The Funky Pots and Tiles of Liebermann Pottery

by | Mar 15, 2022 | Arts and Culture, Johannesburg, Markets/Shopping, Museums and Buildings | 16 comments

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.

Browsing the yard at Liebermann Pottery
Browsing the yard at 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.)

Liebermann back yard
The Leibermann back yard with Gas Works buildings looming in the background.
Sketch of the Gas Works
A fantastic sketch of the Gas Works by Thorsten, aka @theThinking_Hand. Most of the Gas Works buildings are abandoned and falling into disrepair, which is a real shame. These buildings could make incredible artist studios.

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.

Liebermann sign
A Liebermann sign on one of the of Gas Works buildings.
Entrance to the Liebermann showroom
Entrance to the Liebermann gallery/showroom, also an old Gas Works building.

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.

Yard filled with pots at Liebermann Pottery
Thorsten among the pots
Thorsten among the pots.
Heather and very tall vases at Liebermann
Hanging out with some pots that are almost taller than me. (Photo: Thorsten Deckler)
Pots and lion faces
Pots, plates, and scary lion faces.
Pots at Liebermann
More color.
White pots
There are white pots, too.

The third cool thing about Liebermann is the crazy mix of locally made dish ware and whacky imported items inside the gallery.

Imported items inside Liebermann Pottery
Asian vases and platters for sale inside Liebermann’s cavernous showroom. I lose my mind inside this place — there is so much to look at.
Terra cotta dishes at Liebermann
Unfortunately I don’t need any dishes, but if I did I would buy some of these.

And the fourth cool thing about Liebermann is, of course, the tiles.

Screen-printed tiles made at Liebermann
Fifty-year-old screen-printed tiles made at Liebermann Pottery.
More Liebermann tiles
More 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.

More Liebermann tiles
The owl is my favorite — I bought it.

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.)

Fish tile from Liebermann
This beautiful fish tile currently stands on my mantle piece. I wouldn’t mind tiling an entire bathroom in these. In fact, I should probably buy up all the rest of the Liebermann fish tiles before they’re gone.

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.


  1. Albert

    I remember these tiles!!! Growing up many houses had a couple of these decorative tiles against a garden wall or elsewhere. I love your fish tile!

    • 2summers

      I also love it more and more every time I look at it.

      • Albert

        Although a whole bathroom filled with fish tiles could induce acid flashbacks! Lol

        • 2summers

          Hahaha. Yeah maybe I was getting a little carried away there.

  2. Nancy McDaniel

    oh those tiles!!!!!.How wonderful they would be in a kitchen, as backsplash (the spices! the fish!) or anywhere. And the giant pots are amazing and a beautiful color. They must weigh a ton- would be beautiful on the grounds of a hotel or resort. You find the coolest places, Heather! Sometime go to Moroccan House in Pretoria – you and Thorsten would love it.

    • 2summers

      You are not the first person to mention the Moroccan House to me — must look into that!

  3. dizzylexa

    I’ve looked at those tiles everytime I go there and wondered where I would put them. I do love their brightly coloured pots and also have a few. I think Liza helped some of the Spaza Crew with the making of the dragon flies and bees for the big mosaic they are doing for the park in Braamfontein.

    • 2summers

      Oh wow, that’s cool! I can’t wait to see that mosaic.

  4. Tenney

    I want to fly to SA tomorrow and buy some pots for this growing season… some tiles would also be nice.

    • 2summers

      I’ve already bought some tiles with you in mind 🙂

  5. AutumnAshbough

    Those tiles are really cool, but I’d probably lose my mind among the vases. Do they have teapots or cups? I am a sucker for those!

  6. Lani

    A wonderful obsession to have, too. My latest place doesn’t support plants and pottery like before, but I live in a town where Thailand’s most popular ceramics come from. Jeez. One day I should share this, right? 😛

    And I LOVE the fish tile. Fish are my thing, yo. So so jealous. xo

    • 2summers

      I’d love to hear more about the Thai ceramics! Maybe Liebermann has some of them.

  7. Anita

    Really cool tiles, love it


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