Locations: Claremont, Joshua Tree
Dates of Operation: 1945 - 1994
Seller Values: Check average price on Ebay
2010.05.14 Howard Pierce Bunny
2010.05.11 Howard Pierce Turtle Planter
2009.08.05 Howard Pierce Blue Chickadee Bird
2009.06.23 Howard Pierce Bird in “Nest”
2009.04.27 Curiously Marked Howard Pierce Quail
2009.04.01 California Pottery Flower Frogs
2009.03.05 Howard Pierce Geese
2009.01.15 Howard Pierce Sightings at Joshua Tree
2008.08.16 Owls from Howard Pierce
Previously, I’ve had to apologize for the lack of Howard Pierce ceramics pictures here. However, in the past couple months (writing this as of August 2008) I’ve come across more than a few pieces at thrifts and flea markets, so I’ll be putting up pictures as I have time.
In any case, there is already a ton of info on this popular, collectible and influential potter. It’s some of my favorite California Pottery, for the simple brown and white glazes, the immaculate, modernistic designs and the timeless look. Pierce is probably best known by the average person for his ceramic animal figurines - a whole variety of different animal designs exist, which make it a lot of fun to collect.
Since there’s already so much information about him, I’ll just give the basics: Pierce began working for William Manker in the 30s, started his own business in the mid 1940s in Claremont, CA and later moved it to the desert at Joshua Tree, CA. He created pottery and ceramics up until he passed away in 1994.
In addition to figurines and various other pieces, he produced quite a few larger pieces of sculpture, many which still exist in Joshua Tree. Indeed, he was considered one of Joshua Tree’s more famous residents. I plan to visit Joshua Tree again one of these days to take some pictures of his sculptures.
It’s interesting to note that while many of his items were created earlier, there are quite few items that were produced up to the 80s and 90s. So, the items you may see may actually be newer items. That hasn’t dampened their desirability, as far as I can tell.
The Howard Pierce name stamped is often stamped on the bottom in ink. We have some pieces that simply have inmold stamps of “Pierce” as well. Sometimes on earlier pieces you’ll see “Claremont, Calif” added. Additionally, the word “Porcelain” sometimes appears in conjunction with his name.
One of the most important things for the Pierce collector to remember (and something I’ve had to learn the hard way myself) is that for animal sets that have multiple figures NOT ALL figurines may be marked! For instance, for our owls pictured above ONLY the larger one is marked. This isn’t a problem if you find them as a set. But if you come across only the unmarked piece then you’ll have to recognize it, or just take a chance. I say take a chance, because there are quite a few Pierce knock-off import pieces being made that have a glaze that looks awfully similar to the real deal.
You can find a lot of additional information and pictures at the official site, Howard Pierce Ceramics, which is run by his son Jerry. There is also an amazingly good reference for his pottery called the Collector’s Encyclopedia of Howard Pierce Porcelain by Darlene Dommel - unfortunately that book is currently out of print. We also have a Flickr photo group up dedicated to Howard Pierce.
Update 01/2009: We recently got a chance to visit Joshua Tree and see a few of the larger Howard Pierce sculptures around the area. Here is a detailed post with pictures of the different Pierce statues we found.Note: We've tried to provide as much info as possible on this pottery maker or artist. For further info, you may want to research the items they have on Ebay listed under this name. We've tried to hand tailor the searches below so they will bring up the most accurate results. If there are no results, it will list general California pottery.