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 inter-
rupted 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 wild animals.
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 Inspiration Point.
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 "T".
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 Edition
"Schroeder's Antiques Price Guide" - 18th Edition 2000
Next month's subject will be on Pfaltzgraff Pottery Company!
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