Saturday, October 27, 2012

California Pottery and Metlox Poppytrail

Lately, I've been buying a lot of California pottery -- Bauer, Franciscan & Metlox.  Two of the more recent pieces I've gotten were a swordfish vase & two swirl candlesticks by Metlox, and they made me want to know more about their history.
Sailfish vase & swirl candlsticks
Over the years I've become pretty familiar with the whole whole West Virginia/Ohio/Pennsylvania pottery industry (including the factory tour at Homer Laughlin -- a must-do, if you ever get the chance).  I didn't know much about California pottery, though, so I did what any so-last-century person does:  got a book out of the library!
This is a great book by Carl Gibbs Jr. -- all the information (and book pictures) in this blog post come from this book & he gets full credit!
1920s:  Metlox was started by TC Prouty & his son, Willis.  They'd moved from Michigan to California and began working in tile in 1920.  They started Metlox in Manhattan Beach, CA in 1927 & made outdoor signs and insulators for neon tubes.  The name Metlox is a combination of Metal and Oxide, which refers to the pigments in their glazes.  In 1931, Willis took over when his dad passed away and, after seeing what Bauer was doing with pottery dinnerware & how popular it was, he started the pottery lines we're familiar with now.
Their dinneware was equally colorful and pretty as Homer Laughlin's Fiesta line!
1930s:  In 1934, he had the '200 series' or Poppytrail line (my swirl candlesticks), followed by the artware line in 1935 (my swordfish vase -- which I found out is really a sailfish).  My sailfish was designed and signed by Carl Romanelli.  That was followed by Pintoria, Yorkshire and Mission Bell.  All of these were solid color pottery pieces.

1940s:  They stopped production during WWII and Prouty sold to Evan Shaw in 1946.  Shaw hired Bob Allen and Mel Shaw (no relation), who were animators & created lots of animal lines for Metlox.  They started doing painted pieces, like this California Ivy relish dish.  The hand-decorated lines were their most popular and rivaled Franciscan's Desert Rose line.
Vernon Kilns plaid salt & pepper and a California Ivy relish dish
1950s:  They bought Vernon Kilns (of the Blair plaids, like this salt and pepper and painted pot) and started using their molds & patterns.  This is the same way Homer Laughlin continued to produce pieces for companies they bought out in the midwest.
Blair handpainted decorative pot
1954 Free Form gravy boat -- I love this line, with its atomic-era shapes!
My newest find at the antique mall -- a large (13") Free Form platter!
1960s:  This was the high point for Metlox -- by then, their only main competitor was Franciscan.  They sold lots of their lines to department stores.

1970s:  Hand-decorated and open-stock dishes went out of style and people wanted boxed sets.  Metlox couldn't compete with foreign manufacturers (mainly Japan).  They still had the little animal line, though, and some planters called 'Poppets' that were designed by Helen Slater & which were very popular.

1989:  Metlox closed its doors for good.  They were the last California pottery works to go out of business. This is all that's left of the Manhattan Beach factory.
The old Metlox sign -- all that's left at Manhattan Beach
Here are some other California pottery pieces:
Franciscan Autumn Leaves divided dish
Franciscan ceramic tray, Gladding McBean (Franciscan) butter dish and Patio line salt & pepper
Franciscan condiment set
That's what I love about buying, selling & collecting vintage:  no matter how much I know, there's always something new to learn about!


Bargain Hunting Treasure Seeker said...

LOVE the butter dish!!! Great finds and a great lesson-THANKS!!!

Anonymous said...

Hi... Have a damaged cookie jar with gingerbread figures, dogs and balloons on side. Bought in mid-70's. It is about 10" round, flat brown glaze. Only mark is "made in Poppytrail Ca." so may not be Metlox. Would love to replace it OR find a "whale" themed jar for new grandson. Love your site and hope you can shed some light on this family's jar of "cookie love".

Diana's Gift Shop said...

I have the Red Rooster - Red coffee and tea service and was researching it in order to list it here at my little shop in Ohio and found your page - great stuff, Thank you !

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