Mid-century mad…

YZ roosterWhen I was growing up in southern Ontario, a piece of pottery by Czechoslovakian potter Jarko Zavi was somewhat de rigueur.

His pottery was not for every day use – it was very fragile and often ornamental or for special occasions only.

Growing up, there was a large Zavi bowl that sat on our living room coffee table. Oh how I wish I could have that bowl back now!

The  design of that bowl was geometric shapes of oranges/browns and greens with white owls interspersed with the shapes.

The bowl went to auction when my parents downsized and I don’t think any us kids wanted it – at the time…

Since then, I have come to see how beautiful Zavi’s pieces really were (and are). Crafted of rough clay, they are often hand hewn and very thin/fragile. I imagine a number of them broke in their day.

He seemed to focus on his natural world as a theme for the designs that I have seen.

A one-page piece in the book Cobourg 1798-1948 names him Yarko (which clearly his signature indicates was wrong – you can see it’s a “J”), and describes how he was composing his glazes from Canadian minerals.YZ sig snow

I have been lucky enough to find three of his bowls over time. The one above with the rooster is perhaps the most stunning.

Below are two more:

YZ trilliumThis is quite large, open and a rounded triangular shaped-bowl. Jarko’s signature is incised on the bottom as is the date, 1951.

The second bowl is, again, quite small, and very fragile. Its lovely design is of snowdrops – something I hope to see in the not too distant future (that may be wishful thinking given the winter we’re having!) YZ Snowdrops

You can find piece of his if you google him – in far off places like England or Vancouver Island.

I will keep these pieces tucked away for now due to their fragility and rarity. They will remain in the Three Six Five.

Have you ever seen any of Jarko’s work? Quite lovely isn’t it?!



  1. Debbie Gledhill

    My two elderly aunts (that are now gone) were long and fast friends of Jarko Zavi. I inherited a large collection of brooches and earrings that he made just for them. They are a wonderful history which I shall treasure always.

    • jennspennings

      That’s really neat Debbie. I grew up in Cobourg and Jarko lived there. I’m sure there are lots of pieces hiding in China cabinets as he his work was popular. Treasure your pieces and thanks for sharing!

      • Heather Kelley

        My parents lived in Cobourg during the 1940’s and were also friends of the Zavi family. My mother died recently, at the age of 98 and left a collection of Jarko’s works…5 brooch and earring sets ( probably similar to Debbie’s) figurines, ashtrays, cigarette box, candlestick holder, and 2 paintings. Although treasured for many years, I must now sell the collection. I haven’t been able to find an appraiser. Oh, and I, along with the collection, live in Florida! Any ideas?

      • jennspennings

        I had not seen your comment til now and for that I must apologize! I believe that your prices would do well if you were to sell in and around Cobourg/Northumberland County. I just did an auction of my mother’s things thru an auctioneer in Colborne. He does online and live auctions. His most recent auction had a Zavi brooch. Auctioneer’s name is Marshall Gummer. http://Www.theappraiser.ca

  2. Marnie

    Mr Zavi was a very close family friend of my mother. I spent many days in his studio in his home in Brighton as a child. I didn’t know then what a gem he was! My mother used to support all his shows, dragging me across Ontario with her. My mother had close to probably 80+ pieces, many of which she has since donated back to the town of Brighton. She still has several bowls, carafe wine sets, etc. and I’m fortunate to have 6 pieces that I have out on display. I just started my first pottery class last week. My love of clay pottery surely is from him.

    • jennspennings

      Love this!! His work was beautiful! Thanks for sharing! You are lucky to have these pieces. I saw a brooch recently in an online auction but his pieces don’t come up often!

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