Töpferei Römhild/Töpferhof Gramann: Glazes, Forms,
Forrest D. Poston
Although Gramann items remain under the radar among collectors of East and West German pottery, as well as the broader category of mid century modern, the company was one of the first to start producing volcanic glazes and created the widest range of volcanic glazes of any West or East German company, making it clear that Otto Natzler wasn't the only one in the region experimenting with such glazes. The work continued when Natzler left Austria, and it surged forward after and despite the political and physical ravages of World War II.
Ruscha and other companies began using some volcanic aspects in their glazes around 1964, and Otto Gerharz developed some powerful volcanic items soon after he started his own studio, but Gramann/Römhild was producing a volcanic glazes by 1956. (This information is pieced together from references in 50er Jarhe Keramik by Horst Makus, 1998. Items are pictured on page 70 with information given on page 101.) To put the work in context with other decors, Ruscha introduced "Milano" in 1954 and "Marakko" in 1956, representing the popular hand-applied Deco Echo designs that dominated styles until the early 1960s.
As with Natzler glazes, the Gramann works can be partly categorized by the size of the craters and by their nature, such as rough or smooth. Some Gramann craters are so fine as to hardly appear volcanic at all, creating a sand-like surface. The most common is a slightly larger, though fine, crater with craters varying somewhat in size from the top to the bottom. These were most often done with the craters left open and a semi-matte glaze, but some have a clear top glaze that seals the craters and creates a higher gloss. The most common appears to be a light blue glaze followed by a purple and white combination.
Gramann also produced items with larger craters, typically with smooth edges, and some Gramann items have a "veining" within the craters that adds an intriguing sense of motion to the glaze.
The Gramann/Römhild company was somewhere in between being a true "studio" pottery and a commercial pottery. They were big enough to produce a large number of items (though many combinations are uncommon), but they were small enough that most of their items were handthrown. This may be why most items are also relatively small, in the 6" range with larger items harder to find. Most forms were simple and clean in design, ranging from elegant to bland....simplicity being rather hard to do well.
Gramann typically used red clays and marked items with a T over R, but
the mark is often rather sloppy with the T too often looking like an I. By
far, most items were marked, but unmarked Gramann items are known.
Like many of the German companies, there can be some confusion about
the name and whether the family name (Gramann) or location name (Römhild) is most appropriate. I tend to use Gramann because it's more specific, but the company has at times been Töpferei Römhild, Töpferhof Römhild, and possibly Töpferhof Gramann.....among others. (Thanks to Kevin James Graham for some of the information on names.)
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