Photo courtesy of Plum Tree Pottery.
Maija Grotell studied ceramics in Helsinki before migrating to New York in 1927. The ceramicist taught at various schools and entered her work in small shows and exhibitions over the next 10 years, slowly becoming more recognized for her impeccable ceramics work. Her big break came along when Eliel Saarinen invited her to become head of the ceramics department at the Cranbrook Academy of Art.
Maija Grotell and Nelly Beveridge at work in the Cranbrook Academy of Art, 1940. Photo courtesy of the Cranbrook Archives.
Cranbrook is considered by many to be epicenter of the early 20th century modernist movement. Grotell taught there for 30 years, during which time she worked with sculptor Carl Milles, designer Eero Saarinen, and many other prominent figures in the world of art and architecture. Some of her finest work was accomplished during this time. Besides her many, many ceramic works, she also helped Eero Saarinen develop the brilliantly-colored brick glazes that are still present on the walls of the 1965 General Motors Technical Center.
She continued to influence the practice of mid-century ceramics until she retired in 1966. Today, her works are prized and represented in the permanent collections of museums across the world.
General Motors Technical Center with glazed brick walls – Warren, Michigan, 1965. Photo courtesy of Curbed.
Glazed stoneware, 1940. Photo courtesy of the Met Museum.
Painted vase, 1940s. Photo courtesy of Worthpoint.
Vase, 1940s. Photo courtesy of Charlotte Lindley Martin Ceramics.
Vase in mottled glaze, 1950s. Photos courtesy of Worthpoint.
Vase, 1952. Photo by Jack Ramsdale.
Glazed stoneware vase, 1950s. Photo courtesy of Live Auctioneer.
Glazed Ceramics, 1950s. Photo courtesy of the Jordan Schnitzer Museum.
Glazed stoneware, 1950. Photo courtesy of the Moderne Gallery.