Locations: La Verne
Dates of Operation: 1949 - Present
Seller Values: Check average price on Ebay
While this company has one of the longest track records of any of the California potteries, there isn’t much information available on their earlier history. Gainey Ceramics still produces excellent garden ware today, and is located in La Verne (east of the 57 Fwy and south of the 210). I’ve visited the factory side lot that sells “seconds” - in fact, customers can only purchase directly from the factory at that lot. If you want newer ceramic pots, you’ll have to buy them through the retail stores that Gainey distributes to. It’s worth a visit though, as the prices for the pots are terrific.
The current website for Gainey does give a basic timeline that starts in 1949 when John Gainey purchased the pottery he worked for. To my knowledge, Jack Chipman’s books don’t mention this pottery, even in passing. I did find one small reference to Gainey Ceramics in Bill Stern’s excellent “California Pottery: From Missions to Modernism”. It appears that the pottery was initially located in Manhattan Beach. In the beginning they produced water bottles for Sparkletts and pet food dishes. Stern notes that the influential Architectural Pottery company contracted production out to Gainey for several years before setting up their own pottery infrastructure.
This is not surprising when comparing the style of Architectural to Gainey’s output. There are definitely some similarities in the clean modernistic lines and aesthetic design. One thing I’ve noticed about Gainey items, both new and old, are that they are constructed in a heavy duty manner. Part of the reason for that is that they were making large gardenware pots, so they needed them to be sturdy.
The company became a leader in supplying indoor garden ceramics, but when the California pottery bust occurred in the 1970s, they were able to survive by adapting their production methods and machinery. The company added tiles to their repertoire in the late 80s, when John’s son Steve bought the company. They’ve continued right on making ceramic garden ware.
The photo above shows a vintage yellow Gainey Ceramics mixing bowl and a newer brown garden pot. The latter has a glossy glaze and is not marked on the bottom - the lack of marking occurs fairly frequently with both older and newer Gainey items. These newer items can have either a matte or shiny glaze.
The yellow bowl is marked “Gainey Ceramics #9 USA La Verne Calif”. It is extremely heavy and thick walled, with a smooth matte glaze. Since many people have no idea what Gainey Ceramics is, you can often find pots at thrift stores for fairly cheap. Keep in mind that there are auctions for “vintage Gainey Ceramics” items that may or may not be older. I seem to have seen many of the styles at the “seconds” lot we visited. I’m not sure how to tell them apart - some of the new backstamps (when they exist) seem to be very similar to the old ones. I think that Gainey still uses many of the designs that they did in the 50s-70s which might be the reason for the confusion. In any case, I think their designs are great - so I don’t really care f the item is new or old.
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