Colorware History & Design

The Maximalist

Early Artware

Pacific Pottery – Early Artware & Gardenware

“If you can’t sell what you make, make what you can sell.”

In the early 1930s, as production from their commercial pipe and tile business was slowing down, Pacific Clay Products began to produce architectural terra cotta and expand their offerings for garden and artware. Pacific made investments in their Lincoln Heights plant to extend production. From the 1930 annual report:

At the Lincoln Heights Plant certain buildings and kilns were remodeled to manufacture architectural terra cotta and garden pottery. This department commenced regular operation about the end of the year. Your Directors are confident it will prove a profitable addition to the Company’s lines.

In their 1931 annual report, the company noted that:

Manufacture of architectural terra cotta was begun shortly before the beginning of the past year and while the volume of business has not as yet been large, the product has been excellent and is growing in popularity. The line of garden pottery and artware has been considerably enlarged. These products are manufactured in the same department and it is believed that with the return of normal conditions, will prove important additions to your company’s lines.

According to a 1992 interview with Ken Barrette, Pacific Clay’s accountant and Secretary to the Board, Pacific attempted to use a handpainted glaze on their stoneware body (used to make crockery). However, they found the stoneware to be too heavy and prone to crazing. Their ceramics lab began to add talc to the clay to make it less absorbent. This change also resulted in the creation of lighter-bodied ware, paving the way for their dinnerware lines.

Pacific Pottery artware first showed up as a separate product line in their 1931 annual report. By 1932, due to increased popularity, Pacific continued to expand the artware lines, and in 1934, they continued to make capital investments in their Lincoln Heights plant to improve manufacturing capabilities:

The equipment of the pottery department at the Lincoln Heights plant, installed some years ago, was inadequate to handle the volume and character of business resulting from the growing popularity of “Pacific” Artware and Hostessware lines, and your directors deemed it wise to provide modern facilities including a continuous car tunnel kiln for the operation of this department.

Many of the early Pacific artware designs may be one of a kind. According to Ken:

“We had a man who had a potter’s wheel. When there was a convention of potters, independent salespeople could come and see it [the pottery], we would always have this man take his potter’s wheel down there and make whatever anyone asked for. Somebody could come along and say “Can you do this” and he’d do it…The man [whose name was forgotten] wasn’t an employee of ours, he was hired as a contractor for this type of work. No employees made hand thrown pottery on a full-time basis.”

“One of our jiggermen could operate a wheel in a rough sort of way, but we never made anything commercially that was produced on the potter’s wheel. He would produce a sample or two, a glaze would be selected, and the item would be shown around to stores and buyers. If there was any interest in it, we would make molds for it, and either jigger or cast it.”

Architectural Designs

Here are a series of architectural drawings for the early Pacific artware and gardenware lines (from approximately 1930-32). These drawings were digitally reproduced from copies of the original blueprint designs, and provides one of the only records of this rare early pottery.

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