Henny Radijs (1915-1991)

Janna Hendrika Radijs was born in 1915 in Rotterdam (NL). In the late 1930’s she met Dutch pioneer and art potter J.H. Andrée, who convinced her to become a potter. Between 1942 and 1946 she studied at the Art Academy of Rotterdam, where they had recently started a ceramics department. Her teachers were H.W. Mauser jr. and Gerrit de Blanken. It was here on the Academy that she met Olga Oderkerk (1924-1987), who would play an important role in her life.

In 1945 she settled in Rotterdam in ‘De Wijdesteeg’. Officially she started her company there in 1949. Her work in the 1950’s is based on traditional forms with a very distinctive character. Her decoration however was rather progressive, using themes and images derived from the trend in modern graphical art in those days. She can be considered a pioneer in that aspect, together with artists like Dirk Hubers, Jan Oosterman en Jan van Stolk.
In 1953 Olga Oderkerk came to live with her and worked alongside in the workshop. On the other side of the street they had two floors that they used for expositions of their work and that of other artists from Rotterdam, like Ru de Gier, Jaap Visser, Jaap Kraanen and Paul Suurland.

One of the things she is famous for, is her production of numerous miniature vases. Hein Andrée, her mentor and teacher, once advised her to make these small pots, which she did and never regretted.

Henny also made a lot of work on assignment, ordered by people who wanted something special, not mass produced. She also made mosaics and murals.
Henny Radijs was very close with Jan van der Vaart (1931-2000). Mid 1950’s she gave him some lessons in ‘wheel throwing’. A 1956 vase by Van der Vaart, decorated by Herman Gordijn, was contributed to Henny Radijs and Olga Oderkerk, confirming their friendship (image 39).
In 1964 Henny and Olga moved to Brielle, below Rotterdam. They needed more space and the building in which they lived in Rotterdam was slowly falling apart. They lived and worked in Brielle until 1970, in the meantime restoring the historical building in which they came to live. Henny then moved to Amsterdam and Olga Oderkerk went back to Rotterdam.
In Amsterdam Henny Radijs went into a new phase in her career. She came into an environment where a generation of younger artists had left the traditional, utilitarian way of looking at pottery and was making sculptural ceramics without any ‘function’. Influenced by this group of young artists, in particular Jan van der Vaart, she started making abstract, sculptural work.

Jan van der Vaart is regarded as the founder of what is called ‘abstract geometrical ceramic art’ in the Netherlands. A few of the artists that were discovering this direction are Jan de Rooden, Johnny Rolf, Helly Oestreicher, Jan van der Vaart, Marianna Franken, Johan van Loon, Sonja Landweer, Hans de Jong, Hilbert Boxem en Adriana Baarspul.
They were intrigued by English artists like Bernard Leach and Hans Coper. The almost architectural pieces by Coper, inspired Van der Vaart, leading into abstracted vases and eventually into sculptures which had no relation left with the original vase and its functionality. Based on geometrical shapes like the cube, sphere and cylinder, this led to a surprising number of monumental pieces.

In the last 10 years of her impressive career, Henny Radijs made a number of monumental pieces. The largest of these is the tower in photo 46, which consists of 8 pieces and has a total height of 74 cm. It certainly bears a great deal of resemblance with the towers that Jan van Vaart made later on.
But, even though Henny Radijs had left the idea that all her work had to be functional, she never stopped making pottery.
Her last known work is from 1982, a small round tile which she made for her friends and family (photo 49), with the text: ‘stay on the sunny side in 1983’. Henny Radijs died in 1991, leaving behind an impressive legacy of high quality pottery and ceramic art.