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Who's Who in California Pottery Companies, Part I

A Comprehensive List From A to H

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Why did ceramics and pottery manufacturers proliferate in California during the 20th century? Was it the climate, or the fact that so many people were there or headed to California anyway?

Actually, it's several factors combined that resulted in more than 1,000 pottery companies setting up shop from San Diego to north of San Francisco. Among the possible reasons for California becoming a hotbed of pottery production:

  • California has always attracted talented and ambitious artists and entrepreneurs
  • The Panama-California International Exposition in San Diego in 1915 introduced Spanish-Moorish -style buildings and tile with geometric designs that were copied by existing and new potteries throughout California.
  • In addition to European ethnic influences, California ceramists was influenced by Asian and Mexican art, design and culture, which was almost exclusive to California during that period. This resulted in inspired shapes and bright, beautiful colors never before seen in American pottery.
  • The clay soil and talc from places like Death Valley and Alberhill in Riverside County provided abundant natural resources perfect for producing ceramics and pottery.

Like many industries, pottery companies established their roots in California. Many flourished, while others barely managed to stay afloat for a couple of years. At the beginning of the 20th century, several of the ceramic studios were in the more-established San Francisco area. But as Los Angeles drew attention worldwide for its sunny climate and booming movie industry, more pottery manufacturers flocked to Southern California. For natives, a glance through this list reveals pottery companies in nearly every Southern California suburb established before 1940.

Production of table, gift and art ware actually increased in California during World War II, as small studios popped up to fulfill the needs of an industry that cut off imported goods from Europe and Asia. It was after the war that many of the smaller studios had to close their doors, especially when import embargos were lifted.

While there were hundreds of pottery manufacturers in California, the ones included in this list produced wares that are more collectible, were longer established, or simply have more information about them. Companies that primarily produced tile, bricks or architectural products, like Batchelder or Hispano-Moresque, are not included.

Also see: California Potteries: I to Z

A list of California potteries from A to H:

Adelle

Where: Laguna Beach (Orange County)
When: 1940s
What: Planters

Alexander Franzka

Where: La Crescenta / Montrose, California (near Glendale)
When: 1965 to 1987
What: Figurines, art ware and terracotta

American Ceramic Products

Where: Los Angeles and Santa Monica
When: 1939 to 1967
What: tableware, art ware and figurines under the La Mirada and Winfield lines.

American Pottery Co.

Where: Los Angeles and San Juan Capistrano
When: 1943 to 1953
What: Art ware, gift ware and figurines. Also produced the Brad Keeler art ware line -- mostly animal figurines like birds, ducks and cocker spaniels.

Ann Cochran

Where: North Hollywood
When: 1950s
What: Hand-painted art ware. Cochran was a former ballerina who became a ceramist and painter, and was a friend and contemporary of Sascha Brastoff.

Architectural Pottery

Where: Los Angeles
When: 1950–1962
What: Architectural Pottery produced commissioned pieces and designs for public buildings and facades, as well as high-end art ware, vases and planters.

Arequipa Pottery

Where: Fairfax (Northern California)
When: 1911–1918
What: Art pottery

Artistic Potteries

Where: Whittier (Southern California)
When: 1950s
What: Art ware, gift ware and figurines

B.J. Brock

Also known as: Southern California Pottery Company
Where: Lawndale (Southern California)
When: 1947 to 1980s
What: Lines include Brock, Brock Ware and Grantcrest

Ball Brothers

Where: Inglewood (near Los Angeles)
When: 1943 to 1948
What: Art ware and figurines. Company started by Howard and Arthur Ball, who were, not surprisingly, brothers. A possible connection to the Ball-Jae Pottery Company?

Barbara Willis

Where: North Hollywood
When: 1942 to 1958
What: Art ware and figurines. Willis' early earthenware was the "Terrene" line, which is highly collectible and features bright, crackled glazes on candle holders, boxes, vases, jugs and horse figurines.

Bauer Pottery Company of Los Angeles

Where: Los Angeles
When: 2000 to present
What: Table, art and kitchen ware. Bauer Pottery manufactures Bauer 2000 pottery styled after vintage J.A. Bauer pottery. Also produces Russel Wright's American Modern® line of dinner ware and Corita by Bauer mugs and vases featuring the art of Sister Corita Kent.

Belmar of California

Where: Los Angeles
When: 1965 to 1967
What: Art ware

The Bennetts

Where: Fullerton (Orange County)
When: 1940s to 1950s
What: Figurines

Beth Barton

Where: La Habra (Orange County)
When: 1949 to 1962
What: Gift ware and figurines

Betty Lou Nichols

Where: La Habra (Orange County)
When: 1949 to 1962
What: Gift ware and figurines

Block Pottery

Where: Los Angeles
When: 1940s
What: Figurines, art ware and gift ware

Brayton-Laguna Pottery

Where: Laguna Beach, California
When: 1930s to What: Historical or ethnic figurines and planters. Brayton-Laguna is credited with originating the concept of designing and selling sets or pairs of ceramic figurines. Examples: A well-dressed Victorian couple commemorating their first anniversary, a lady in a lavender dress holding a basket, with a hat over her other arm, a peasant woman holding a basket. Artists included Durlin Brayton and Andy Anderson.

California Belleek

Where: Los Angeles
When: 1948 to 1967
What: Figurines, gift ware, table ware and art ware

California Ceramics

Also known as Ceramic Manufacturing Company
Where: Calabassas, California
When: 1940s to 1950s
What: Orchard Ware table ware

The California Clemisons

Where: El Monte
When: 1941 to 1963
What: Gift ware and figurines

California Faience

Where: Berkeley, California
When: early 1900s to 1930s
What: Art ware and tile. Company was founded by William Bragdon and Chauncy Thomas.

California Pottery Co.

Where: Oakland, Niles and Merced (Northern California)
When: 1873 to 1929
What: Pipe, roof tile, crockery, pottery and garden ware

California Ra-Art

Where: Richmond, California
When: 1930s
What: Art ware and figurines

Calpotter

Where: Laguna Beach, California
When: 1940s
What: Art ware

Camp Del Mar Pottery

Where: Capitola
When: 1940s to 1950s
What: "Campo" tableware & art ware

Capistrano Ceramics / John R. Stewart Inc.

Where: San Juan Capistrano, California
When: 1948 to 1951
What: Planters and figurals. Example: pink and light green shell-shaped planter.

Carnegie Brick and Pottery Company

Where: Tracy (Northern California)
What: Brick and pottery

Casa Verdugo Pottery

Where: Montrose (near Glendale)
When: 1940s
What: Pottery, figurines vases and bowls. A 1948 newspaper advertisement lists "dainty" Casa Verdugo Pottery available in pink, white and chartreuse. Products include vine bowls, antelope heads, frog inset and 4-inch deer, herons, cranes and swans.

Catalina Clay Products

Where: Avalon, Catalina Island
When: 1927 to 1937
What: Table ware, art ware, tile, giftware and figurines

Cemar

Where: Los Angeles
When: 1935–1955
What: Gift ware, kitchen ware, art ware and figurines

Ceramic Originals by Freeman-Leidy

Where: Laguna Beach
When: 1944 to 1955
What: Figurines, gift ware and tile

Ceramicraft

Where: San Clemente (Orange County)
When: 1950s
What: Art ware

Chalice of California

Where: Los Angeles
When: 1940s to 1950s
What: Table ware, art ware and figurines

Chase Originals

Where: Berkeley (Northern California)
When: 1930s to 1950s
What: Art ware and figurines

Claire Lerner

Where: Los Angeles
When: 1940s to 1950s
What: Art ware and figurines

Clay Sketches

Where: Pasadena
When: 1940s to 1950s
What: Figurines

Covina Pottery

Where: Covina (Los Angeles County)
When: 1943 to 1990s
What: Planters, floral, art ware and TV lamps. The Covina Pottery Company existed from approximately 1943-1988 in Covina, California, and was founded by the Rhodus family. The pottery studio outlasted many of its competitors. It mostly produced floral ware in speckled glazes, with geometric and atomic Midcentury modern shapes.

Crest China Company

Also known as Royal Crest China after 1952 Where: Santa Ana (Orange County)
When: 1949-mid 1950s What: Art ware and gift ware

DeCora Ceramics

Where: Inglewood (Near LAX)
When: 1950s
What: Art pottery, wall plates and dinner ware.

DeForest Pottery

Where: Duarte, California
When: 1950 to 1970
What: Pieces include condiment jars, salt and peppers, chip and dips, banks and platters. Popular figurals were pigs and pig jars; collectible pieces include condiment jars, salt and peppers, chip and dips, banks and platters.

DeLee Pottery

Where: Hollywood
When: 1950s
What: Primarily figurines, like Dutch girls, Hawaiian singles and pairs, and animals. The Hawaiian and "exotic" figurals were often paired with lamps from the Moss Lamp company.

Dick Knox Pottery

Where: Laguna Beach When: 1942–1950 What: Knox China tableware and art ware

Doranne of California

Where: Los Angeles
When: 1950s to 1980s
What: Cookie jars, kitchen ware, gift ware, planters and garden ware

Dorothy Kindell

Where: Laguna Beach
When: 1940s to 1950s
What: Gift ware and figurines

Eugene White

Where: Bell Gardens (Los Angeles County)
What: 1941 to 1948
What: Table ware and art ware

Environmental Ceramics, Inc.

Where: San Francisco
When: 1960s
What: Kitchen ware

Eva Zeisel

FHR Fred Robertson Los Angeles Pottery

Where: Los Angeles
When: 1906 to 1921 What: Art ware well known for its crackle, matte, crystalline and lustered glazes. Pottery company was owned by Fred Robertson and his father, Alexander – both accomplished ceramists.

Flintridge China Company

Became Gorham after 1970
Where: Pasadena
When: 1945–1970
What: Table ware

Florence Ceramics

Where: Pasadena
When: 1942 to 1977
What: Gift ware and figurines

Franciscan Ware

Franklin Tile Company

Freeman McFarlin

Where: El Monte and San Marcos (Southern California)
When: 1951 to 1980
What: Art ware & figurines

Gaetano Pottery

Gainey Ceramics

Where: La Verne, California
When: 1949 to present
What: When the pottery company for which he had been working decided to close its doors in 1949, John Gainey bought the La Verne business. The company originally made dog bowls and water bottles (Ollas) for Sparkletts Water. Under the Gainey family's leadership, the company has produced modern, architectural-style planters that are popular with designers and consumers.

Garden City Pottery

Where: Lincoln and other pottery companies in California and the Pacific Northwest.
When: 1875 to present
What: Garden ware, tile, architectural products.

Glendale Plant

Where: Glendale and Los Angeles
When: 1923 to 1984
What: Lines included Franciscan and Catalina Pottery art, kitchen and table ware; Hermosa tile. Became Interpace in 1962 and Franciscan Ceramics, Inc. in 1979.

Genevieve and Charles Tulley

Where: Glendale
When: 1940s to 1950s
What: Lamps, art ware and figurines

Gladding, McBean & Co.

Where: Lincoln and other pottery companies in California and the Pacific Northwest.
When: 1875 to present
What: Garden ware, tile, architectural products.

Glendale Plant

Where: Glendale and Los Angeles
When: 1923 to 1984
What: Lines included Franciscan and Catalina Pottery art, kitchen and table ware; Hermosa tile. Became Interpace in 1962 and Franciscan Ceramics, Inc. in 1979.

Guppy Pottery

Where: Corona Del Mar, California (Orange County)
When: 1940s to 1950s
What: Island or Polynesian-themed dinner ware and serve ware. Company founded by Roy and Harriet Guppy.

Golden State Ceramics

Where: Pasadena
When: 1940s
What: Art ware and gift ware

Hagen Renaker

Where: Monrovia and San Dimas (San Gabriel Valley)
When: 1946 to present
What: Animal figurines, gift ware, planters and some Disney. Founded by John and Maxine Renaker in Culver City in 1945. Maxine’s father, Ole Hagen, helped the couple build a pottery studio in Monrovia, and a year later they set up shop in 1946. Among their most popular products are horse figurines.

Halcyon Pottery Co.

Where: Pismo Beach (Central California)
When: 1910 to 1940
What: Established at a Theosophist cooperative community and sanatorium near Pismo, where founder Alexander Robertson was the instructor and director. As he did at Roblin Potteries, Robertson applied lizards, flowers and other native motifs to bisque-fired pottery including vases, pitchers, candlesticks, serve ware, paperweights and whistles.

Hans Sumpf Company

Where: Madera (Central California)
When: 1939 to 2006
What: Garden ware and architectural wall surfaces

Harold Johnson

When: 1940s
What: Planters, flower ware and art ware. Example: Low, water lily-shaped bowl for floating flowers.

Heath Ceramics

Where: Sausalito (near San Francisco)
When: 1948 to present
What: Modern and Midcentury modern table ware, art ware and garden ware. Founded by artist and ceramist Edith Heath in 1948 after her solo pottery show at San Francisco’s Legion of Honor.

Hedi Schoop

Where: Hollywood
When: 1940s to 1950s
What: Art ware and figurines. Swiss-born Schoop fled Nazi Germany in 1933 with her husband, Academy Award-winning composer Frederick Hollander. The ceramic artist was known for her charming, detailed figurines. A fire in 1958 forced the closure of her plant. She died in 1996.

Examples: stylized ethnic figurines; Harlequin wall plaques.

Heirlooms of Tomorrow

Known as California Originals after 1955
Where: Manhattan Beach (near LA)
When: 1944–1955
What: Figurines

Hollydale Potteries

Where: Harbor City
When: 1935–1959
What: Malibu Modern table ware

Howard Pierce

Where: LaVerne, Claremont and Joshua Tree
When: 1941 to 1994
What: Gift ware and figurines

J.A. Bauer Pottery

Where: Los Angeles
When: Late 1880s to early 1960s
What: One of the "Top 5" California Potteries, J.A. Bauer produced colorful glazed and distinct, collectible patterns. Flower pots, crockery, table, garden and art ware.
For the new line of Bauer, see Bauer Pottery Co., Los Angeles (above).

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For additional information: California Potteries, The Complete Book by Mike Schneider is an older book, but quite a good reference book for those interested in learning more about the pottery companies in California.

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