The Wiener Werkstätte was founded in 1903 by the artist Koloman Moser and architect Josef Hoffmann, both of whom had been key members of the Vienna secession.
The primary goal of the company was to bring good design and craft into all areas of life within the fields of ceramics, fashion, silver, furniture, and the graphic arts. It was in keeping with the Vienna Secession’s idea of the Gesamkustwerk – a total work of art. Just as the Vienna Secession had reacted against the old neo-classical style of the ‘Association of Austrian Artists’, the Wiener Werksätte had initially been promoted as a declaration of modernity over the old order.
A small pamphlet from 1905 outlined their program:
“The limitless harm done in the arts and crafts field by low quality mass production on the one hand and by the unthinking imitation of old styles on the other is affecting the whole world like some gigantic flood…It would be madness to swim against this tide. Where appropriate we shall try to be decorative without compulsion and not at any price”
From the onset, the Wiener Werkstätte encouraged its patrons to look beyond the material value of objects and to embrace geometric symmetry over surface ornament. We need only to look at Moser’s logo design and the flower motif based on the golden section to see how much these architectural principles dictated the company’s early designs.
The Wiener Keramik was created by Michael Powolny and Barthold Löffler in 1906, in 1907 the Wiener Werkstätte buys the Wiener Keramik models to be sold at the WW stores. 1912 and the Wiener Keramik joins Gmunder Keramik in order to be able to satisfy an increasing demand for it’s products. From 1914 many designers from the Wiener Werkstätte started creating for Gumundner, and in 1916 the Wiener Werkstatte founded its own ceramics workshops.
In 1919, Wiener Keramik disappears and only Gmunder Keramik remains, still producing the popular Powolny designs.