Not too long ago, I told you about my new obsession with plants. This plant obsession is of course accompanied by a pot obsession, and I am fortunate to live five minutes away from the best pottery place in Joburg: Liebermann Pottery.
Liebermann Pottery was founded in 1956 by Sammy and Mary Liebermann, and is now run by the Liebermanns’ nephew, Adriaan Turgel. (For a quick, fun history of the pottery, watch this video by the Liebermanns’ daughter, Lisa, who is also a successful potter.)
I blogged about Liebermann many years ago but it’s definitely time for an update — I don’t think enough Joburgers know how awesome this place is, or even know about it at all. I also need to tell you about Liebermann’s fabulous vintage tiles, which I discovered only recently. But I’ll get to the tiles in a moment.
Shopping at Liebermann Pottery
The first cool thing about Liebermann Pottery is its location in the old Johannesburg Gas Works — one of Joburg’s most historic pieces of architecture — in the tiny suburb of Cottesloe on the outskirts of downtown. (Here’s a poorly written Wikipedia entry about the Gas Works.)
To get to Liebermann from the Melville/Milpark area: Head south on Annet Road, pass the Gas Works on your left, then turn left at the “POTS” sign that looks like a stop sign. You can park in the small driveway outside the gates to the Gas Works.
The second cool thing about Liebermann is the huge selection of pots and planters — displayed outdoors around the studio — some of which are locally made at the Liebermann factory in Marlborogh, and some of which are imported from Asia. I spend most of my time at Liebermann browsing these pots, and I have at least ten of them in and around my home. Liebermann’s pots have a very distinctive style and I find they are cheaper than the pots sold at my local garden center.
The third cool thing about Liebermann is the crazy mix of locally made dish ware and whacky imported items inside the gallery.
And the fourth cool thing about Liebermann is, of course, the tiles.
The ceramic tiles — which are printed in dozens of designs and colors — are on display right inside the front door of the showroom, by the checkout. Some of the tiles have letters or numbers on them; some have star signs or animals or South African landscapes or mermaids. I even saw a few topless lady tiles.
I had noticed the tiles several times before but never thought to ask about them (or buy them) until this past Sunday, when the Liebermann manager, Siggi, gave me the story.
Mary Liebermann designed the tiles in the 1960s and 70s using a special screen-printing technique, and they were hugely popular in suburban South African homes during that era. But Liebermann stopped producing the tiles nearly 50 years ago, and although there still seem to be hundreds (maybe thousands — I spotted stacks of them in a storage area behind the showroom) of tiles still in stock, they will never be produced again.
So these tiles are vintage — collector’s items, as far as I’m concerned — and they currently sell for R50 ($3.30) apiece. Learning this made me want to buy up the entire Liebermann ceramic tile supply, but so far I’ve limited my purchases to only ten. I might go back tomorrow though. (FYI: If you live in Cape Town, Liebermann also has a studio there and it sells the tiles, too.)
Go to Liebermann soon before I buy all the tiles.
Liebermann Pottery is at 1 Annet Road, Cottesloe. It’s open Monday to Friday from 9:00 to 4:30 and Saturday/Sunday from 9:00 to 1:00. Call 011-482-2215.