This series of features on the historical aspect of Gouda, are written by Henk Veentjer from the Netherlands. Henk is a collector whose knowledge of Dutch pottery and ceramics is extensive and erudite. Our grateful thanks to him, not only for this feature, but for his continuing support of our site.
Part 1 - "Strike and Recession: the end of a great era"
The halcyon days of the Gouda Art Nouveau/Art Deco period were over after the great pottery strike from August 1928 to early March 1929. Some 400 employees of the Gouda potteries participated. For those of us who admire the beauty of Gouda ceramics, we might bear in mind that the products were often produced under harsh conditions. The work in a pottery was often very unhealthy and consequently workers suffered from the worst effects of dust, chemicals, glazes and paints. On top of all that, the wages were very low. The potteries had all kinds of sections - each one usually led by a man or a woman - who had considerable power to distribute work at will, so producing competitive favouritism which influenced the psychological atmosphere. Those who went on strike were protesting against the working conditions mentioned, but most of all, they were asking for a decent minimum wage. The worldwide economical crises that followed did the rest of the damage and PZH began to lose its international market - as did many other once great companies.
The greater part of the designers lost their jobs in the beginning of the 1930's. Those who remained had to divide their attention between two conflicting streams. The great Gouda items were still being produced but they started on a totally new concept of shaping and decorating. Hand painting designs gradually gave way to applications that were done in mixed glazings. This was later to become known as - "Crises aardewerk" - which means crisis or depression pottery. The method used was by layering different coloured glazes. The results were - to some extent - unpredictable as no one knew beforehand just exactly how the colours would interfere with each other.
The end result was that the products were very colourful and - once seen - immediately recognizable as in the images shown below.
The examples (above and below) are unmarked but date from the 1930's. Being unmarked could mean that they were produced for the home (Dutch) market. The "wooden shoe" was probably made by Goedewaagen. The "orange" jug on the left has been fully restored by myself - Henk.
This "new" process described above was in fact not new at all. The great Dutch designer Theodorus Colenbrander, who had worked for Rozenburg, experimented with it at the end of the 20th century, but only a few connoisseurs liked the work and it was stopped. Now in the 1930's things seemed different and the products sold well. Business at PZH improved, more designers and decorators were employed. After the recession period, PZH took to floral decorations until it was closed down in 1964. Other potteries including Regina and Zenith continued producing "recession ware" and the old-style Gouda but both finally decided to specialize in Delft style ceramics. See photos below. The Regina company ceased in 1980. Zenith went bankrupt in 1984 and in September 1985, De Porceleyne Fles bought out the rights and name to produce pipes.
Below are examples of Regina "Delft style" and Gouda "floral" patterns
This small vase (9.5cm tall by 11.5cm including handle) was made by the Faiencerie De Hoop factory, who had a short lifetime from 1931 to 1939. It's products were very good but they did not sell well enough during the recession due mainly to competitors with bigger reputations. It was made for the promotion of a country town in the province of Drente, Emmen. You can see the word Emmen on the lower picture. This is an enticing example of matte recession/crisis pottery. To Part 2