pent-up creativity that seemed to centre in particular in the field of ceramics.

Range of West German vases designed by Heinz Siery for ScheurichA range of glazes on a form designed by Heinz Siery for Scheurich in 1959. Image taken from 'Heinz & Ingrid Siery' by Horst Makus and Alexandra Marx.

Most of the main ceramic manufacturers had already been established before WWII, but had either been closed down or turned to the war effort during that time.

After the end of the war, they slowly started producing decorative items again and found that there was an increasing appetite for fresh, modern (but affordable) homewares. At the height of production, the range of influences and styles not to mention the sheer volume of items, was unprecedented.

Interest started to dwindle from the late 1970s and slowly the potteries shrank, closed down or changed their emphasis from decorative items to useful ones like tableware, ovens, tiles and plant pots.

These days, WGP is experiencing something of a revival of interest and pots are becoming increasingly collected and sought after.

It has been re-branded as ‘Fat Lava’, although this is only an accurate term for those pots that were decorated with a crusty, bubbling ‘lava’ glaze, like this one:

There have been some high-profile exhibitions and a book by antiques expert and Fat Lava collector Mark Hill has also helped increase the profile of this type of pottery.

For those who are interested to learn more about this fascinating field, what follows is a short list of my favourite references.

  • You can order Mark Hill’s book on the subject via his website.
  • There is also an excellent German book on the subject, although mostly dealing with WGP from the 1950s and entirely in German (there are a lot of beautiful photographs though!) It's called 'Keramik Der 50er Jahren: Formen, Farben und Dekore: Ein Handbuch' and can be found on Amazon here.
  • Facebook group West German Pottery (and East German Pottery)
  • The extremely useful Potsandpots, a UK website run by Aidan and Emma.
  • This website in the US, run by Ginny and Forrest Poston, full of resources and information.
  • Possibly my favourite online resource, but centred only on the 1950s: this website by Ralf Schumacher. This is a German website but has an English section.

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