Otto Heino, 1915-2009

By the Archives

July 30, 2009

The Archives of American Art mourns the passing of Otto Heino, influential and charismatic ceramicist. With his late wife, Vivika Heino (1910–1995), they forged a distinct blend of traditional Asian glazes and Scandinavian minimalism.

Perhaps most well known for his glazing techniques, Heino first discovered his interest in ceramics while stationed in Europe during World War II. In his oral history interview conducted by Elaine Levin in 1981, he recalled seeing the Bernard Leach’s studio in England as well as a pottery studio of a farming family in the German countryside. It was these experiences, explained Heino, where, “I made up my mind that I was going to take up pottery when I get back to the United States.”

When he returned to the United States he was able to take a formal pottery course through the G.I. Bill at the League of New Hampshire Arts and Crafts where he fell in love with his instructor, Vivika (née Vivien Place). They then moved to California and it was just a matter of time before the Heinos began to shape the blossoming mid-century California Arts and Crafts movement.

  • Read more about the Otto and Vivika Heino papers at the Archives of American Art
  • Read an in-depth oral history interview with Otto and Vivika Heino conducted by Elain Levin in 1981