Locations: Pasadena, Claremont
Dates of Operation: 1933 - 1950s
Seller Values: Check average price on Ebay
Ever since I became interested in pottery, I’ve held a high regard for William Manker and his contribution to the southern California ceramics community. His beautiful and innovative shapes coupled with blended glazes are the main reason for this. But also, in my mind, he is especially important because he formed an important bridge between older Arts and Crafts masters like Batchelder and a newer generation of modern studio pottery artists like Howard Pierce.
Born in 1902, he initially found design work with Batchelder in 1926 and this would later lead to him opening William Manker Ceramics in Pasadena in 1933. Two years later, he made a fateful move to the Padua Hills area north of Claremont. It was here that he really established his reputation in ceramics, and also as an instructor at Scripps college (he actually founded the college’s ceramics dept).
I’ve driven by the Padua Hils area on the way to Mt. Baldy a few times. The houses along the way there were interesting - but there seemed to be quite a bit of “newer” cookie cutter housing coming up in the area as well. I’m not sure of the actual location of his residence, or whether or not it still exists.
During the operation of his ceramics company, Manker was instrumental in mentoring quite a few future names in the California pottery business. These include Kay Finch and Howard Pierce. The latter actually worked for Manker’s company for awhile. The rise of plentiful imports from other countries caused William Manker to cease operations sometime in the late 50s. After that, he worked as a consultant for various design firms and companies. He passed away in 1994, the same year as Howard Pierce.
Most of the time, Manker pieces will be marked with an ink stamp on the bottom. I don’t believe he used incised or inmold marks on his pieces, except in very early pieces and perhaps additional identification numbers. There are few different ink marks, the older ones have a flower or plant motif in addition to his name. The later ones have the words “California USA” added. He also did use foil paper stamps, but I think that they may have been applied in addition to the stamped marks. I think there are some instances where items were not marked. Or more commonly, the ink mark was not stamped on all the way or it rubbed off later, resulting in a partial or missing mark.
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