Colorware History & Design

The Maximalist

Pacific Pottery Decorated Hostessware

Pacific Pottery Decorated Banner
Pacific Pottery Decorated Hostessware

In 1934, Pacific Pottery introduced their “decorated” lines – a series of glazed patterns on the Hostessware shape. Around 50 decorated Hostessware patterns have been documented, but the designers remain anonymous. Pacific Pottery decorated Hostessware sometimes has a painted notation on the bottom indicating a pattern ID.

Pacific Pottery Decorated Mark

A 1937 article in the “California – Magazine of Pacific Business” on California pottery production states: “Pacific employs an overglaze process on decorated ware which requires three trips through the kilns, but following the third firing the pieces not only are ovenproof, but are crazeproof. California fruits, wheat and poppies are among their most popular items.” Company wholesale material refers to the ware as “Pacific Hand Decorated Fused Glaze service,” noting that “we can provide a wide range of splendid patterns in this type ware, but all patterns are sold on exclusive control.” Note that while Pacific states their ware is crazeproof, collectors will find pieces with heavy crazing that occurred over time.

Pacific decorated ware is in-glazed and went through a triple firing process – once for the bisque body, another for the base glaze color and a third for the design, which is fired into the piece. The designs would be created by workers (women, most likely) on a turning wheel using glaze and brush. In the image at left, you can see the double stilt marks from the two glaze turns through the kiln.

Only a few of the decorated patterns were named. There are many other one-off designs, perhaps done at the whim of the ceramic designer or artist.

Around the same time period, Gladding-McBean (on their Padua line) and Vernon Kilns (Harry Bird lines) were also producing dinnerware items using similar in-glazing and painting techniques. For most manufacturers, the hand-painted dinnerware craze took off in the early 1940s with the success of Franciscan Desert Rose, Apple & Ivy, Vernon Kilns plaids, and Metlox Ivy. A key difference is the painting technique does not require a third glazing and has a very different look from in-glazed ware.

Pacific Pottery decorated pieces are most commonly found on plates and platters, although the occasional serving piece shows up. Some of the more common patterns include the “BG” plaids, 2007 and 2008 circle designs, “BH” sine waves and “BF” hub and spoke. Based on my research, I believe that decorated patterns were available to department and specialty stores by custom order only.

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