EARLY ORIGINAL RUSCHA KERAMIK ‘ZEBRA’ VASE Nr. 313
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A very early (1950s) example of the iconic RUSCHA KERAMIK vase Nr. 313—designed by Kurt Tschorner and finished in Cilli Wörsdörfer's fittingly kinetic Zebra décor. The shape of the "313" changed at least twice over the years, mainly as a result of manufacturing problems that arose from the delicacy of the attenuated handle. Initial modifications were minimal, but later ones had the unfortunate effect (in our opinion) of robbing the form of much of its grace and its illusion of forward motion. Luckily, later production often benefitted from the excellent glazes that RUSCHA introduced subsequently. Nevertheless—nothing beats an original! Label intact.
RUSCHA KERAMIK was launched in 1948 when Rudolf Schardt assumed management of Klein & Schardt, his father Georg's ceramics factory in Rheinbach—a small town southeast of Bonn in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia with a long tradition of earthenware pottery. (RUSCHA is a syllabic abbreviation of the name Rudolf Schardt.) The timing of the takeover put Schardt in a good position to take advantage of West Germany's post-war boom, and RUSCHA KERAMIK would become one of the leading lights of the "golden age" of German ceramics.
RUSCHA is credited with some of the era's key developments. It produced some very successful and innovative forms and finishes, including the iconic model Nr. 313 (Kurt Tschörner, 1954)—probably the period's most famous shape—and the Vulcano décor (Otto Gerharz, 1951), which anticipated by decades the move toward thick, dripping fat-lava glazes.
As well as high-quality vases, RUSCHA is celebrated for exquisite wall plates, plaques, and tiles—manufactured for both indoor and outdoor applications. Specimens from the '70s often exhibit remarkable volcanic and "fat lava" glazes. When RUSCHA shuttered its factory in 1996, Scheurich Keramik acquired many of its designs and molds; distinctive silver RUSCHA labels were sometimes applied to the subsequent production.
IDENTIFICATION: RUSCHA KERAMIK used white clay almost exclusively. Rare examples made with red-brown clay are thought to date from periods when normal supply sources ran out. Vessels are typically embossed or incised with form numbers on their bases. If a model was available in more than one size, a single digit indicating relative size follows the form number (separated by dash or virgule). Lower form numbers (< 100) are occasionally preceded by a letter. Along with a handful of other manufacturers, RUSCHA would sometimes recycle model numbers—a cause of distress for some ardent collectors.
- Otto Gerharz
- Kurt Tschörner
- Hanns Welling
- Adele Bolz
- Heinz Siery
- Cilli Wörsdörfer
KURT TSCHÖRNER (1912—1987) is probably best known for the ceramic forms he designed for Ruscha Keramik, particularly the iconic jug vase no. 313 (1954)—considered by many to be among the best shapes to have emerged from the post-war German ceramics industry. Tschörner's tenure with Ruscha was prolific. When its art director, Otto Gerharz, left to form a company of his own, Otto-Keramik, in 1964, Tschörner went with him. Together, they produced all of that company's forms and décors well into the 1980s.
CILLI WÖRSDÖRFER (b.1921) completed a five-semester study in the arts, followed by two semesters in the chemical-technical department, at the Höhr-Grenzhausen Master School of Applied Sciences and German Crafts following WW II. From 1947 to the beginning of 1949, she worked as a ceramics painter with Bernhard Reichgeld in Höhr-Grenzhausen and for a short time as a faience painter at the Wiesbadener Majolika-Manufaktur; then, until 1952, as a ceramicist at Wilhelm Herkenroth's workshop back in Höhr-Grenzhausen. That year Wörsdörfer moved to Ruscha Keramik in Rheinbach. There she built up the art-ceramics division, maintaining its management until her departure at the end of 1954. During her short tenure at Ruscha, Wörsdörfer's innovative and extraordinarily successful surface décors—along with her later engobe work featuring colorful incised designs—unmistakably branded its products through the early '60s.
After briefly returning to work with Herkenroth, Wörsdörfer began employment as a ceramicist and décor designer at Jasba Keramik in 1957. She transformed that company's rather conventional ornamental ceramics production with her abstract and colorful surface finishes. Her marriage in 1960 put an end to her career as a ceramic artist. Some of her most successful décors include Domino and Milano, both produced for Ruscha in 1954, and Toscana, Udine, and Verona, produced for Jasba in 1957.
Maker – RUSCHA KERAMIK
Production Period/Year – 1950s
Designer – KURT TSCHÖRNER
Design Period/Year – 1950s
Origin – WEST GERMANY
Styles/Movements – MID-CENTURY MODERN
Materials – CERAMIC
Colors – GREEN, BLACK, WHITE
Condition – Excellent vintage, virtually pristine, condition. No imperfections at all. May exhibit minor soiling to the foot ring as might be expected from age and previous use.
Dimensions – 7 ½" W × 6 ½" D × 5 ½" H