Back in 1941 there was a man of vision, and a lot of courage, because the day after Pearl Harbor he bought a pottery factory.
His name was Lawton Gonder and his pottery was called Gonder Ceramic Arts. He had been manager of the Florence Pottery, in Zanesville, Ohio, and had lots of experience. He grew up in a family that worked in the pottery industry and worked himself from the age of 13 doing jobs at pottery factories. People have heard of Roseville, but not many have heard about Gonder.
He was a man ahead of his time in glazes. He invented and perfected flambé and crackle glazes that are coveted by collectors. Gold crackle especially was unique and to this day has not been duplicated as Lawton did it. The crackles have a marvelous texture and appearance.
His modern themes (modern deco) and shapes were very innovative and perhaps ahead of the times. He had a love of the Asian art and that is depicted beautifully in his water carriers and other pieces. He found old Chinese pieces and duplicated them. His Bali girls were a big hit; the first ones were topless as they would be in the South Seas. After a public uproar, Gonder decided to cover up the girls. Now the nude pieces are difficult to find.
Gonder’s love of the sea is depicted in many forms. The seahorse in its crackle glaze is spectacular, as are his ewers and his starfish (which many mistake for a poinsettia).
He and his designers were unique in their concepts. Some of the pieces were modernistic and surreal, like the cactus lamp, which looks like a cathedral; the Pan flute; the mermaid planter; and candle sticks. Gonder loved console sets and ones like the banana boat are people’s favorites.
Gonder pottery is marked with a mold number and the name of the company – some in block letters others in cursive. They read “Gonder Pottery” or “Gonder Ceramic Arts.”
Gonder produced lamp bases for Bradley lamps. Unless familiar with the glazes you would not recognize the lamps as Gonder; they only bear the name of Bradley on them. A Bradley catalog pictures many of them.
Many of the glazes have names such as the Chinese crackle, the volcano drip, dove gray, Victorian wine, rutile green and French lilac, among others. Collectors themselves gave names to some versions – Dijon and sea swirl are two. There were many colors, but none so coveted as the red flambé and gold crackle.
Up until now, Gonder pottery has been Zanesville’s best kept secret, but after people are introduced to its beautiful forms, is could become a household word.