Blog: Admiring Augarten

AugartenFrom top: Pinocchio vases swing back to an upright position; Melon tea cups by Josef Hoffmann; Fox skull perfume flask; Atlantis dinnerware by Josef Hoffmann; Orient, a pattern from the 1930's

One of the fun things about covering the tabletop category is learning about the long and rich history of companies.

Take the Austrian porcelain company Augarten. Augarten was founded in 1718, making it the second oldest porcelain maker in Europe after Meissen. At one point it was owned (realistically, taken over) by Maria Theresa, Holy Roman Empress of the Hapsburg Dynasty (and mother of Marie Antoinette). Augarten created a table service for Maria Theresa's hunting lodge, a pattern that became one of its most popular.

But Augarten does not remain rooted in its past. In its 300 years of existence, during which the factory closed down and was later reopened, Augarten has changed with the times, and its archives and current assortment reveals the breadth and depth of its creativity and its capability. Twentieth century works, including Art Deco pieces, are a strength, said Angelina Paic, director of sales. Over the years Augarten has collaborated with famous artists from Josef Hoffmann and other members of the Vienna Workshops to modern day designers.

Last month Augarten exhibited at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair in New York in an effort to promote its brand in the United States, where it is not well known. It also plans to exhibit at the next Maison & Objet show in Paris, and is considering a U.S. showroom, according to Paic. The company is small, with only 60 employees, and thus is nimble. It is able to do custom work, from choice of paint colors to requested designs and shapes. All production is done on site in Vienna, from the mixing of the porcelain paste, through the development of the molds, to the throwing, molding, firing, glazing and painting of the porcelain.

Augarten, which operates four stores in Austria, is planning to relaunch its website. It does not sell directly to consumers because in the price range in which it operates, the product needs to be explained, Paic said. In the U.S. it is represented by the Silver Peacock.-Allison Zisko