West German Ceramics at Alexandra Palace

There seemed to be quite a lot of these at the excellent Alexandra Palace Antiques Fair today, and prices certainly seem to be on the up. Although £10-15 will still buy you an appealing but more common piece of Scheurich or Bay, the smart money should be put at something a bit more pricey that really shouts ‘Fat Lava’. Something by Roth, Otto, Jopeko, or Ruscha, for example. Expect to pay anything from £40 upwards, although lavishing around £150 will still buy you an excellent example. Still cheap as compared to Doulton or Worcester, say. My new friends Marion and Neil, who I met at the excellent Dulwich Ceramics & Glass Fair earlier in the year, had a selection that was arguably the best in the house.
Even though I did buy something small from them, I found my bargain of the day elsewhere. Although ‘Fat Lava’ is the style everyone’s looking for, don’t ignore West German ceramics from the 1950s. I’ve only ever seen the colour-tastic decor shown above on websites and in books, most notably in Horst Makus’s excellent book ‘Keramik der 50er Jahre‘ and Kevin Graham’s invaluable tomes and forum. So, imagine my delight when I saw this one in the flesh! (Or should that be ‘in the clay’?)
An eye-wateringly rare pattern and much sought-after by collectors, it was made at the Mering Topferei, founded by Johann Lipp in 1862. During the 1950s boom in West German ceramics, their lead designer was the talented Ludwig Klopfer, who was responsible for comparatively complex and visually stunning patterns such as this one. Designed in 1956, it includes sgrafitto, a technique that runs through many of Klopfer’s designs.
This example, inscribed ‘880/19 L’ on the base, is an excellent example of the design with its tight and colour-packed pattern. We agreed on a price of £20, which I think is a complete and utter bargain. In my opinion, somewhere around £120 or so is nearer the right market price. Piet Mondrian’s paintings spring to mind, but also consider Fulvio Bianconi’s ‘Pezzato’ designs first produced by Venini on Murano in 1950.
Although a little quieter than previous fairs I’ve attended there, today’s fair was still unmissable. Plenty of dealers, and plenty to choose from – if anything the smaller crowd meant there was more time to mull potential purchases over.
Apart from this bargain, and a couple of others found along the way, it was great to see so many friends as I wandered up and down the aisles. I also finally got to meet Nic from the superb Zeitgeist Interiors, who has to be the leading Holmegaard and Danish glass specialist in the country. A man who takes his research and attributions very seriously (as anyone should), he’d very kindly helped with the Holmegaard section of the latest edition of the Miller’s Collectables Price Guide, so it was great to put a face to a name and get the chance to thank him. If you love this classic mid-century modern glass, I urge you to check out his excellent website.

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