We had a wonderful time at the 2009 Los Angeles Pottery Show. Held at the Pasadena Convention Center this past Feb 7-8, the show was an overwhelming experience for newcomers to pottery collecting like ourselves. We were seriously awestruck by the amount of amazing vintage pottery that was available. Perhaps 30-40% of the pottery there was actually California Pottery, but it was actually very educational to see all the different vintage pottery that was produced elsewhere.
The show featured dealers of vintage pottery along with various “new” potters and potteries. It was very interesting to see the works from the modern potteries, such as Ephraim Faience Pottery and Sassafras Pottery, which are focusing on contemporary pottery with an older arts and crafts feel. In either case, most of the newer and older pottery was far out of our price range. So we were mostly window shopping.
I noticed that we were among the youngest folks at the show - this was a little disconcerting at first, but I guess it’s to be expected. The more advanced collectors would probably have been collecting since before we were even born! I know there are younger people who are into pottery - but perhaps they don’t know about the show, or are more interested in creating their own pottery than collecting it. I’m hoping someone might read about it here and try attend next year.
One of the highlights of the show for us was meeting the legendary California potter Barbara Willis (Abbott). She was exhibiting some of her newer wares that she’s been creating - at the young age of 91 years! Truly an inspiration. We snapped a photo as she signed the Jack Chipman book we bought about her. I’ve been searching for some of her older pottery at thrift stores, flea markets and antique stores for years now. It’s appreciated significantly since she famously “reappeared” at a flea market in 1996 after a hiatus of over 30 years, so it’s a little out of our price range. We do have one of her less expensive vases that has the “bird” decals on it. I’m still hoping one of these days to come across a planter or vase in all of it’s crackle glaze beauty.
Another celebrity at the LA Pottery show that we got to speak to was David Rago. You might remember him from his appraisals on the Antiques Roadshow. It turns out that Mr. Rago and Suzanne Perrault do verbal appraisals every year for this pottery show. There is a suggested donation of five dollars per item, and proceeds go to Homeboy Industries, a local job training and assistance organization.
The funny thing is, we had actually found a piece of pottery worthy of an appraisal a few weeks back! We had come across a short squat vase at the thrift store that we thought was from the famous Grueby company. It wasn’t from California, but we weren’t complaining since Mr. Rago appraised it for $1000! You can see him holding it in the photo. It dates from 1910 or before that, and has an interesting green “alligator” skin type of glaze to it.
Finding this really old and rare vase gave me hope of coming across some of the older elusive California pottery like E.A. Batchelder and California Faience one day. I mean, I’m not expecting to come across it tomorrow. But it was just a reminder that persistence pays off - you just have to keep hitting the thrifts and try to be in the right place at the right time.
We also spent a good amount of time in California Pottery author Jack Chipman’s booth. I’d been to one of his house sales last year. Since we focus primarily on California Pottery on this site, there was a lot of stuff to see.
We drooled over the many Howard Pierce figurines for sale - and in the end, we just couldn’t avoid picking up a few items. We got a pair of the taller penguins - I’ll be putting those pictures up in another post later on this month.
It was also interesting that he was displaying a number of pieces of Denwar pottery. You may remember me talking about these “Mola-mola” - like dinnerware shapes earlier. We would’ve picked up one of these striking cups to match our saucer, but none of them were in the Guinea Gold color.
I’m already looking forward to the next LA Pottery show - it’ll be held in late January 2010, so mark your calenders now!
More California Pottery