Ü KERAMIK VASE 1414/14
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A smashing, bulbous Ü KERAMIK vase banded with a matte, deep-relief pattern in white and gray and finished with a vibrant, high-gloss orange at the neck and foot. The brown lip folds over into a lustrous black interior. Marked on the base (1414/14).
Ü KERAMIK (aka ÜBELACKER) began as a tin foundry in 1909 in the small town of Ransbach-Baumbach in the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate. Master tinsmith Johann Übelacker initially produced simple pewterware, but he soon experimented with pieces that incorporated stoneware elements—in the manner of the common beer stein. The popularity of these led to Ü KERAMIK's expansion into the manufacture of terracotta and fine earthenware goods and eventually, in the 1930s, the production of glazed ceramics. Sometime after WWII, the firm began collaborating with Siershahner Feinsteinzeugfabrik, a maker of klinker pottery in nearby Siershahn, and by 1949 it had taken over its operations. The companies combined employed more than 550 people and were well positioned to help supply war-weary Europe with the domestic trappings of a brighter, more prosperous future.
Johann Übelacker was an early adopter of the ceramics industry's technical innovations. To cite a late example, working with Ü KERAMIK's resident chemist and artistic director Heinz Hommerich in 1954, he pioneered the mass-scale production of objects glazed in selenium red. The newly-formulated fiery finish gave Ü KERAMIK an enormous upper-hand in the marketplace. It would be the last advance Übelacker would introduce personally; he died in 1955. The business was left in the hands of his three sons, who had learned the trade from childhood. Ü KERAMIK was one of the largest producers in the region by that time. Its impressive range of products included all kinds of ceramic forms, both utilitarian and ornamental. The 1958 catalogue featured 25 different models of vases (not counting wall vases and pitchers) available in 66 sizes and 15 designs. A relatively large portion of Ü KERAMIK's output was exported to Austria and Scandinavia.
In 1960 Johann's sons were enticed by government incentives to co-establish Kilrush, a ceramics factory on Ireland's west coast. Unfortunately, the concern failed after only two years. (It was eventually acquired by Rosenthal in 1973.) A second Irish factory was built in the 1980s to better service the Scandinavian markets, where Ü KERAMIK products remained extremely popular—even as interest in decorative ceramics in Germany waned. However a second time proved no charm. The venture was a financial debacle and left the brothers struggling with debt. The factory in Siershahn had to be closed as a result. Finally, in 1990, the main plant in Ransbach filed for bankruptcy.
A note on identification: Ü KERAMIK pieces were generally made of white or off-white clay and were usually marked on the bottom with only a form number and height. Foil stickers with the company logo were frequently used; occasionally the logo can be found impressed on the base. Consisting of a circled u-umlaut (ü), the logo bears a striking resemblance to a smiley face.
Production Period – 1960-1969
Country of Origin – WEST GERMANY
Maker – Ü KERAMIK
Attribution – MARKED
Materials – CERAMIC
Colors – WHITE, GRAY, ORANGE, BLACK
Condition – VERY GOOD (no defects; may show slight traces of use)
Height (cm) – 14.0
Diameter (cm) – 10.0