Whenever we see a white cylinder planted with a tree or flowers inside or outside an office building or a bank, and now quite often at gasoline stations, all of that is the heritage of Architectural Pottery.

Bill Stern, director of the Museum of California Design

In the late 1940s, a new style was emerging in California, with architects and designers wanting to create a seamless integration of outdoor and indoor space. Designers like Hendrik van Keppel, Taylor Green and Walter Lamb were creating furniture that functioned in both settings and there was a need for accessories that did the same. Rita Milaw Lawrence and her husband Max Lawrence founded Architectural Pottery in 1950 to fill this void, recruiting talented artists such as John Follis and LaGardo Tackett from the California School of Arts in Pasadena to create a line of modern ceramics. 

The cover of the October 21, 1951 Los Angeles Times "Home" section. "What makes the California Look? In this abstract arrangement are the glowing color, originality of treatment and simplicity of design that typify the California look."

Architectural Pottery's first catalog in 1951 was radical for the times, with the pure, streamlined forms and stark white being a departure from the ubiquitous fat-lipped terracotta pots that had been used since time immemorial. Architectural Pottery was instantly recognized and pieces from their first catalog were included in the 1951 MoMa Good Design exhibition. They offered what Rita Lawrence described as a “portable landscape” that unified the interior and exterior environments. Architectural Pottery pieces were and remain to be incredibly popular and a modern design classic— they can be found in nearly any designed California interior from the era (pictured below) and were used commercially as well, such as at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, debuted in 1955, which featured hundreds of pieces lining the building. 

Architectural Pottery In The Home

Curatorial Alchemy

Our paths first crossed, unknown until many years later, at an intimate yet bustling wedding reception in a south Chicago apartment. This was probably 30 years ago, perhaps even the same year a new gallery, Torno Wright, opened at the end of my street to a fanfare of Eames, heralding new changes to come. Criss-crossing breezes of chance encounters, meandering spirits, hazy focus of time and space, of enthusiasm and knowledge sought, now united again in the same city.

That same serendipity, prompting impulse and discovery, guided welcome reward in the crucible of that great industrial city, still littered with the artefacts of the American mid-century. It was within this uneven yet fertile terrain, hidden slightly below surface, that Patrick’s intuitive talent—honed first as photographer then embellished as artist—would treasure the valuable neglected as passionate collector, and then as the inspirational dealer that I was to meet again, years later in New York City.

If asked to select one word to describe Patrick, I would resist and pick two. The first would be curiosity—a fundamental essential, to stimulate inquiry and rigour in all things, both great and small, of any era or region, type or surface. Even the most fleeting survey of this selection for sale is a celebration of innovation and of inspiration—an unerring eye for the unusually exceptional, or perhaps the exceptionally unusual. The chances are, that these are indeed discoveries that you have not yet realized that you needed to make.

Mentor, would be my second word. If artefacts and objects articulate visual, cultural and historic language, then the fluency of skillful mentorship—to guide, nurture, describe and explain—releases the eloquence of murmuring histories. In this capacity Patrick is that most earnest and sincere of excellent narrators. If ever I had friends, clients or colleagues visiting New York looking for unusual inspiration, there was always the certainty that Patrick’s gallery would offer them a glimpse of the hitherto unseen or the unusually seductive, always with the reassurance of the most fascinating story waiting to be told.

Mentorship and curiosity, when balanced in equal measure, reveal the precious alchemy of a curator. And it is the duty of the mature curator to discern and detect, to cultivate change, and from there to pioneer, and to share. Innovation is never static, and the Present is already the Future. Fresh dialogs evolve, energies to be nurtured, opportunities to be guided. Renewed and re-orientated, Patrick now faces fully forward—as benefactor, interlocutor and mentor to a new, inquisitive generation of talented creators, and the quest for discovery rejuvenates.

— Simon Andrews