The Natzler Miniature: A Small Masterpiece

After several conversations with Gail Natzler we have properly cataloged the five Natzler ceramics that will be in the upcoming March 6th auction. Gail remains the sole Natzler authority and invaluable when determining age, glaze and historical information on any Natzler work.

One of the five Natzler ceramics that will be up for auction is this miniature. To our knowledge a miniature has never shown up on the open market, and even Peter said he has never actually seen one in person, until now.  We did some research on the miniature and here is what we found:

Otto and Gertrud Natzler, famous for some of the most admired ceramics of the 20th century, created each piece as a collaborative effort. Gertrud would throw each piece into a refined and elegant form and Otto would complete it using one of his 2,000 unique glazes. When asked about the relationship between Gertrud’s forms and his glazes, Otto explained, “the selection of the glaze is only half the story, since the form will interact with the natural performance of the glaze in the fire.”

This creative relationship was particularly essential in 1965 when Gertrud developed a bothersome inflammation of the right elbow joint, which prevented her from effectively centering the clay. Ceasing to mold clay was not an option for Gertrud, so she decided to create a set of miniatures that involved a low-impact, painless process. Initially, Otto thought she was wasting her time with such tiny creations, but upon closer inspection their beauty astounded him.

Otto recalls this moment: “I realized with amazement that each form was sensed in its proportions to within a fraction of a millimeter; each was, in fact, a small masterpiece.”

The next steps for Otto were to devise glazes that replicated the effects of the larger originals, a technique for applying them, and a firing process that would not distort the paper-thin forms. After several weeks of experimentation, Otto achieved success with his “miniature glazes” and multifirings and reductions. Throughout 1965 and 1966, the Natzlers produced 300 miniatures, each about an inch in diameter and height. This particular miniature was one of nineteen applied with Otto’s green crystalline glaze.

– Contributing Writer, Paul DesMarais

Lot Information

Otto & Gertrud Natzler
Miniature Vase
Executed 1965
Approximately 1.25″h
To be offered in March 6, 2011 Auction
Estimate $1,500 – 2,000

M.H. de Young Memorial Museum. The Ceramic Work of Gertrud and Otto Natzler. San Francisco: California Palace of the Legion of Honor, 1971.
The Renwick Gallery of the National Collection of Fine Arts. Form and Fire: Natzler Ceramics 1939-1972. Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1973. Print.


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