For my first post, I’m jumping right in with pet peeve time. While I love the phrase fat lava, it is terribly over-used, misused, and abused. First of all, “fat lava” and “W. German pottery” are not synonymous. Depending on how tightly you define fat lava, I would guess that less than 15% of W. German pottery qualifies.
The phrase became an overnight sensation when Mark Hill published the expanded show catalog with the name “Fat Lava”, and some people think that’s where the phrase began. Like most overnight sensations, this one was actually years in the making since eBay sellers had been using the phrase for a long time before the show or catalog. There are disagreements over the origin, and it will never really be known, but based on the glazes sellers were trying to describe, my guess remains that it’s a computer translation problem.
The glazes described were sometimes volcanic, often “runny” or “drip” glazes. However, while early 20th century drip glazes are the same level as the surrounding glazes, these “fat” glazes are significantly thicker than the glaze level they cover, sticking up from the body of the vase. I believe that “thick” got translated as “fat”, and the phrase worked so well that it stuck.
Then, it worked so well after the release of “Fat Lava” that sellers began using it as a keyword to get attention, and it got applied to everything, thick or thin. I’ll still use the phrase when needed, but it’s rather like a friend that insisted on hanging around enough to become an irritant. If you love West and East German pottery, give it enough respect to call the pieces by their own name, as close as possible with what we know so far, anyway.
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