Early Catalina pottery is famous for its redware clay base. While redware was good enough for larger garden and commercial items, white clay was a better fit for dinnerware production (glazes adhered to the surface more easily). As Catalina moved away from tile and gardenware and towards dinnerware, they imported clay from (among others) the Pacific Clay Company’s clay mines in Lincoln, California. Glazes used during the period include: Catalina Blue, Descanso Green, Toyon Red, Mandarin or Manchu Yellow, Turquoise Blue, and Ivory. Harder to find colors include Monterey Brown and Seafoam. Occasionally, collectors will come across Teal, Obsidian Black, and cobalt.
During the 1929-36 period in which Catalina produced tableware, they strove to be known as a “quality pottery” – a line used by many California potteries when faced with intense competition from the Ohio Valley potteries – by only selling in higher-end department stores across the United States. Several lines were offered, ranging in styles from art deco to arts and crafts to Moorish. In 1936, some of the chief architects behind the success of the pottery retired, notably DM Renton, and without a driving force behind the organization the Wrigley company looked for a buyer. Gladding-McBean (GMcB) took possession of Catalina’s trademarks and molds on March 31, 1937 and continued to produce a variety of products using the Catalina brand under their Rancho, Avalon and Aurora Artware lines until 1942. Collectors should note that pottery produced under GMcB is marked as “Catalina Pottery” and original pieces are marked “Catalina Island Pottery.”
For a more complete history of Catalina Island Pottery and reference images, check out Dan and Jane Austin’s Catalina pottery site.
Today, you can take a 45 minute ferry ride from Long Beach, San Pedro, and Dana Point to the two Catalina Island destinations, Avalon and Two Harbors. The town of Avalon is full of original Catalina tile both in- and outside shops, homes, and municipal buildings.