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

Ralph M. Parsons Foundation Gallery

September 21, 2016 through March 12, 2017 (Please note: These exhibitions were originally scheduled to close on February 12, 2017, but have been extended due to popular demand.)


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.

2014_005_019_020In 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.

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.

Thank you to our generous sponsors!

Signature Sponsor: John F. Merrell Charitable Foundation

Claysmith Sponsors: Whittier Trust Company/Confidence Foundation; Sumner Development

General Exhibition Info

Hours: Wednesdays through Sundays, 12:00 to 5:00 pm. Please note that the Museum is closed on all major holidays. The Museum's hours can be affected by the schedule at the Rose Bowl Stadium and special events. Check our calendar for specific dates.

Tickets (available in Museum Store): $7 General; $6 Students & Seniors; Members receive free admission for 2 & Children under 12 are free.


Non-commercial photography is allowed unless otherwise noted.


Service animals only are allowed inside the buildings.

Exhibition-Related Programs

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Exhibition Tours

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Concurrent Exhibition


Ernest A. Batchelder was an author, designer, educator, artist, and tilemaker who settled in Pasadena in the early 20th century. 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. Read more...

Images: “California Carollers” by Clay Sketches, Pasadena. Gift of Dr. Elizabeth A. Smalley, 2014.005.029; Pair of chalkware figurines, by Sylvia Hood, Pasadena. 8” high each. Gift of Dr. Elizabeth A. Smalley, 2014.005.019, 020; Batchelder bird tile, design #510, circa 1923. Gift of Robert Winter: Ernest A. Batchelder Tile Collection & Archives, 2015.008.077. Tiles such as this one will be on display in Batchelder: Tilemaker