Polish-born Polia Pillin (1909-1992) and her husband William established their ceramic studio, The Pillin Art Pottery Company, in their Los Angeles, CA garage in 1948. Her husband shaped and glazed the pots that became canvases that Polia used to paint fanciful scenes of people and animals in the mid-century style. Thousands of pieces were produced and Polia became one of the most highly regarded of contemporary studio potters today.
The clay used for Pillin pottery was typically red-brick in color. William experimented with different glazes and produced some pieces without Polia’s artwork. However, it was Polia’s artistic designs that garnered her international recognition. Polia was inspired by the Cubism movement and by the works of Pablo Picasso whom she greatly admired. Her style is often referred to as “Byzantine”. Polia’s favorite subjects were women, horses, birds, fish and other animals painted over colorfully rich glazes. The overall pallet had an organic, jewel-toned quality.
Each piece of Pillin pottery was hand-thrown, glazed, painted and hence, unique. Because Pillin worked from her garage (and in her kitchen when she lived in Chicago), she did not have access to expert tradesmen, chemists or specialized equipment that could mass produce her work. For that reason, most Pillin pottery is highly crazed. Rare pieces with little to no crazing command higher values.
Most pieces of Pillin pottery were produced beginning in 1948 and marked on the bottom with Polia’s signature “Pillin” in either thick or thin black ink. Rare pieces produced in her Chicago kitchen in 1946 and 1947 are incised “46” or “47”. Some very early pieces are marked “W+P” above the Pillin signature to indicate William throwing the pieces and Polia decorating them. Thicker thrown pieces tend to indicate earlier works. The age of the piece has no bearing on its collectability.
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