Pacific Pottery Decorated Hostessware

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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 found, but many of the patterns are undocumented. Pacific Pottery decorated Hostessware may sometimes have a painted notation or stamp on the bottom indicating a pattern ID. In the image example, there’s a notation marked hmc J307. I believe that “hmc” are the designer’s initials, as this handmark has been found on large decorated items and may reflect custom (perhaps even unique) designed pieces. J307 would refer to a pattern variant.

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. Because of the production method, decorated items cost significantly more (30-50% higher) than standard Hostessware.

Better Homes & Gardens - 1936

Better Homes & Gardens – 1936

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. Consumers responded 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. Painted dinnerware does not require a third glazing, which means lower production costs, but doesn’t have the same look as 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.

Decorated Hostessware Pattern Identification

Pacific Pottery Decorated Ware

Decorated Ware Patterns | QwkDog Design (click to enlarge)

This illustration provides an overview of the different decorated patterns that have been discovered. Some are unique – maybe even one-offs – and others more prevalent. Due to its bespoke production and relative cost, decorated ware is hard to find today. In several large “wedding” (original purchase, unused) sets that I have purchased, decorated ware was incorporated as accent pieces to complement standard Hostessware.

For more examples, check out the Decorated Hostessware image gallery

Pacific Pottery Guide Mystery!

pacific-pottery-buyers-guideSomewhat of a mystery…every once and awhile, I troll back through years of historical online auctions just to see what other Pacific pieces have surfaced over the years. The other day I came across a couple of Pacific Pottery buyer’s guides from the 1930s. The cover photo was posted along with a couple of teaser pages. Based on the pages that I saw, they contain a wealth of information – including many of the pattern names for the decorated ware. The auction took place in 2011.

I did hear from another collector that someone who worked at the factory (and has since passed) loaned out all of their guides and documentation to another collector. That collector took the guides and republished them, and the original owner found out and sued. I’m wondering if these guides are from that collection. Either way it’s a shame, since without these we are just stabbing around in the dark trying to piece the history of the line together.

UPDATE: I did discover the lawsuit – Lattie v Murdach c-96-2524 – filed in January 1997 and was able to find some information on it. The plaintiff, James Lattie (son of Melvin Lattie, Pacific’s sales manager during the 1930s) sued Naomi Murdach, legendary San Francisco pottery dealer (whose real name was Clarence Tutt) for copyright infringement. In the lawsuit, apparently Naomi borrowed Pacific Pottery promotional materials from James, copied them, and produced his own booklets. It was in fact the guide listed here. I have been unable to get a full copy of the verdict (James won), but I will keep looking for it. James Lattie passed away in 2014, and these materials have not surfaced in any other format.

I also uncovered an article in the Fresno Bee from July 13, 1933 about an upcoming exhibit of Pacific Pottery in Fresno (I believe the family had a connection there). The article credits Melvin Lattie as the “originator and designer of Pacific Pottery.” According to the Lattie family, Melvin was the sales manager (his name does not appear in any of the Pacific annual reports):

Through the courtesy of the Pacific Clay Products Company, makers of the famous Pacific Pottery we will have a special showing of Lawn, Garden, Porch and Floor pieces, as well as a complete display of Table and Patio ware, art ware and kitchen ware. During the exhibition Mr. Melvin James Lattie originator and designer of “Pacific Pottery,” will be in attendance and shall be very happy to lend assistance to anyone in making their selection of the pottery that has literally taken “Fresno by Storm.”

I took the original cover image and recreated in Adobe Illustrator, which is the image shown here.