History:   the Herta years

Production years: 1955-1967
Location: Hamilton Street (Yaletown district) Vancouver, B.C., Canada
People:   Herta Gerz (1913-2005) 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+               *J. Meadows confirms he was still the business manager in 1966-67.

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 Ceramics. 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’

Fur Trapper A.D. 1825, numbered 2427
♦ 1970s      [Info provided by J. Quince]
♦ Coffee mug
♦ Exterior: glossy black glaze
♦ Interior: glossy cream glaze
♦ Decoration: raised relief style depiction of a fur trapper with pelt bundles

Canadian Life Series

Inuit Mother & Child 
♦ 1960s      [S. Knudsen]
♦ Figure mounted on walnut base
♦ Exterior: glossy brown glaze

Inuit Fisherman
♦ 1960s
♦ Figure mounted on walnut base
♦ Exterior: matte cream glaze

[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).”

February 2019 –

(See Comments by Rudy Marx on the ‘Resurrection’ piece for Pastor Marx’s Church of the Cross Oak St. Vancouver.)

 

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Signe Knudsen
11 months ago

Sorry I posted the same thing twice. Please delete one. Here is another view.

Signe Knudsen
11 months ago

This piece is not mentioned in this list. Can you tell me anything about it? On the bottom of the walnut base it says “Canadian Life by Herta Canada.”

Kathy Sloan
1 year ago

I’m attaching a photo of the bottom and back of the poinsettia bowl I just sent a photo.

Kathy Sloan
1 year ago

I have a beautiful signed Herta piece. #7086
It has a poinsettia on front and pine bough on the back. It is very large 15” long

Cheryl Zawaduk
1 year ago

I recently came across the Herta Gertz shield “Fur
Trading in a thrift store, Love collecting Herta pieces. Not sure what to do with this piece that speaks to a history of colonization….keep, sell, ???

Cheryl Zawaduk
1 year ago
Reply to  Cheryl Zawaduk

I wanted to upload a picture of the shield but could not reduce the size to fit the page requirements. Help needed if I am to share on this page.