Known for its clever kitsch, as well as more sober examples of dinnerware, vases, and garden planters, McCoy pottery has been popular with collectors for a century. Whether you are drawn to tankards resembling pigs, monk-shaped cookie jars with the ominous inscription "Thou Shalt Not Steal" on their sides, or elegant Art Deco flower vases decorated with geometric designs in pastel hues, chances are your eye has alighted on a piece of McCoy.
One of the hallmarks of McCoy pottery is its functionality. A cartoonish sailor figurine, for example, striding along in bell-bottom trousers with a pack slung over his shoulder, has a slot for coins — he’s also a bank. Similarly, a woman peeking out from under a red brimmed hat appears to carry a basket in her arms, but the object she cradles is designed to hold topsoil and tulips—in other words, a planter.
When the Nelson McCoy Sanitary Stoneware Company opened in 1910 in Roseville, Ohio near a good supply of local clay, functionality routinely trumped style as McCoy focused on serviceable food-storage jugs. Decorative touches to the stoneware were simple, using mostly salt- and slip-glaze techniques, but in 1925, when McCoy built the area's first tunnel kiln, expansion into a new world of whimsy became possible.
McCoy began producing the artware for which it became famous in 1926. Fired in the bright glazes popular in the mid-20s was everything from planters in the shapes of rhinoceroses and pineapples to umbrella stands.
In the market for a cuspidor? McCoy’s were green, with bunches of grapes in high relief on their sides. Designers at the company created green cider sets with mugs shaped like barrels rather than basic beer cups, and instead of giving plants a plain home, McCoy bulb bowls featured parading elephants loping around their circumferences.
In the kitchen, McCoy introduced advances in decoration as well as functionality. For example, its mixing bowls of the 1920s were glazed in green rather than the standard yellow, and embossed with flowers and line motifs — more detail than home cooks had previously enjoyed. McCoy's mixing bowls also nested, so several could be stored in the space of one, a handy trick Homer Laughlin later employed in its famous Fiesta line.
In 1933, in the midst of the Great Depression, the company changed its name to McCoy Pottery Company — the term "sanitary" had fallen out of vogue. Because cash-strapped families...
Returning to its roots, McCoy’s first stoneware containers for baked goods were adorned with understated floral designs, but Duncan Curtiss, a savvy McCoy sales agent from New York, thought his company would do better if it had a little fun with these kitchen staples. Accordingly, McCoy started manufacturing novelty cookie jars, beginning in 1939 with “Mammy with Cauliflower,” whose billowy apron called up warm thoughts of buttery, home-baked goodness.
World War II slowed production (the company made ceramic land-mine casings), but by the end of the 1940s, McCoy’s cookie-jar and jardinière lines were in full swing again.
Most cookie jars from these postwar years are readily available because they were mass-produced, but collectors should be on the lookout for lost glaze and color. Grubby hands reaching for gingerbread snaps and chocolate pinwheels made this pottery form more susceptible to daily wear than other ceramics collectibles.
Despite their use, it's still possible to find well-preserved cookie jars in the shapes of kangaroos, Indians, clowns, Chinese lanterns, turkeys, grandfather clocks, and bananas, to name but a few of McCoy’s styles.
By the 1950s and ’60s, McCoy was producing some of its most sought-after cookie jars, as well as TV lamps, which exploded in popularity during this time. In the '70s and '80s, corporations routinely commissioned McCoy to produce advertising jars trumpeting their brands, Coca-Cola, Harley Davidson, and Quaker Oats among them.
Less likely to be damaged through use were McCoy vases and figurines. Today, collectors can score prime examples of Grecian-esque urns with slim looping handles, or yellow gnome statuettes. Other vases were swan-shaped or triangular, some resembled cornucopias, and still more were embossed with flowers in every shade of the pastel rainbow.
McCoy’s production reached its peak in the '50s, when the company employed almost 500 workers, but the times they were a-changing. By the 1970s, the company was cranking out barbecue sets with Old West themes and punch bowls with matching cups that dangled from the sides.
Earth-toned Lazy Susans held chips and dip at cocktail parties while Woodsy Owl was among the characters to grace the sides of McCoy cookie jars. These were old-looking styles in a youth-obsessed nation, and by 1990, after several ownership and management changes, the factory finally closed its doors.
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December's First Friday Art Trail attracts more than 15 participantsLubbockOnline.com, November 26th
788-1008. ? CASP Live/Work Studios — 1010 Mac Davis Lane. Studio 1: “Smoking with the Dummy,” installation by Amarillo artists Jeremy Marshall, Jon Revett and Matthew Williams. Studio 2: Pottery by David Echols. Studio 3: Michaela Proper, fiber art...Read more
McCoy JewelcraftCommunity Impact Newspaper, November 24th
The store features cases of handcrafted jewelry as well as figurines Jerry made from bronze and jewelry and pottery created by the Hopi-Zuni Navajo tribes. McCoy Jewelcraft has been located in the same storefront in the Plaza 183 center since opening...Read more
Marietta City Council looking to rename new park after Franklin, Livingston ...Marietta Daily Journal, November 23rd
The road takes its name from J.W. Franklin, who operated a brick and pottery business beginning in the early 1900s, Tumlin said. “I'm opposed to (the name change),” Franklin said during a meeting on the topic last week. “It's an insult to my family to...Read more
Art Center members far and wide show off talents during All Member ShowBurlington Hawk Eye, November 23rd
“This has been our largest show to date,” art center director Tammy McCoy said of the show, which includes more than 100 pieces. Artists who ... Mediums included paintings, jewelry, textiles, wood carvings, glass sculptures, photography and pottery...Read more
Family member objects to Franklin Road name changeMarietta Daily Journal, November 18th
Lamar Franklin Jr., of the Franklin family for which the road takes its name, said he believed the name change would diminish the legacy his family left behind with its JW Franklin and Sons Pottery business. “I'm opposed to (the name change),” Franklin...Read more
Lightbulbs raised more than $250K; 35 will stay on public displayLincoln Journal Star, November 11th
ILC, 6800 Normal Blvd. -- Two sculptures: "Evolinction" by artist Spencer Pacheco and "Legend Pottery" by artist Jeri Brainard. * Belmont Elementary School ... Stockwell Pharmacy, 3811 S. 27th St. -- "Grow Light II" by artist Liz Shea-McCoy. * Hill...Read more
Historic murals capture life during the depressionTyler Morning Telegraph, November 8th
“Despite the great number of oil paintings, prints, pottery, watercolors, mosaic, tapestries, etc., PWAP works of art are unusual to encounter. Many of the works have been lost and many were only partially completed or installed in public places in the...Read more
Festivalgoers soak up art, ambiance, rain in Ocean SpringsThe Sun Herald, November 8th
It's held in honor of ceramist Peter Anderson, who founded Shearwater Pottery in 1928, and to celebrate the arts community. Tens of thousands attended this weekend's gathering. Final numbers were not immediately available to see how the rain affected ...Read more