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Mizi Otten
Mizi Otten was born in Vienna in 1884.  At an early age she knew that she wanted to be an artist. Despite the objections of her parents, who thought it unbecoming for their daughter to paint, she attended art school, studying painting and decorative arts in Vienna and Munich. After graduation she became a member of the Wiener Werkstätte. As was typical of every member of the group, Otten excelled at a variety of crafts, including printmaking, textile and wallpaper design, wood and ivory carving, and embroidery. There she met several enamelists, including Josef Hoffmann. Otten quickly became fascinated with the medium. As she recalled, it was then the most jealously guarded of all the crafts. One evening, after everyone had gone home, she broke into the enamel workshop, helped herself to a few materials, and started to experiment with the kiln. She soon was creating enamels and found a ready market for them.

By 1925 her work was considered of such exceptional quality that it was included in the Austrian pavilion at the International Exposition in Paris. She won the silver medal for enameling. Among the many attendees at this prestigious and historically significant exposition was Rena Rosenthal, an important American dealer whose New York gallery specialized in contemporary German and Austrian decorative arts. She and several other dealers purchased Otten’s work and began selling it in the United States. Twelve years later she again won the silver medal for enamels at the International Exposition in Paris. With the threat of war looming, she immigrated to the United States in 1938. By the time she arrived in New York, her work was already well known in this country.

The year 1939 brought the artist tremendous exposure throughout the United States. Five enamels were juried into the Eighth National Ceramic Exhibition in Syracuse, nine works were shown in the Exhibition of Decorative Arts in Denver, and five works were included in the prestigious Golden Gate International Exposition in San Francisco. By 1940 Otten was firmly established as a prominent enamel artist in the United States. She went on to participate in three more of the Syracuse Ceramic Nationals—in 1940, 1941, and 1948. Her work was shown at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in the early 1940s. In February 1944 a profile of Otten was published in Craft Horizons. The artist discussed how her style in enameling had changed since she had come to the United States. She stated that Americans preferred a more naturalistic approach, as compared to the more abstract style she had developed in Vienna. She was happy to embrace this new approach to enameling, however, and found tremendous satisfaction in her work. In 1950 she and Kathe Berl cowrote and self-published a manual on enameling technique entitled The Art of Enameling; or, Enameling Can Be Fun, which was one of the earliest how-to books on the subject to appear in this country.