Pottery at Pond Farm

Pond Farm entrance
Entrance to Pond Farm Pottery

 Standing in the midst of a peaceful redwood grove near Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve several wood outbuildings set in a clearing come into view. Above a wooden gate a simple sign reads “Pond Farm Pottery.” Visitors peer over the fence to view what was once the home of the famous Pond Farm Art School Colony. This important landmark was the home to a master potter named Marguerite Wildenhain; it now lies within the boundaries of Austin Creek State Recreation Area.

Born in 1897 in Lyons, France, Marguerite Friedlaender was trained at the famous Bauhaus school in Germany. Bauhaus was considered at the forefront of modernism and focused heavily on usable, reproducible objects. Marguerite attained a high level of skill in making pottery, developing artistic mastery. In 1930 she married one of her students, Frans Wildenhain.

When the Nazi party rose to power in Germany, Marguerite moved to Holland, while Frans was drafted into the army and forced to stay in Germany. In Holland, Marguerite met Gordon and Jane Herr, United States citizens who shared a dream of building an artist’s colony in Northern California. Marguerite was moved by a vision of isolation in nature, where she could pursue her art, and immigrated to the United States in 1939.

After a brief period of teaching in New York City and Oakland, Marguerite moved to the Guerneville area to help the Herrs run Pond Farm. By 1947, a special pottery studio had been built to her specifications, and she was able to bring her husband from Germany to California. Within two years, other potters were coming to learn from Marguerite’s extensive Bauhaus training.

Pond Farm logo
Marguerite's distinctive "little jug" signature on a pottery shard

In 1952 the artist colony portion of Pond Farm shut down after Jane Herr died. Gordon Herr lost interest in pursuing the colony and departed, but Marguerite stayed on. Her intensive summer workshops, where she required students to sit at their potting wheels for up to eight hours a day, became famous. Her dedication to craft was so admired that it had a ripple effect on an entire generation of potters in California and throughout the United States. Pond Farm closed in 1985 after Marguerite’s death.

Pond Farm classroom

Pond Farm Pottery today is a valued part of California State Parks. While not open to the public currently, the pottery studio, including the wheels Marguerite designed, are intact. Her distinctive pieces of pottery are still collected and exhibited throughout the world today, most marked with her trademark “little jug” and her name. Learn more about Pond Farm artistry and Austin Creek State Recreation Area http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=452.