Jan and Helga Grove were prolific potters who's Canadian career began in 1965, when they arrived in Victoria from Germany via Turkey. Jan is certified master potter and the son of Gerd and Lu Grove, highly respected (and collected) potters from Lübeck Germany. Helga worked at the Villeroy and Boch factory in Lübeck in the 1940s, and also for the Groves where she met Jan.
The majority of Grove pottery that is found is functional tableware - plates, bowls, goblets, etc. These forms were a staple at the Grove pottery through its entirety. They are primarily found in their signature brown or blue glaze (see photo at left for reference), but can also be found in the less common green. Vases can also be found with their more experimental glazes akin to the "fat lava" finishes found on popular West German pottery of the era.
Most of these pieces were thrown and glazed by Jan as indicated by the mark on the back. Jan signs his work with the stylized JG (as shown right). Jan's work is exceptional - truly thrown by a master potter. His large bottles, vessels, and bowls are magnificent. Exceptionally well balanced and consistent, Jan's bowls ring like a bell when tapped with a fingernail.
My favourite Grove pieces though are their collaborative designs - thrown by Jan and decorated by Helga. These are easiest to identify by looking underneath the piece. If it has Jan's "JG" and Helga's "H" (shown here), it is a piece worked on by husband and wife. Jan's consistent mastery of shape and form combined with Helga's eye for graphic design. Her education in this area includes a two year master class with Bauhaus professor Georg Muche.
These collaborative pieces are easy to spot simply by the inclusion of graphic patterns. The platter shown below includes a motif the Groves used repeatedly. It can also be found in blue. The most common combination found are various cobalt graphics on a white background.
My favourite of all are the "hieroglyphic" pieces they made. These are the forms Jan would throw using their red clay, with Helga incising patterns, runes, or glyphs using a sgrafitto technique. The incisions would then be filled with black glaze to make them contrast nicely with the clay. Shown here are some examples of their work.
The Groves retired from production in 2009 and left a massive legacy of their work out in the world, currently enjoyed by users and collectors alike. If you have a piece of Grove pottery you would like to sell, please contact me here.
Studio Pottery Canada
Pottery enthusiast learning about the history of this Canadian art form and curating samples from the best in the field pre-1980.