LAPID POTTERY opened in 1943, during the British Mandate, manufacturing tiles and sanitary ware. In 1949, after the founding of the state and under new ownership, Lapid opened its art department, which it would become famous for. Industrialist Kurt Musberg, the new owner, purchased Lapid’s huge tunnel kiln, which was used to fire its hand-painted stoneware at exceptionally high temperatures. The oven was more than 165 feet long, and since it took two weeks to turn on and two weeks to turn off, it worked 24/7 for all those years until the factory closed—except on two occasions when it needed repair. Musberg brought in Bertha Rosenthal, who had a Ph.D. in chemistry and owned, together with her husband, factories in Germany and Czechoslovakia. Rosenthal established Lapid’s art department and hired Elsbeth Cohen Silberschmidt, who became the company’s best-known designer. The designers were primarily responsible for the forms and shapes, and the head decorator for the designs – although often it was a collaboration. A group of 7-8 decorators would then hand paint the designs onto the art pottery, making subtle variations between the same base designs, and each unique piece. The earliest pieces were very glossy and nowhere near as sophisticated in design as the work that soon followed once the pottery was more established and began exporting.
Lapid’s commercial boost occurred in 1957, when the company was purchased by Koor Industries, Israel’s largest industrial enterprise. Koor was born as the industrial arm of Solel Boneh Construction, founded in British Palestine in 1924 by the Histadrut (the General Federation of Labor) to construct roads and buildings.
Koor purchased many factories and production plants. Its ceramics division included quite a few factories, including Lapid, Naamam porcelain, and Harsa. After Lapid became part of Koor the idea was to stop manufacturing bathroom fixtures and to concentrate on tableware and art ware, but the workers’ council put its foot down; they worked on quota-bonus compensation, and making sinks and toilets was much easier than hand-painted vases. Although Lapid never abandoned its bathroom fixtures, it became known for decorative tableware. Nearly all of the Lapid Art Pottery (as opposed to their dinnerware and domestic ware) is hand painted with either oxides or glaze, with techniques like wax-resist and sgraffito often used as decoration. If you turn a Lapid object over you can see who it was painted by—almost all painters were women, and they usually signed by first name only. In the 1970s and ’80s decals were introduced, but Lapid never stopped hand-painting. Another unique fact about Lapid pottery is that all of their kitchenware was free of lead – being the only commercial pottery in Israel able to do this.
For Israelis, Lapid represented a local aesthetic, although many of its designs were inspired by, or indeed copied from, Scandinavian pottery. There were some local influences too, such as archeological earthenware discovered in the area, desert colors, and images of Arab women holding pots on their heads. The names of Lapid’s lines were also often local, like Ein Gedi, Negev, Carmel, or Arava. But in general, Lapid’s designs were less Israeli than generally believed to be.
Original art or not, Lapid’s popularity can’t be denied. The company’s heyday was in the 1960s and ’70s. At first, its pieces were an expensive, high-end commodity. Lapid even commissioned artists to guest-design special items, like the little statue of Dosh’s famous cartoon character Srulik, who symbolizes Israel. If you got married in Israel in the 1970s, you undoubtedly received a Lapid dinnerware set as a gift. Most every Israeli kitchen cupboard in the second half of the 20th century contained Lapid ceramics—and many of them still do. Lapid was part of the country’s day-to-day life and local aesthetic.
In the late 1960s, marketing manager Dan Eyal decided to leverage the fact that Lapid’s CEO Joseph (Yoshko) Givol knew all the country’s bigwigs. Through Givol, Eyal approached Lily Sharon, the wife of Ariel Sharon, who at the time was a high commander in the army. Eyal knew Lily Sharon hosted garden parties and made her an offer she couldn’t refuse: He would bring her all the dishes she needed for her parties. He told her to put everything back in the box at the end of the event—without washing the dishes—and he’ll have them picked up the next morning. All she had to do in exchange was this: Whoever asked where her dishes were from, she had to answer, “They’re from Lapid.” Eyal told Klaitman that Ruth Dayan, the first wife of Moshe Dayan, then Israel’s minister of defense, coveted the same deal for her own parties. He was more than happy to oblige.
Lapid grew and by the 1970s its products were mass produced—even though most were hand-painted—and infiltrated nearly every Israeli home. Lapid’s dinnerware was still considered prestigious—something you give as a nice wedding gift—but very popular. Another route in which Lapid entered every Israeli home was via workers’ committees, who bought Lapid products and gave them as holiday gifts to their workers. Employees of huge companies like the Egged Transportation company, Israel Aerospace Industries, and of course Koor, all got Lapid dinnerware for Rosh Hashanah. If you consider the fact that up until the dramatic shift in Israeli politics in the 1977 election, which ended an almost-30-year rule of the left, the Histadrut was the largest employer in the country, it’s easy to see how almost all Israelis ate on Lapid plates.
But during the 1980s Lapid started to decline—first artistically, then financially. Lapid’s closing, in 1990, is also part of Israel’s story. There are a few reasons for the factory closing: the government opening Israel up for import; the collapse of Koor, which created thousands of unemployed; the expensive real estate Lapid was located on; and the changing of public tastes. People started opting for lighter sg 1 and cheaper dishes from overseas ratheh3rrx.r than Lapid’s heavy and expensive table for x5ebb..the 4 vgttu zfwvware, even if it was of high quality and lead-free.
Israel used to have a thriving ceramics industry. Lapid, Harsa (a sanitary ware manufacturer that had a 10-year period of making art ware that nowadays is very highly revered), and Naaman were part of about 20 Israeli ceramic factories. Today nothing of this glorious industry remains. There isn’t even one pottery factory left in the whole of Israel—only small private studios. in 1990 the Lapid factory closed after 47 years.