Two Icons, One Roof: Bauer and Russel Wright

American Style

I love vintage pottery, but the prices? Not so much. You can imagine my excitement when I found out that the L.A.-based Bauer Pottery is not only manufacturing "Bauer 2000," styled after Bauer pottery from the '30s and '40s, they’re also reproducing Russel Wright’s iconic American Modern dinnerware.A little background on the original designers of Bauer and American Modern:

Bauer

The J.A. Bauer Company pioneered the idea of mix-and-match dinnerware. Founded by Andy Bauer, who originally hailed from Kentucky, where he opened his first factory, the company took off when Bauer moved to L.A. and became part of the Arts and Crafts movement. Bauer hired innovative designers and his company, which also had a plant in Atlanta, made everything from vases to dinnerware in vibrant colors. Though Bauer died in 1923, his company continued to produce pottery until 1962. Among the most famous is the company’s “Ringware” line, but all original Bauer is very collectible.

Today, the L.A.-based Bauer Pottery manufactures pieces based on vintage Bauer pottery from the ‘30s and ‘40s. Sure, they aren’t collector’s items like the originals, but they are brand-new (no chips!) and totally affordable. So you can actually, y’know, eat off them without worrying.

Russel Wright

American industrial designer Russel Wright helped make the idea of modern design palatable to the general public. But it wasn’t just a product he peddled — it was a laidback lifestyle full of beautifully designed details. Some have called him the original Martha Stewart.

From the ‘20s through the ‘60s, Wright designed everything from furniture to flatware, textiles and art pottery, but it was his dinnerware that made him an icon.

Wright felt the dining table was the heart of the household, and thus the tablescape became a place for chic yet casual plates and pitchers and gravy boats. In 1937, the designer created his American Modern line, originally produced by Steubenville Pottery in Ohio.

The everyday pieces, made of inexpensive glazed earthenware, were sculptural — biomorphic, really &mdash and came in mix-and-match hues that were both subtle and statement-making.

American Modern — made available at a middle-class price point — became enormously popular, selling 250 million pieces between 1939 and 1959. Mint vintage Wright pieces are highly sought after.

The relationship between Wright and Bauer goes dates to 1946, when Wright created art pottery for the company. A few years ago, Wright’s daughter Annie approached Bauer about reissuing her father’s American Modern line. Bauer currently produces 20 different styles in six of the original glazes and four Bauer colors. And, as Wright would have wanted, the prices are quite reasonable.

Check out both collections at Bauer Pottery (the company's Home by Sunset line is also fabulous). Also, for those of you in the L.A. area, Bauer hosts a monthly sale of factory seconds at its showroom near Atwater Village. The next one is the first weekend of August.

Images (all courtesy of Bauer, unless noted):

Row one:
1. Russel Wright American Modern Pitchers in Bauer colors 2. Bauer cookie pots, 3. A Bauer tablescape (photo: John Phillips), 4. Bauer mixing bowls, 5. Bauer grill plate

Row two:
1. RWAM double lug bowls, 2. RWAM salt and pepper shakers in original glazes (photo: Mike Berkofsky), 3. RWAM coffee setting, 4. Vintage Russel Wright ad (Photo: courtesy of Patrick Dickson & Russel Wright Studios), 5. A U.S. postage stamp commemorating Russel Wright as one of America's "Pioneers of American Industrial Design"

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