Dates of Operation: 1960s - ?
Seller Values: Check average price on Ebay
We’ve known about Stoneware Designs West for quite awhile, but hadn’t created a gallery because of the lack of information on the company. The company is neither listed in any of Jack Chipman’s books nor Lehners encyclopedia. However, we’d seen enough items to know that this must have been at least a decent sized California pottery operation.
Earlier we had noted similarity of some Stoneware Designs West (sometimes abbreviated as “SDW” on inmold markings) to Robert Maxwell and Treasure Craft or Pottery Craft items. It turns out that this was not too far off. According to Jack Chipman, this was a “local company started by 2 former Maxwell employees in the late 60s.” That makes perfect sense as many of the items from the company share the same fine brownish clay composition, glaze color choice and lack of markings and heat ring on bottom.
There are two types of SDW items that we see frequently. The first are various vases, bowls, ashtrays and various kitchenware with an abstract “brushstroke” style brownish glaze on a lighter greenish to brown solid color glaze. The items appear to be cast, but the patterns applied by hand.
The second type of items are figural planters, vases, candleholders and cookie jars similar to the one we found shown above. We actually call these the “smiley face” figurines because of the simple expression on most of the faces which are cut out of the clay instead of painted on. Interestingly, the one we found had an original green ribbon woven through the holes in the pottery. We’re not sure if this was a third party addition or not. We see a lot of these figural planters being sold in midcentury modern shops as “Danish-inspired figural stoneware” or something like that. We’re not sure if that was the original intent, but they do seem to fit in nicely with midcentury period decor.
One of the issues with SDW is that it is very frequently unmarked. Similar to the way Pottery Craft items only had a paper foil label, they often show up with no markings at all. While they are somewhat recognizable, it’s often difficult to say whether an item was made by SDW because the abstract patterns they used were pretty common - we’re not sure but very similar items appear to have been made by different companies up into at least the 80s. We often go by the clay color and composition and familiar shapes, but it’s still difficult to tell for sure. There is less problem usually with identifying the figural planters, though we also believe that copycat versions of these “smiley face” items exist, notably ceramics made in Japan in the 1970s-80s.
When they do have a label, it’s usually a gold oval label with “Stoneware by Designs West California USA” or something similar. Some Designs West items are marked inmold, often with just “Designs West” or “SDW” and the item number.
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