Locations: San Gabriel, Claremont
Dates of Operation: 1940s - 1960s
Seller Values: Check average price on Ebay
2009.05.10 Owl by Hildred Reents
In the past, I’ve come across wonderful pottery by Hildred Reents in the occasionally at various flea markets and thrift stores, but I’ve only recently come across any solid information about this talented ceramicist. I had the good fortune of corresponding with Hildred’s daughter about her mom’s work. Much of the information in this gallery comes directly from Marta.
I was initially drawn to Hildred’s work because it reminded me of Howard Pierce and Roselane, two of my favorite California ceramic companies. It turns out that there is a connection there - Hildred’s studio was in the Padua Hills area, the same art colony location where artists like Howard Pierce and William Manker congregated together in the 50s and 60s. Marta says that the famous potter Harrison McIntosh was actually a neighbor!
Hildred was born in 1914 in the Imperial Valley of California. She attended UCLA in the 1930s and started making ceramics in the 1940s in San Gabriel. Many of her pieces are brown matte glazed animal figurines, naturalistic looking but sometimes with a bit of a quirky, modern apperance. It has been speculated that Hildred probably did work for Roselane at some point in the 1940s and 50s, which explains the likeness in style. Actually, some of the ceramic examples that Marta has are identical to Roselane items.
They moved to the Padua Hills area in 1951 and Hildred continued making ceramics. She sold some through distributors, notably Warren Imports of Laguna Beach and William Manker’s studio. She also did contract design work for Kingbird Products, specifically for Ethlyn Gaylord (Gayet Ceramics). Later, Hildred taught ceramics at Chaffey College in Rancho Cucamonga and at Pasadena City College. That’s interesting because it was at the PCC flea market where I first came across some ceramics that were marked “Hildred”.
Hildred moved to Alamos, Sonora, Mexico in the late 1960s. According to Marta, she didn’t make ceramics for production after moving to Mexico, but she did teach the occasional pottery class there. Hildred passed away in June of 2007.
As I’ve said previously, I haven’t come across too many pieces that I know to be Hildred’s work. In addition to smaller ceramics she also made larger scale items. It’s known she favored animals as subjects, although she did do other figurines and ceramics of Balinese dancers and other non-animal subjects. The photo above shows a selection of animals created by Hildred - note the quail, which are identical to the Roselane ones (see Chipman’s Books for pictures of the Roselane quail). I think this might be a reason why some of Hildred’s pieces are not recognized, since to my knowledge the Roselane pieces did not have her name on them.
When marked, her pieces usually have a simple “Hildred” signature. It is sometimes of the “reversed” type where a rectangle of glaze is applied to the unglazed bottom and the signature appears in white. The owl that I found below has no signature at all, and is actually hollow so that the eyes are actually holes. At the time I had no idea it was a Hildred piece - but I did feel that the brown glaze reminded me a ton of Roselane pieces. In addition the hollow eyes were interesting, and I felt that I had seen it before. Later, I found the owl in Marta’s photos, confirming that it was made by Hildred.
Some of Hildred’s pieces originally had brown colored foil stamps that read “Hildred California” in lieu of, or in addition to, an incised signature on the bottom of the piece.
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