Cast & Fired: Pasadena’s Mid-Century Ceramics Industry

Feb 27, 2017

Southern California, with its rich clay deposits, emerged as a world leader in pottery and ceramics production for household use in the mid-twentieth century.

“Cast & Fired: Pasadena’s Mid-Century Ceramics Industry” explores this boom, which was ushered in by Ernest Batchelder’s luminously-glazed Asian-inspired forms. This exhibit examines, for the first time, Pasadena’s contributions to this industry. Over 100 potteries, ceramic producers and china manufacturers are documented in the Pasadena City Directories during these decades. Many are just names and addresses – their products and stories are lost in the past. Exhibit curator Dr. Elizabeth Smalley has been documenting Pasadena ceramics firms for years, and has assembled a collection of ceramic objects from over thirty of these local companies. Additionally, collectors and descendants of these firms have generously lent rare objects, photos and ephemera to the exhibit.

These ceramics were produced in both small artisan workshops and in large factories. The styles are eclectic, ranging from the hand-modeled exotic figurines of Joy Thompson, to the whimsical animals and caricatures of Twin Winton, and the sleek mid-century pastels of Roselane. Some, such as Batchelder Ceramics, look to Asia for inspiration in their forms and glazes; others, such as Florence Ceramics, mimic eighteenth century Dresden china.


“California Carollers” by Clay Sketches, Pasadena. Gift of Dr. Elizabeth A. Smalley, 2014.005.029


In all, the ceramics made in Pasadena reflect the aspirations and taste of millions of American households during the mid-century, as well as the artistry and vision of their creators.

This exhibit runs through March 12.


Cast & Fired: Pasadena’s Mid-Century Ceramics Industry
Through Sunday, March 12
Hours: Wednesdays-Sundays, noon to 5 p.m.
Cost: general, $7; students & seniors, $6; children under 12, free
For more info, visit


Lenders to the exhibit include: Helen Beckhart; Michal Dawson Connor; Teresa Hartley; Linda Hayden; Jay Houser; Kristi Winton Johnson; Jack Moore; Museum of California Design, Gift of Bill Stern; Diane Nishimoto; Parkinson-Ellis Collection; Collection of Rosendo & Terry Perez; the Mike Porto Collection; and Victoria Stocker.


Pair of chalkware figurines, by Sylvia Hood, Pasadena. 8” high each. Gift of Dr. Elizabeth A. Smalley, 2014.005.019, 020




Concurrent exhibit: “Batchelder: Tilemaker

Ernest A. Batchelder was an author, designer, educator, artist, and tilemaker who settled in Pasadena in the early 20thcentury. Batchelder: Tilemaker (September 21, 2016 – February 12, 2017) celebrates the recent donation to the Museum of a collection of Batchelder tiles and archives by leading Batchelder authority, Robert Winter, PhD, who also serves as exhibition curator.


Batchelder bird tile, design #510, circa 1923. Gift of Robert Winter: Ernest A. Batchelder Tile Collection & Archives, 2015.008.077



(These exhibitions were originally scheduled to close on February 12, 2017, but have been extended due to popular demand.)



1 Response for “Cast & Fired: Pasadena’s Mid-Century Ceramics Industry”

  1. jim mackey says:

    I have a set of figurines and a tree described on a card with it as “the twelve days of christmas; an old english carol; from the design in ceramics by Joy Thompson”. All are done in terra cotta and the human figurines have a somewhat oriental look to them. I’m trying to find out something about them I have come across the name being mentioned in the ceramics field in your area in the 50’s and wondered if you could give me any information about the set or joy thompson. thank you, jim mackey



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