Informal!

The Completist’s Guide to Pacific Pottery Hostessware

Pacific Pottery Informal Guide

Welcome to Pacific Pottery Informal!, the most complete guide on Pacific Pottery Hostessware. Relatively little is known about Pacific’s Pottery Division. No historical company records are available, and almost everyone associated with the company during the 1930s is long gone. We don’t know who definitively designed Hostessware, and very little about the people that worked for the company during that time. What information is available has been captured from passed down conversations, a few company wholesale brochures, advertising pieces, news articles, and company annual reports. But the most relevant information has perhaps been gleaned from years of patient collecting and analyzing and comparing to put together a reasonable timeline of production, manufacture and distribution. Those insights and observations are included in this guide.

Informal! provides the most comprehensive view of Pacific Pottery’s iconic Hostessware dinnerware through the 1930s. Drawing on my personal collection of more than 2,500 pieces, I’ve connected the dots to bring you a virtually complete view of the entire line. The 100+ page book is full of photographs, painstakingly reproduced graphic designs, and original advertising pieces.

Get your copy of Informal! The Completist’s Guide to Pacific Pottery Hostessware on Blurb.

 

Pacific Pottery Lattie's Briefcase

Melvin J. Lattie

Melvin J. Lattie was Pacific Clay’s sales director in the 1930s. His son, Jim Lattie, later became a Pacific Pottery collector. As part of a set purchased from Jim Lattie’s estate in 2016, I was able to pick up Melvin’s black leather briefcase from the 30s – now a prized possession in my Pacific collection. Shown next to a photo of Jim Lattie from the late 1930s – parked on a Pacific Pottery vase.

Pacific Pottery Lattie's Briefcase

Pacific Pottery Hostessware Delph

Pacific Pottery Hostessware Set in Delph Blue

Here’s a set of Pacific Pottery Hostessware in the hard-to-find delph glaze. I purchased this set from another collector in Santa Paula, California this summer. This was likely a “wedding set” – complete set for 8+ with an assortment of serving pieces in near mint condition – looks barely used. I added the tab-handled target platter, which I purchased from an antique store in Pasadena on the same day (I knew it had been sitting in the store for months, so I figured I’d pick it up to go with the set while I was there). Delph is the fifth hardest to find color in Hostessware and complete place settings are extremely difficult to put together, so this was a great find!

Pacific Clay Products - Plant #4 Company Photo - 1935

Pacific Pottery Employee Photo 1935

California pottery Jedi and artist Jack Chipman sent me a photo yesterday from Pacific Clay Products’ company photo from plant #4 – the Lincoln Heights (east LA) facility where Hostess Ware and other art and garden pottery was produced. I took the image, fixed some of the ravages of time (creases and folds), and lightly colorized the people to help them stand out (the original image was very white-washed).

Something that collectors tend to forget – especially as we romanticize these pottery companies – is that even the “big” companies didn’t employ a lot of people. I discovered this when doing some rigorous searches through the Los Angeles Times newspaper archives from the period – I expected to find tons of articles about the vibrant Southern California pottery industry, but actually turned up very little. Almost all of the companies (Pacific excepted) were privately held, and employed on average less than 200 people. So while the area was a hotbed for pottery production, the total number of workers employed relative to the overall population was pretty low. For comparison, industry giant Homer Laughlin employed roughly 800-1000 people in their good years – which speaks to why Fiesta is easy to find and other potteries’ lines not as much.

The Pacific photo has around 100 employees. Also of note, compared to other pottery company employee photographs from the period, it’s nice to see some workforce diversity in this photo: There are 15 women, 2 African Americans and several Latino employees. Even the annual reports from the period don’t provide any detail on the volume of Pacific Pottery produced during the 1930s, but given the relative lack of available pottery today, their production numbers were low in comparison to their local competitors: Bauer, Vernon Kilns, and Gladding-McBean in particular (Metlox didn’t really ramp up production until the 1940s). Again, it’s important to keep in mind that Pacific’s primary business during this period was still commercial pipe and tile. Bauer, Vernon and Metlox were all dedicated to consumer production.