Masters of Mid-Century Ceramics: Maija Grotell


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.

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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.

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July 23rd, 2015|0 Comments

Masters of Mid-Century Ceramics: Barbara Willis


The shiny cracked look that is so common-place on pottery pieces of today was not so mainstream in the 1940s. That was when Barbara Willis first achieved her distinctive crackled ceramic glaze. For the time, the look was innovative and sophisticated, and within 5 years Willis’s ceramics were some of the most sought-after in California.


Unfortunately, Willis was forced out of business in the 1950s when the market was flooded with inexpensive imported pottery, and she turned to other professions to make ends meet. Willis didn’t put her hand to the potter’s wheel again until the late 1980s, when a renewed interest in mid-century art brought her work into the limelight.

Surprised and pleased, Willis was well into her seventies when began making her ceramics anew. She continued creating her art until she was no longer able to lift the heavy clay, at the age of 92. Her work is still sought-after and prized in the ceramics market today.

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All above photos courtesy of ‘Barbara Willis: Classic California Modernism’ by Jack Chipman.


California’s Designing Women, 1896-1986. Autry Museum, Los Angeles, CA. Photo by Abigail Stone.

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July 9th, 2015|0 Comments

Modernica’s First Day of Gifting: The Tabletop Ceramic Bowl


Yes, readers, it’s that time again. We’re kicking off our Twelve Days of Gifting this year with the new Tabletop Ceramic Bowl. This smallest addition to our Case Study Ceramics collection fits in just about anywhere – perfect for a small shelf or a side table. This makes it a lovely and versatile gift with an attractive price point – only $39! Order today and stay tuned for eleven more days of Modernica gift ideas!

December 2nd, 2014|0 Comments

All Case Study Ceramics are 15% Off with Free Shipping through Labor Day!

Case Study Ceramics Labor Day Sale

*Use coupon code “ceramics” at checkout to enjoy 15% OFF and Free Standard Shipping. Offer expires September 2, 2013 and is only valid on orders shipping within the contiguous USA.

August 30th, 2013|0 Comments

Modernica Case Study Ceramics® Line Adds Beautiful New Architectural Shapes and Styles

Modernica’s full line of Case Study Ceramics® was released only a few years ago; since then, we’ve been pleased and surprised at how much our customers love them! The classic architectural designs have become so popular, we decided to add to the selection of shapes and styles, while maintaining the modernist roots of the designs. Here are a few of our latest and greatest ceramic releases, just in time for fall!

Case Study Low Pan Ceramic Cylinder

Succulents in Low Cylinder Ceramic Planter

The low, wide form of the Case Study Low Pan Ceramic Cylinder make it absolutely perfect for your gorgeous succulents and cacti. The shape will also lend itself well to other plants with shallow root systems, like herbs, small flowers, and bonsai. The simple, stately Low Pan Cylinder is a beautiful way to add some plant life to any interior or patio landscape.

Case Study High Pan Ceramic Cylinder

Tall Cylinder Planter Modernica

Our Case Study High Pan Ceramic Cylinder features the same classic lines of our original Cylinder Ceramic Planters, but with a wider, more robust shape. The deep, wide interior will easily accommodate larger plants and small trees, with a shape that lends itself well to both stands or wooden plinth bases. Like our other Case Study Ceramics®, the High Pan Cylinder functions well as an indoor or outdoor planter.

Case Study Wok Ceramic Planter

Modernica Wok Planter

You may recognize the Case Study Wok Ceramic Planter as one of the most popular shapes that graced the yards of many homes during the mid-century modern era. In the making of this new design, we were inspired by the ceramic shapes we saw in vintage photos of homes like Case Study House #22. The unique lines make for an eye-catching display of almost any type of plant, from larger succulents to small trees and shrubs.

If you’re in love with one of these brand new ceramic designs, your in luck! All of Modernica’s Case Study Ceramics® are on sale through this weekend, from today until Monday, September 2, 2013. Use code “ceramics” at checkout to receive 15% off plus Free Shipping!

Low Pan Ceramic Planter

Case Study Low Pan Ceramic Cylinder Case Study High Pan Ceramic Cylinder

August 30th, 2013|0 Comments