Locations: West Los Angeles, Hawthorne
Dates of Operation: 1947 - 1973
Seller Values: Check average price on Ebay
Featured Sascha Brastoff items (view more)
Popular Lines & Patterns:
Abstract Originals, Alaska Line, Americana Line, Chi Chi Bird Mosaics, Smoke Tree, Star Steed, Surf Ballet,
Sascha Brastoff was one of the most famous names in pottery during the 1950s. At one point, his main factory (designed by A Quincy Jones) was even considered a tourist destination. His output was both prodigious and artistically innovative.
Despite his popularity (or perhaps because of it), I’ve rarely come across his pieces at the thrifts and at yard sales. I believe that the fact that most of his pieces are clearly marked in some way contributes to this. Name recognition probably plays a large part as well - I’d heard of him even before I knew anything about California pottery. He’s not as famous as some other potters, but he’s definitely well known. As well, his decorative ware, dinnerware and ashtrays are far from subtle and naturally catch the eye, probably leading a lot of folks to snap it up quickly.
Brastoff was a man of many talents - besides being a force in pottery and ceramics he worked in fine art, sculpture, design, plastics and jewelry. The main factory which became the tourist attraction was actually not the first location, nor the last. I believe the first business he had was also in West LA, and later he had to expand to a factory owned by American Ceramic Products. After that building burned down, they built the famous facility on Olympic.
That particular location was south of UCLA, currently near where the 10 and 405 Freeways intersect. I haven’t driven in the area for nearly a decade, so I don’t know if any remnants of that factory exist. Brastoff actually took a break from his ceramics in the 1960s for health reasons, and soon after that the operations were moved to Hawthorne where it continued for another 10 years. Brastoff passed away in 1993. He was extremely influential in the California pottery scene of the 1950s-60s - his most famous “student” is probably Marc Bellaire.
As I’ve said before, the popularity of Sascha Brastoff pieces is one reason you won’t find too many of them at the local Goodwill. I do see his dinnerware pieces turn up from time to time at the flea markets and at antique malls, but the prices are rather high. As for most of the handpainted sculpture, plates, masks and household items, they can be really hard to come by. His work is exhibited in several museums and galleries around the country.
The two items that the average collector might come across at the thrift are ashtrays and dinnerware. There was a whole lot of smoking going on back in the 50s and 60s and ashtrays were said to be the most popular Brastoff items. I’ve actually started to pass them up - since I don’t smoke, and I’m leaning away from the more gaudy items.
For dinnerware, there are a couple of lines you might come across with the most common being the metallic swirled Surf Ballet line. I’ve seen more than a couple companies who copied this line, most notably Santa Anita who made a similar metallic line called “Mist”. There’s a really nice mid century modern looking line of pottery items he produced called “Abstract Originals”. This line was also imitated heaviliy by several competitor companies - the one that comes to mind right away is Madeline Originals.
For marks, as I’ve said before most Brastoff items ARE marked in some way, and if paper labels were used they were often used in conjunction with an ink stamp. This is great for collectors because there is less doubt when trying to identify Brastoff pieces. Two of the more common stamps include: a rooster icon plus his name, and a “signature” reading Sascha B.
There are a few things to note about the backstamps. First, according to what I read in Jack Chipman’s book, the “signature”, while certainly done by hand, is not always necessarily signed by him. In general, if it is signed “Sascha B.” then it was done not by him but by a decorator working for him. If it is signed in full “Sascha Brastoff” (and of course it’s not the rooster stamp), then it is likely his own true signature. I think that this is said to be a general rule, but not an ABSOLUTE one - keep that in mind. The items I personally own have only the “Sascha B” signature, except of course for the Rooster stamp which has his full name.
I’ve also read online that if you see an “X” or cross mark through the stamp (mostly meaning the Rooster one), this means that the item was a “factory second” (i.e. there was some small defect or issue with the item which led to it being sold for less or on sale). I haven’t been able to confirm this information for sure, but I DO have pieces that have the “X” through the stamp, so I know that this did occur.
One last note - there is a collector book that deals exclusively with Sascha Brastoff, but I believe it’s currently out of print. I haven’t gotten a chance yet to look through the book, but if I do, I’ll update the information on this page.
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