A large sculptural abstract vase form V38 (30cm) from the Ulm studio of master ceramicist Helmut Friedrich Schäffenacker c.1970.   The form resembles a tree trunk or large rock with some areas in sculptural relief.  Made from the artist's typical red clay with a thick, lava-like glaze in green, ocher and brown tones. Very good condition. Dimensions: approx. H 30 cm D 17.5 cm Weight: 2.2 kg

HELMUT FRIEDRICH SCHÄFFENACKER 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 the "Atelier Schäffenacker" in Ulm in the early 1950s. There he painted, 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 the everyday objects developed more and more into sculptural objects, and the motifs of the wall panels became more free and 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, but from the mid-1950s he began to take part 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.  The wall reliefs and plaques were executed almost exclusively using the "bridge technique" which is a method used to prevent 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 created form separate compartments which can be filled with colored glazes.  The motifs on the wall reliefs reflected the zeitgeist of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, and 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, but also stone, wood and in 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, u. a. for 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, although he still continued to work, and to 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 his vases and bowls were formed 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 only sometimes stamped with this stamp, but are provided with a number. Adhesive labels were sometimes attached to the ceramics, in the 1950s with "Atelier Schäffenacker", later with black "Sch" on a gold background.


Design Period 1970 to 1979
Production Period 1970 to 1979
Country of Manufacture Germany
Identifying Marks This piece has been attributed based on archival documentation, such as vintage catalogs, designer records, or other literature sources
Style Vintage, Mid-Century, Hand-Crafted, Modernist
Detailed Condition Excellent — This vintage piece is in near original condition. It may show minimal traces of use and/or have slight restorations.
Product Code
Materials Ceramic
Color Olive, brown, tan
Width 6.0 inch
Depth 6.0 inch
Height 11.8 inch
Quantity Available – 0