A petit studio pottery owl from the studio of Helmut Schäffenacker.

HELMUT FRIEDRICH SCHÄFFENACKER (1921-2010) was born on July 5, 1921, in Ulm, Germany the son of the painter Otto Schäffenacker. In 1949 he completed an apprenticeship with the sculptor Rudolf Pauschinger in Stuttgart. After studying art and training as a painter and sculptor, he founded "Atelier Schäffenacker" in Ulm in the early 1950s. There he painted and created sculptures made of wood and stone. He began to work as a ceramist in 1948.

The number of employees (including apprentices) rose continuously from four in 1950 to ten in 1965. His first designs were everyday objects such as vases, ashtrays, or bowls. In the second half of the 1950s, wall panels with relief decorations emerged, primarily with figurative motifs, mostly of highly stylized animals including horses, owls, fish, and other abstracted figures and still lives. His sculptures also often took on the forms of animals such as owls, birds, and bulls. Later, the shapes of everyday objects developed more and more into sculptural objects, and the motifs of the wall panels became more accessible and more abstract. The wall panels and plaques were produced in runs of between two and a maximum of 500 copies and would usually stay in the collection for around two to three years. At first, Schäffenacker mostly sold his work locally and regionally. Still, from the mid-1950s, he began to participate in the Frankfurt trade fairs, and his work began to show up in retail outlets in various cities, both in Germany and in neighboring countries.

In 1960 he moved his workshop and family to Ulm-Böfingen, where he built his home and studio. There he worked with three kilns and sometimes up to ten employees. All works were either unique or were cast in the workshop in small series up to a hundred pieces from plaster negatives or with hollow plaster molds and finished by hand. His wall reliefs and plaques were executed almost exclusively using the "bridge technique," which prevents glazes from running together during the firing process. It consists of stamping a tile of soft clay with a mold to create patterns in relief. The ridges thus made separate form compartments that could be filled with colored glazes. The motifs on the wall reliefs reflected the zeitgeist of the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. The ceramics designed in his typical style heavily influenced the aesthetics of ceramic production in all of West Germany during these years.

In addition to his ceramic work, Schäffenacker was a painter and sculptor. He carried out his work in various materials, preferably in stainless steel and bronze, stone, wood, and combinations of materials. He decorated numerous public buildings, especially schools, with wall reliefs and designed, among other things, fountains and sculptures for public spaces. He also designed wall reliefs for private houses, including swimming pools.

Schäffenacker has received numerous national and international awards for his ceramic work. In his laudatory speech for the artist's 85th birthday, Justus Engelfried wrote: "The individual objects are outstanding works of German and international ceramic design (e.g., the vase objects). The variety and number of wall panels are unique in Germany. The entire ceramic work of the designer and artist Schäffenacker is probably even unparalleled worldwide."

The artist ended ceramics production in 1993 when he had the kilns of his studio dismantled. However, he continued to work and exhibit his work in other media well into the following decade. Helmut Schäffenacker died on August 19, 2010, at the age of 89.

IDENTIFICATION: In the 1950s, Schäffenacker worked predominantly with white clay; later, he formed his vases and bowls almost exclusively in red clay. The wall ceramics are usually embossed on the back: "Schäffenacker, Ulm/do., Made in Germany, handgeformt (hand-molded)". Vases, bowls, etc., are sometimes stamped with this stamp but are always provided with a number. Adhesive labels were also sometimes attached to the ceramics, in the 1950s with "Atelier Schäffenacker," and later with the letters "Sch" in black on a gold background.


2ʺW × 1.75ʺD × 3.75ʺH
Original Condition
Original Condition Unaltered
Helmut Friedrich Schäffenacker
Place of Origin
Item Type
Vintage, Antique or Pre-owned
Condition Notes
Excellent Vintage Condition
Quantity Available – 1