HAPPY JULY 4TH!
KAY FINCH CERAMICS
Vol. 1 Issue 9
Kay Finch Ceramics is one of my personal
favorites of the many California potteries. There
is no mistaking a Kay Finch piece. Her style and
colors are all her own.
I discovered Kay Finch by accident. I was at an
estate sale and saw a very unusual hen figurine.
It was more than I wanted to pay and I couldn't
make out the mark, but, something kept telling
me to buy it. I carried that little hen all over the
estate sale trying to decide what to do. Well, I
did buy it and it started a love for that Kay Finch
distinctive, whimsical style.
Kay Finch's creativity began at a very young
age. She started out making animal figurines out
of mud from her backyard as a child. She is
known for her love of animals; among them being
horses and dogs; her favorites. During her later
years in school, she was rarely seen without a
horse or clay.
In 1922, she married Braden L. Finch. She
attended the Memphis Academy of Fine Arts. Her
attendance was interrupted only twice; by the
births of her son, George, and daughter, Frances.
Later, in 1929, they decided to move to
California. They took up residence in Ventura,
California, where Braden worked as a reporter
and advertising for the Ventura Star.
On her way to becoming a well-known ceramic
artist, she took on many sculpting-related
positions. They varied from a student, to
teaching her art, to freelancing her work, to
opening a small studio. The studio was an old
milking shed they had converted where they had
installed a second-hand kiln for $38.00. Thus,
began her journey to becoming a well-known
ceramic artist. She quickly outgrew the $38.00
kiln. In 1939, they bought a two-lot parcel of land
and built a small studio in Corono Del Mar, a
suburb of Newport Beach. The studio was on the
lot next to their home.
The orders began coming in rapidly. So rapidly, in
fact, that a larger kiln had to replace the original.
Then, one year later, in 1941, an even larger one
had to be built. When WWII began and imports
were stopped, demand for American-made
products shot up. To keep up with the demand
and not to compromise the quality of her pieces,
Kay Finch expanded her studio to a major studio
and showroom. It became known as the first
modern ceramic studio on the West Coast.
By 1947, Kay Finch Ceramics had almost 70
employees and her pieces could be found in over
2000 establishments in 19 countries.
In addition to her love for horses, her other love
was for all breeds of dogs, proven by her many
figurines of all breeds. She was a known Afghan
Hound breeder and dog show judge. She did a
series called "The Dog Show". Unlike her other
pieces, her dogs were more realistic.
Kay Finch's world of ceramics was varied. She
began her career with the animal kingdom, and
continued with the seaworld, animals of the
zoos, farm animals, woodland animals, figurines
of different peoples of the world, religious,
holiday, home decorative pieces, and finally for
the White House of the United States.
Frances E. Fowler, president of the distillery that
produces a liqueur called "Southern Comfort",
commissioned Kay Finch to design a victory mug
for Harry S. Truman's re-election toast. The mug
was in the shape of the head of a mule, it was to
stand on its head when full, and stand on the
opening when empty. It was an instant success.
When Braden Finch died in January, 1962, Kay
could not continue on with the company. She
closed the doors of the business and sold some
of the molds to Freeman-McFarlin Potteries in El
Monte, California, some to employees, and some
to hobbyists. She continued on with
Freeman-McFarlin as a free-lance designer and
created dogs, birds, forest folk, waterfowl, and
In 1971, she sculpted a life-size mother and
baby seal in bronze and dedicated it to Braden. It
is permanently mounted in Corono Del Mar below
She continued to work until 1979 at the age of
76. On June 21, 1993, Kay Finch died.
Kay Finch's pieces vary in size from the large to
very small. Not all her pieces are marked; mostly
due to the size of the piece. There are three
types of marks:
Black Ink Stamp - overglaze
Ink Stamp - underglaze - Many colors were used.
Hand-Incised - This was the best type of mark,
but time-consuming and was discontinued when
the demand of her pieces increased.
For an example of some of the marks:
Pieces made prior to 1946 were 3 digits. Some
numbers were also designated with a/b or a/b/c
when there was more than one piece in a group.
Baby items and banks were designated with "B"
following the number.
Items with a lustre finish were designated with
"L". Items that were part of the Topper Flower
Bowl series and pieces such as squirrels or birds
used to accent bowls would be designated with
From 1946-1962 the numbering system
consisted of 4 digits; the first 2 digits being the
year of manufacture.
During the Kay Finch/Freeman-McFarlane
production, the numbers assigned to the pieces
were from 801-849.
Kay Finch Ceramics has gained in popularity in
the recent past several years and prices
continue to rise, as well.
"Kay Finch Ceramics, Her Enchanted World" -
Mike Nickel and Cindy Horvath
"Official Price Guide to Pottery and Porcelain" -
8th Edition - Harvey Duke
"Garage Sale and Flea Market Annual" - 3rd
"Schroeder's Antiques Price Guide" - 18th Edition
Next month's subject will be on Pfaltzgraff Pottery Company!
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