Brayton-Laguna Pottery is often considered ground zero for the California colorware movement. Founded in 1927, Durlin Brayton bought a kiln and built out a small workshop out of his home in Laguna Beach. Among the first items produced by Brayton-Laguna was a small set of dinnerware – place settings, teapots, pitchers and bowls – notable not only for the hand-pressed mold technique they used, but for the wide range of innovative glaze colors. Brayton’s color palette included: rose, strawberry pink, eggplant, jade green, lettuce green, chartreuse, old gold, burnt orange, lemon yellow, silky black, and white. In addition to the dinnerware line (which as far as I can tell didn’t have a name), Brayton also produced a range of decorative tiles, artware and vases. Brayton and his wife sold the pottery out of their home, attracting buyers by displaying wares in their front yard.
In 1936, Brayton married his second wife, known as “Webb,” and they began to transform the small workshop into a larger commercial enterprise. They constructed a new manufacturing facility on a five-acre plot of land in 1938, between the Pacific Coast Highway and Gleneyre. The completely modern new location featured two continuous tunnel kilns, essential for large scale production, as well as design facilities and a showroom. By this point, Brayton-Laguna focused production on artware, primarily hand-decorated figurines. At capacity in the 1940s Brayton employed 150 artists, designers and potters.
After World War II ended and tariff restrictions lifted, cheap imports from Europe and Japan begin flooding the market. Adding to their problems, Webb passed away in 1948 with Durlin following in 1951. With the increased competition, changing consumer tastes and loss of leadership, Brayton’s prominence continued to decline (although they managed to stay in business much longer than many other potteries). The company closed their doors in 1968.
Brayton-Laguna dinnerware is typically hand inscribed on the base of each piece. Dinnerware is challenging to find and although there are few collectors due to its rarity, prices remain surprisingly high.
Wells Tile in Los Angeles has a nice selection of early Brayton-Laguna dinnerware. Check their site for photos and more information.
Source: Chipman, Jack (1999). Collector’s Encyclopedia of California Pottery