I grew fond of the potter Bernard Palissy (1510-1590) ) when I was a little girl. He was a Renaissance man with a background in chemistry, geology, philosophy etc… But what drew me in were his “pots”.

He put snakes on plates and created lush crawling environments, which inspired a long line of ceramic artists whose work is referred to as Palissy ware.  Composed of creatures and bits of nature that are anatomically correct and finished with great precision and attention to detail; the story goes that Palissy would find a creature and cast it.

Flash forward to the present day, contemporary artist Geoffrey Luff continues the tradition of Palissy ware in a similar sophisticated manner.  Luff has added complexity to his ceramic renditions by layering cast specimen, brought to him by village boys from what I hear, to create small narrative ecosystems.




Scenes of dueling snakes in an overgrown pond contained by the rim on the mottled bowl, or crawfish and toad inside a soup bowl!  The delicacy of the meandering ivy and soft dragon fly wings drift over rugged landscape throughout his works seem to declare Luff’s calling as a naturalist with his ability to sculpt such realistic scapes.

Heritage is so pleased to be presenting twelve of Luff’s contemporary Palissy ware pieces in our upcoming Decorative Arts sale on September 13th.

By Catherine Rigdon

Posted by Heritage Editorial

This article was written as a collaborative effort by multiple experts within the category at Heritage Auctions.

  1. The man was crawling with creativity . . . .


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