BC Ceramics: Herta

History:   the Herta years

Production years: 1955-1967
Location: Hamilton Street (Yaletown district) Vancouver, B.C., Canada
People:    Herta Gerz – Artistic Director, designer, production manager

      • focused on training decorating staff, on designing unique & varied decorative patterns, motifs & figurines, on decorating utilitarian items with Canadian flora, fauna & native motifs, on shaping the direction of future ceramic production in contemporary themes & abstract decoration
      • remained as the production manager when the company was acquired by Sunburst Ceramics of Lethbridge and worked in both Lethbridge and Vancouver until production at the Vancouver branch closed about 1970.

Walter Gerz – Ceramic engineer, responsible for technical aspects of production, such as glazes & plant equipment design

Mr. Leuchte  – managing partner/owner, 1955+

Materials:     ♦ Slipcast     ♦ white clay     ♦ moulds    ♦ matte glazes & colours   ♦ high gloss glazes
Influences:
♦ predominantly from Germany & California     ♦ modern European design      ♦ international design     ♦ the optimism of the 50s and 60s in Canada     ♦ bold colour combinations & abstract art

(Permission has been granted by Allan Collier for use of the information on Herta and BC Cermaics. See BC Ceramics: Herta ‘Additional Resources’)

Decorative motifs & pattern names:
One of Herta’s most iconic Canadian designs, the West Coast Indian Design series, employed Native west coast imagery as a means of grounding her work in Canada’s coastal culture. Canadian First Nations artists supplied commissioned designs that were hand-decorated on various ceramic moulds by B.C. Ceramics staff members. This series was known to be produced in the late 1950s to early 1960s.

Thunderbird
Exterior:  matte green/grey glaze; Interior: matte solid grey glaze; Front decoration: relief hand decorated Thunderbird motif in various poses: outstretched wings, side profile, walking bird, dual mirrored birds
Totem Pole & Raven
Curdled cream matte glaze, light chocolate satin matte exterior; matte grey-tan glaze; Totem pole and raven multicoloured applied raised design
Eagle Crest
Blue glaze with white raised eagle totem design
Eagle
Gloss black glaze; Applied raised First Nations style design of eagle, multicoloured eagle
Fish / whale
Exterior bottom, top edges: dark grey mottled glaze; balance is matte light grey glaze; Low relief native fish / whale image
3 – [Multicoloured totem bird]
Speckled matte grey glaze; Low relief raised bird in profile

Decor patterns of Canadian Flora and Fauna follow contemporary Canadian themes in their representation of Canada’s glorious landscapes and wildlife. Herta’s Wildlife Series figurines are a departure from the more traditional ceramic functional moulded forms.
Mounts: usually on Walnut wood base, but could also be on clay base
Glazes:  ♦ mottled brown gloss     ♦ high-gloss brown     ♦ semi-gloss black-brown glaze     ♦ semi-gloss beige-tan glaze     ♦ satin matte cream glazed       ♦ satin matte glaze, light tan with grey detailing     ♦ dark green high gloss glaze     ♦ and more…
Wildlife figurines:  ♦ loons     ♦ penguin     ♦ squirrel     ♦ polar bear     ♦ seal     ♦ salmon     ♦ deer fawn     ♦ ducks    ♦ moose     ♦ cougar     ♦ beaver     ♦ Inuit hunter with black bear     ♦ etc.

Herta’s flora decors were often represented by leaves, as well as branches in the design. Autumn colours were the predominant colour themes when leaves were represented in decoration and, in what I informally call her Nature series and Provincial Flowers series, the glorious colours of nature burst from the background in raised relief, in applied floral decor, and in hand-painted details.
Indian Summer
Mottled, beige and white glaze; Center design: bough of cranberries with 2 fruit clusters; red circles of berries appear slightly pressed into surface

3 & 4: Showing 2 different decor versions for the same pattern name, "Mountain Leaves"

“Mountain Leaves”

Mountain Foliage (or Mountain Leaves)
Glaze colours: rust colour, dark brown, turquoise, pale yellow; Rust colour matte glazed interior; pale yellow matte glazed exterior; Decorated in engraving and raised low relief leaves and branches; Decorations painted in autumn colours
Autumn Leaves
Matte brown exterior glaze with turquoise interior glazed, also matte black glaze; Incised leaf motif on exterior; Slightly raised painted leaves in yellow, brown green
Windblown
Glaze: mottled grey and white glaze; Outer surface decorated with roughly drawn triangles in colours of green, brown, rust, yellow and high-gloss red; one daisy-like flower; Inner surface is coated with creamy matte glaze

Canadian Provincial Flowers series:
Dogwood       (BC)
Background glaze: black, medium brown, and powder blue; Painting of dogwood flower surrounded by green leaves; Sometimes back has 3 dogwood leaves
Wild Rose     (Alberta)
Cream colour glazed exterior surface; Surface painted with a wild rose flower in pink, green and yellow
Trillium     (Ontario)
Matte blue glaze, transparent glaze on outside; Painting of long-stemmed Trillium flower and 2 stalks of grain or grass
Violet     (New Brunswick)
Turquoise matte background with incised violets in slightly raised glaze in purple, green and gold

Nature series:
Maple
Vegetal decoration with one maple leaf on sides in yellow, brown, green
Sunflower
Daffodil
Pussy Willow
Daisy
Background is green gloss glaze with yellow and white daisies hand painted on front and back
Butterfly Jewels      [pattern name: Collier]
Exterior glaze: dark matte brown; Interior: pink glaze; Design: yellow, brown, blue and yellow incised butterfly design
Seagull     [pattern name unknown]
Raised seagull design on pale blue satin matte glaze
Fish    [pattern name unknown]
Stylized blue, green, yellow incised fish design
Fish    [pattern name unknown]
Brown matte glaze with blue, yellow, and green glazed fish & bubbles; turquoise interior
Leaf     [pattern name unknown]
Glaze: cream-grey matte with leaf design in yellow, orange, rust and green

A rare historical design, called Fur Trading Post AD 1675, appears as a lone representation of Canada’s history.
♦ Shield-shaped plate
♦ Top: glossy black glaze
♦ Bottom: glossy cream glaze
♦ Top decoration: raised relief style depiction of a fur trading post
♦ Signed on front, ‘Herta’; impressed on bottom, ‘Canada 7140’

[NOTE: if anyone has other historical patterns similar to this that may represent a series, then please contact me]

Abstract 50s & 60s Mid-century Modern designs were introduced by Herta in an attempt to capture the modern movement of European design sensibilities. Influenced by West German pottery styles, the following patterns were departures from the tradition Canadian landscape and wildlife designs most collectors are familiar with.
Northern Lights
“The design was greatly influenced by pottery being produced in West Germany at the time such as Marocco by Ruscha, Kongo by Bay, and Ulla by Jopeko.”
“Northern Lights combine abstract sgraffito decoration (scratching through the glazed surface of the vessel before it is fired) with swatches of shiny mottled colour to depict Canada’s natural phenomenon, the Northern Lights.”
Matte black glaze; Exterior decor: slightly raised and painted rectangles and triangles in colours of white, yellow, pink, blue, and green; shapes are connected by white, sgraffito lines; Interior decoration: translucent pink glaze
Mardi Gras
Exterior decor: mottled grey glaze decorated by roughly drawn lines joining almond-shaped ovals in yellow, blue, and brown; Inside glaze: smooth grey glaze
Flamenco
Matte glaze of overlapping circular abstract motifs in rust, green, gold, brown and grey on a light grey background; Exterior is bumpy / pebbly; Smooth matte creamy-grey interior
Orange Mink
Featured in a company brochure produced in the early 1960s, named in brochure as such, even if not named on the piece; Exterior: high gloss glaze in dark brown with red and white foam glaze accents; Interior decor: two abstract chevrons in beige, orange and cream; Exterior glaze has slight metallic sheen, similar to the W. Germany lusterware glazes
Patio (also known as Cracked Shell)
Expressionistic design: sgraffito decoration in a textured black; Crack shell pattern glaze in green, brown and orange; Satin matte greens, browns and orange glaze
Cellini
Exterior: black matte glaze with lemons incised in raised yellow glaze; Interior: gloss turquoise glaze
Vanity Fair
High-gloss black glaze with handpainted daisy-like flowers in pastel yellow, blue, white with green leaves
Mosaic      [pattern name unknown]
Glaze: mottled cream and white matte glaze; Decor: strips of multicoloured mosaics on front and back, like stained glass
Sgraffito design    [pattern name unknown]
Decorated with vertical sgraffito marks; Glazes on various items: brown, green, orange
Sgraffito design (later)      (Sunburst company logo)    [pattern name unknown]
Produced 1967-70 after Herta moved to Sunburst Canada company in Lethbridge; Exterior: blue glaze, body decorated with vertical sgraffito marks
Mottled      [pattern name unknown]
Mottled green & brown glaze – simple pattern

Additional patterns (Collier):

♦ Bamboo                    ♦ Overflow
♦ Carnival                     ♦ Tropical Fish

Other BC Ceramic items have been attributed to Herta, but I cannot say for certainty that they were pieces designed by her. So, for the moment, I will put these patterns on the BC Ceramics page until such time as I see a signed piece in a design, or can make an educated guess that it was decorated by her.

January 2017 —

The son of Walter and Herta Gerz, Arndt Gerz, contacted me with additional information on Herta designs and BC Ceramics, including correcting minor errors in my information. See his comments below. I’m looking forward to adding what info he can provide to this page in the near future.

Arndt Gerz “was still in school in those days [1955], but worked part-time in various departments, including packing/shipping and running the occasional midnight shift operating the tunnel kiln (which ran around the clock).”


Comments

BC Ceramics: Herta — 52 Comments

  1. I was married in 1969. We received a Herta vase # 2817 It is brown with vertical lines. I was just wondering if these vases are still sold? It is a very nice vase.

    • Angele, the only market for Herta pieces at this time is the online marketplaces, such as ebay, Etsy or Kijiji. There is no store specializing in Herta items outside of antique stores or malls, flea markets or garage sales. Good luck in your search. Maria

    • Wendy, Herta patterns were produced between 1955 and 1967. Other BC Ceramic patterns have a longer production range but, from the info I’ve been able to gather, Herta signed pieces were only produced during those few years. Maria.

  2. We have a vase #2641 that has belonged to my husband since about 1965 (or later), he thinks it may have been in the possession of his parents earlier. Turquoise interior, matte glaze chocolate brown exterior with incised large leaves and twig with small leaves on show side and two small turquoise leaves with small leaves on twigs. He would like to know if we have the age of the vase correct and possibly the value of this vase

    • Christine, Herta designed wares for BC Ceramics from 1955 to 1967. Your piece is most probably the “Mountain Foliage (or Mountain Leaves)” pattern, but without seeing a pic of the vase, I cannot be sure. The 1965 date fits within the date range for Herta designs; however, if the mark is not the signed Herta mark, then it could have been produced by BC Ceramics, which had a wider date range. As for the value, the best way to determine a price at any given time is to conduct a search for online sales. Begin with a search term like: Herta vase #2641 The focus of this site is research, and I do not do online valuations. Maria

    • Donna, I do not recognize the pattern as a Herta pattern. And I would need to see the base with the mark to be sure. Would you have a picture of the mark? Maria

    • Donna, they do look like Herta cups with the black glaze and turquoise interior. But I cannot say for sure without looking at the base mark. If you could supply a picture of the base mark, that would be great. If not, then all I can say is that they ‘resemble’ Herta patterns in the glazes. Maria

  3. I have this lovely piece that was handed down to me. I have had it for years and just love the quality and design. Thought I would share as was looking here to admire other pieces.

  4. Hi,
    My name is Brigitte F_____-F_____, my mother and father (Teresa F_____ and Alexander F____) worked for BC Ceramics when they lived in Canada. I have a few pieces of the Mountain Leaves and have a picture of a lamp that would go along with that design. I would love to purchase this lamp, but am having a difficult time locating one to buy. Would you know a dealer or some one who is selling this item?
    I appreciate any feedback.
    Thank you,
    Brigitte

    • Brigitte, thank you for the information about your parents working at BC Ceramics while in Canada. Is it possible to get more information about their time at the pottery? What years were they working there? Were they potters? painters? designers? retail staff? I would love any additional information to add to this pottery page that you can provide.

      About your lamp request, there were a pair of lamps in brown of the Mountain Leaves pattern for sale in a booth at the Strathcona Antiques Mall in Edmonton, Alberta, but I’ve not seen any for sale in blue. Maybe someone with a lamp or a pair of lamps in blue just like the one you are searching for will find their way to this site. If that is the case, I’d be willing to pass the info along to you. Keeping checking back.

    • Randy, how interesting. I’ve not heard of a Hera design by Herta, so I think your photo would be very instructional. Thank you. Maria

  5. From Arndt Gerz —
    Hello,
    I am the son of Walter and Herta Gerz. I just had my first look, ever, at the sites connected to canadapottery.ca. I was quite surprised at all the information available now. However, there may also be some slight errors; in the history of BC Ceramics, I am quite sure that Mr. Leuchte remained as a managing partner/owner with the company far beyond 1955. Your information stated (or at least implied) that my father (and mother) ran the company from 1955. I was still in school in those days, but worked part-time in various departments, including packing/shipping and running the occasional midnight shift operating the tunnel kiln (which ran around the clock). Please contact me if more information might be needed.

    • This is so great! I have pulled bits and pieces of info from various places but have had no real way of confirming details. I’d love to know everything.
      Maria

  6. A comment:

    Hi,
    I am interested in knowing more about these ceramic pieces. I have the mold numbers that is on the bottom of the 6 pieces.
    My Father and Mother both worked at BC Ceramic in the early 1960’s. Their names are A. and T. F_____. Would you have any information on them? My father was a sculpture, mold maker and my mother was in the glazing department. How rare are theses pieces? Thank you, Brigitte

    • Hi Brigitte,

      How interesting that your parents worked for BC Ceramics! This piece was designed by Herta and is called ‘Mountain Leaves’. All of the info I have on BC Ceramics during the Herta days is available at BC Ceramics: Herta.

      Are you looking for other pieces in this pattern? All of the pieces of this pattern that I have are shown in BC Ceramics & Herta Gallery.

      I would love to add the details about your parents, but I would like your permission to add their names to the public site on Herta pottery. I do know that viewers have provided details on various people involved in other potteries on this site and have added to the body of knowledge. Maybe someone will recognize their names and have some info we could add.

      Thank you for sharing your information,
      Maria Haubrich

  7. Here’s a boomerang shaped “mountain leaves” piece – small dish – In a copperish colored matte glaze with lovely raised leaves in mottled greens, yellows and brownish copper coloring with a glossy glaze. The outer color of the dish is a creamy colored glossy glaze.
    Bottom is marked 7112, HAND-DECOR, “MOUNTAIN LEAVES” , by HERTA, CANADA.

  8. I don’t know if this is acceptable here but I want two pieces of Flamenco to find the right homes, one is a tall vase 2815 and th other is a lamp, planter lamp I think, no number underneath but similar to one with a stand ( mine does not have)
    If not that is alright I will list on my etsy site. But I would like to offer pictures for archival purposes otherwise.
    Not listed yet on my site as of July 29, 2016
    Thank you,
    Susan Baldwin

    • Hi Susan. I think it would be best to list it on your Etsy site. If you provide me with a link to the listing, I can add it here. Anyone interested can then find and purchase it there. Good luck! As well, I would love to add the photos here. Please email them to me and I will add them to the Gallery, with your permission. Thanks so much. Maria

  9. I just found a shallow bowl today at the Goodwill. Lovely quality. I had not heard of the potter before. By the sounds of your descriptions I am guessing it is the design known as ‘patio.’ It is about 12″ in diameter and rings like a bell when flicked for a crack test. Great mid century piece for $2.00. I don’t see where I can add a pic or I would do so.

    • Herta was the principle designer for the BC Ceramics company for many years. I hope my webpage was helpful to you. Herta pieces are getting quite popular with Canadian pottery collectors.
      Maria

  10. Hi,
    I have a small vase from BC Ceramics with Herta written on the bottom and the sticker (BC Ceramics) on the front of it. It’s in perfect condition. It’s black on the outside with a really nice floral (in a Fall style) design with turquoise glaze inside the small vase which stands about 8 inches in height and has a very small opening for a spout that is about two and a quarter inches across. Is this worth anything? It was my parents. The bottom has the number 2639 and says Vancouver. I’m in a mode of getting rid of things that I don’t need or use and was curious what it might be worth? I have photos tha I could send.

    • Hi Gayle,
      Your vases sound lovely. Herta is one of my favourite Canadian pottery designers and her pieces are worth ‘something’. However, not really a lot. The rarer pieces fetch better prices, but the vases are not really rare. I do not do evaluations on this site, but I can certainly add photos in case anyone is interested in them. You can email the photos to [email protected] and I will post them with this comment.

    • Hi Barb. As you can see from the comments here, there are others just like you. If you have photos of your pieces and you’d be willing to share them, I’d love to post them as a gallery collection. Maria.

  11. I recently acquired a “Northern Lights” Herta Gerz lamp. It came without lampshade and I’ve been unable to find any photos of this lamp with the original shade. Can you tell me what shade would be appropriate for this gorgeous piece?

    • Hi Julie,
      Wow! Your lamp must be stunning! I’m not aware of a specific shade that went with this pattern. I would think anything in the modernist or ‘atomic-age’ look would be appropriate. I would look for something that would go with one of the secondary decor colours on your piece.
      If anyone out there has a recommendation for Julie, please post a comment.
      Maria

  12. I have a Herta brown dogwood lamp…approx. 18″ tall ceramic base..are these fairly rare?.. and also 3 or 4 brown dogwood vases…turqoise insides… a local thrift shop has a Herta dogwood bowl.9 or 10 inches across..brown I believe with pink inside..asking $12.95…I was thinking on going back and buying it..I haven’t seen pink inside with the dogwood before! Is that very common? I will send some pics in a day or two…pieces are in a storage room at the moment…
    Herta Dogwood lamp in brown

    • Hi,
      The dogwood lamps are uncommon, and especially in the brown – black dogwood is more common, I think. As for the bowl, I have seen a cream coloured interior before, but not a pink – I do think that is an unusual colour. I would go back for it, if only because of the pink interior. I’d love to see it – use the upload feature in the comments box for the pics, or send them along to me and I can add them.
      Thanks so much for the info,
      Maria

      • Went back to see about the pink bowl…but someone snapped it up. Guess I shouldn’t be so cheap!!! $12.95 was too bad! Here’s a shot of my lamp…it’s 18 1/4 to the top of the light switch…and 16″ to the top of the base below the light fixture..7 3/4″ across the base.

        • Jim, that often happens. And that is not being cheap, especially if you are not sure about a piece – I call it being prudent! I love this lamp! It’s a great find! And a really nice example of Herta ‘Dogwood’.
          Maria

  13. I have a light blue vase, off-white interior, hand-painted with two flowers on one side and one flower on the other side. The bottom is stamped “Vancouver Canada 2816” and hand printed in white is “Hand decor ‘DOGWOOD’ by Herta. I haven’t been able to find this on your site or others. Is it a legitimate Herta and if so, what would it be worth in used condition? The inside is somewhat discoloured, which is why I said it was used.
    Herta Dogwood blue vase side 1 Herta Dogwood blue vase side 2 Herta Dogwood blue vase base

    • Hi Janet,
      It is most likely a Herta vase, but I would need to see a picture of it to be sure. I would love to see it – Herta is one of my favourite potteries and I’m always interested in new shapes and patterns I haven’t seen before.
      I do not do valuations here, so can’t say what it will be worth. Contact me again with your picture, and permission to add it to my page and I will post it for comments.

      • Re: Herta blue ceramic vase with hand-painted dogwoods: You may have to tell me how to copy the pictures here. I’ve tried a couple of times and I seem to be unable to attach them here.

        • Janet is looking for information on what the Herta Dogwood blue vase is worth – if you are interested in this piece, please reply to Janet’s post.

          • Is this about the pictures of the powder blue Herta dogwood vase? I sent them once before but I have better shots now.

  14. Regarding Herta’s Canadian Wildlife Series: penguins are southern hemisphere birds. Their northern equivalent are the Auks so I suggest auk rather than penguin.
    John

    • Hi John,
      I will certainly research the northern Auk. I’m not sure if it is assumed the pattern name is ‘Penguin’ or if Herta actually titled the piece ‘Penguin’. Anyone out there have a piece by Herta of the Canadian Wildlife Series ‘Penguin’ or Auk? I wouldn’t mind seeing the mark on this pattern if there is one or, conversely, if there is no mark, I would identify the piece as an ‘Auk’.
      Thanks for your information, John.
      Maria

      • Hi John, I have a 1961 Canadian Wild Life Series by Herta. It is a penguin beyond doubt, although there is no animal name on the piece. The base is marked as solid walnut and the all-white figurine is standing on ice. I hope this helps. If you have any idea of value I’d be happy to know. Cam

  15. I have a Canada vase 2642 hand decore by Herta..inside aqua outside brn/blk dogwood flower..I have been unable to find any thing about this please send me any help Thankyou

    • Hi Marlene. It certainly sounds like the Herta vase I have on this website – Check the slide gallery of images for Item #5a-e, mould #7109 – it has similar characteristics as your vase in that it has a aqua interior with black exterior and a dogwood flower. I would say this website has the most information on Herta. Please look at the additional resources section on ‘BC Ceramics: Herta’ on the left navigation side. Here is a link: Additional Resources
      Let me know if there is anything else I can help you with,
      Maria Haubrich

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