Category Archives: Pottery Research Resources

Is this Babar the Elephant King coffee mug vintage? Determining if your object is “vintage” for your Etsy shop

In order to sell vintage items on Etsy, the item must be over 20 years old (as of 2016,  before 1997).

Babar MugIf the item you are listing is something you have owned for over 20 years, then it is easy….or perhaps the object is a pottery or ceramic that is signed by the artist and has a date on it, like this panda mug by artist Win Ng  made in 1984 (for Taylor & Ng).


Or maybe the object is a company with a long history, and  there is a record of when a particular factory stamp was used.

The company Arabia Finland is great at this, and it was easy to learn when this vintage casserole baker was made, based on the factory back stamp (it was made between 1964 to 1971).

P1310163 This Arabia Finland Casserole Baker is listed on my Etsy Shop (click on photo if you want to see the listing).

You can also click here or the image below  to link to the Arabia Finland official website (with images of their factory stamps starting in 1874!).

Back Stamp Info

But what about an item that has no date, like this Babar the Elephant King cup?


No date, but it did have the name “Nelvana Ross” on the bottom.


My initial search led me to this page from the Worthpoint website indicating one like it sold in 2013…

Babar Cup on Worth Point

And while it is nice to know that the cup is rare, I still did not know when it was made.

So the next step was to research “Nelvana Ross’, which led to finding  out about a lawsuit in 1990.

It turns out there was a dispute over product licensing, so perhaps the products did not go out in mass quantity, resulting in making these cups rare.

So, the answer is YES, this item is vintage, and I listed it on the my Etsy vintage shop (where it sold very quickly).

Babar cup listing

And while I do not know the exact date  when the mug was made, the newspaper articles about the lawsuit at least gave me an idea of the manufacturing date  (somewhere around  early 1990 or before) to confirm that yes indeed, it was vintage.

The first Babar book was by Jean de Brunhoff and was an immediate success after its release in 1931. After the death of Jean de Brunhoff in 1937, his son, Laurent de Brunhoff (who was also an illustrator and writer) continued on with the character and the series of Babar books.

Since then, I’ve listed another Babar cup and plate set on the shop, by La Lourioux France Berry Haute Porcelaine.


You can click on the Babar image above or below to view the listing on my Etsy shop.


I’ll add articles as I learn more about how to date pottery and other objects.

If you have tips or links to websites with good information, please comment and share 🙂 .

You can return to the home page here, to see the most recent blog post.

Somayaki ( Ōbori Sōma-yaki) or Soma Ware: Pottery from Japan

Japan is known as one of the places that can date its pottery tradition to the Neolithic era (the last part of the Stone Age and before the Copper / Bronze Age).

In fact, the oldest known evidence of pottery making in the world can be found in Japan, as well as Korea and southern China.

I am continuing to add pottery objects to my Etsy store, and enjoying the research aspect of this process, especially delving into and learning about the different and distinct styles of my pottery finds.

You can click on the photo to see the listing on my Etsy store


I recently listed Somayaki or “Soma Ware” double-wall pottery and found the story about these objects so interesting, especially that it was made in the Fukushima area of  Japan.

Below is what I learned and the information posted for my Soma Ware listings.

Soma-yaki  is a style of pottery that started over 300 years ago in Fukushima, Northern Japan, on the island of Honshu.

Among the characteristics that makes Somayaki pottery unique is its double wall, or multiple layer construction.

This clever design helps to insulate the pottery’s contents and keeps hot liquids hot, while the outer layer remains cool to touch.


It is actually two pieces of pottery that are joined together — and you can see the inner layer through the heart cutouts on the photographs for this listing.

Another unique feature of this style of pottery are the galloping horse motif  — painted on one side of this teapot I listed…

You can click on this photo to see the listing on my Etsy store

As well as inside, and at the bottom of the bowl I listed…


According to the website (Yoshikawa Toki Co.) located in Choshi, Japan and specializing in Japanese pottery and porcelain,  the galloping horse motiff is known as “Hashirigoma”.

From the website…

The origin of the motif is the subject of much speculation, but there can be no doubt that it is related to Soma’s long history of horse handling ( the “ma” in Soma actually means “horse”).

….The galloping horse motif is painted on Somayaki following the tradition of the Kano School of Painting, one of the most prominent and respected schools of art in Japan.”

P1310772Along with the double-wall construction and the horse motif, Somayaki pottery is also distinct in its use of green colors and crackle glaze.

Again, from

“Aohibi” is the name given to the distinctive blue crackled glaze seen on most Somayaki ware.

A combination of these three distinctive features combine to create warm, rustic pieces imbued with a sense of history and peculiar to the area in which they are produced.

Tea pot lid with distinctive heart shaped cutouts (rim painted gold) aand scroll patterns

I also read that the scrolls seen on the pottery and the heart-shaped cut outs are to emulate wading birds, with the heart shape symbolizing the bird’s feet.

You may remember the March, 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, and subsequent disaster at the Fukushima nuclear power facility.

Sadly, the village where Soma-yaki pottery is made had to be evacuated due to its proximity to the nuclear power plant.

I did not find any other information aside from what was on the Artistic Nippon website, and they noted that the kilns were damaged during the earthquake.

It seems that unless the families and craftspeople who created this unique pottery are able to re-establish elsewhere, these objects may not be made in the quantity before the Fukushima disaster.  A website that previously sold Soma Ware teapots in the U.S. lists the items as “out of stock”, and no information when they will be available.

Some of the Soma Ware pottery we see here in the U.S were brought back by Americans who served at military bases in Japan and Okinawa while in the Armed Forces.

It also appears that the San Francisco-based import company Otagiri imported these types of pottery from Japan to the U.S., as I’ve seen listings of this style pottery with Otagiri origins.

By the way, if you happen upon this post and have information on the pottery photographed for this post, I would appreciate it (please comment or send me an email at MyMarketTales@Gmailcom).

In particular, about the stamp on these pieces (the photo below is from the bottom, and the inner layer of the bowl I listed) and if the type of blue “Made in Japan” sticker gives a clue as to the date that the items were crafted.

P1310852aWas this post helpful to you?  I’d love to know 🙂 …

Related Links:

Quote from Asia Art on Modern Japan Ceramics

Back to Market Tales Home Page

Vernon Kilns and the early California “Big 5” Pottery Companies

If you sell items on Etsy or EBay, sooner or later, you will run into pottery objects from California — and especially one originating from what is known as the “Big 5” California potteries.

Franciscan Jamoca Cup and Saucer Set 1
Franciscan — by Gladding McBean Co. — footed cup and saucer in the “Jamoca” pattern

I’ve posted about Gladding McBean — one of the “Big 5’s” — as I owned and listed Franciscan  dinnerware items in the Jamoca pattern.

I recently listed a pair of hand-painted “Vernonware” / Vernon Kiln salad plates  manufactured between 1937 and 1958.

You can click on the photo of the Vernonware handpainted “Organdie” pattern plates to view the Etsy listing.


Founded in 1931, Vernon Kilns was based in Vernon, California (about 5 miles south of downtown Los Angeles) and created many ceramic tableware patterns, as well as art ware, figurines and gift ware.

In 1940, they signed a contract with Walt Disney to produce film-related figurines based on characters from the films Dumbo, Fantasia and the Reluctant Dragon.

Especially because of their association with Walt Disney, it it safe to say you will run into not only tableware made by Vernon Kilns, but also collectible figurines (though I have not, as of yet… but then my pottery interest are more related to dining, cookware, garden pots and vases and not figurines).

As of September, 2015, if you type in “Vernonware” in the Etsy search box, you will get 18 pages of listings for over 700 objects!

Here is an image of the 1st page.  So many choices…

Vernonware on Etsy

It seems the hand-painted  “Organdie” pattern was popular and available in many shapes, so it would be easier to collect items in this pattern.

The Organdie pattern was designed by Gale Turnbull, who was hired by Vernon Kilns as their art director in 1935.

Vernon Kilns closed in 1958 due to increasing manufacturing and labor costs, as well as competition from foreign-made ceramic tableware and figurine manufacturers.

Besides Gladding, McBean & Co. and Vernon Kilns, the other “Big 5” were:

  • Pacific Clay Products
  • J.A. Bauer Potteries
  • and the Metlox Manufacturing Company — who, interestingly,  purchased Vernon Kilns and continued to make some of the Vernon Kiln items, until Metlox also closed down in the late 1980s.

Here is a Vernonware pitcher listed in the shop (in the “Sherwood” pattern – and San Clemente shape) that continued to be made by Metlox (manufactured between 1958 to 1965).

Updated 2016 with this listing — You can click on the pitcher photo to see the listing in my Etsy Vintage shop.

Please comment about your own California pottery finds — I’d like to know more about about companies beyond the “Big 5” as well.

Back to Market Tales Home Page

Related links:

Pottery from Tonalá – Jalisco region and the Solis Mexico signed bird

I’m listing my first “Tonalá” style pottery from Mexico.


It is a beautiful little bird — I believe it’s a quail.

Tonalá is actually a city in the state of Jalisco, Mexico, and a municipality within the Guadalajara Metropolitan area.

It is known as a major handicrafts center, specializing in pottery.

I’ve seen listings for Tonala style pottery signed with the initial KE for Ken Edwards.  I’ve also seen Etsy and EBay sellers referencing a Ken Edward or Jorge Wilmot piece.

Tonala with KE Ken Edwards stamp
Example of a listing with the KE / Ken Edwards initial – photo via the Etsy store “Vintnik”


So, who were Jorge Wilmot and Ken Edwards?

Although Mexico has a long history of making ceramics — well before the arrival of Spaniards — more modern techniques and methods of production were introduced by the Spanish during colonial times.

And in the 1950’s and  1960’s, high-fire production were introduced by Jorge Wilmot and Ken Edwards, which is why you will see their names associated with pottery from the Tonala region of Mexico.

It was easier to find information on Jorge Wilmot, as he was a well-known Mexican artist.  He was born in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico in 1928 and died in January, 2012 at the age of 83.

Jorge Wilmot studied i n Paris, then worked in Sweden and Switzerland before returning to Monterrey, Mexico.

A little about him,  excerpted from a Wikipedia article:

Wilmot’s two main contributions to Mexican ceramics were the introduction of high fire ceramics such as stoneware and blending of traditional Mexican designs and motifs with international and modern influences.

He is quoted as saying “La cerámica de las artes es una de las más antiguas y a su vez de las más modernas” (Ceramics is one of the oldest and most modern art forms.) referring to the need to preserve tradition and modify it.

Wilmot combined pre-Hispanic designs and motifs with modern elements as well as international influences, especially those from Asia.

CONACULTA credits Wilmot with revolutionizing ceramics production in Mexico and establishing the production of high-fire wares, principally in Tonalá.

He has been one of the forces behind Tonalá’s current dominance in pottery and ceramics.

Note: CONACULTA is the National Council for Culture and Arts, a Mexican Government Agency

I will add more to this blog post when I have information about Ken Edwards (I am unsure if he is still living and continuing to make pottery in Mexico or elsewhere — please comment and/or send a link if you know).

The particular Tonala bird pottery piece I am listing is signed “Solis Mexico” at the bottom.


I’ve read on a few listings that Solis is the family name of well known (and well regarded) potters from the area, but not much more than that…

I did find that there is a Solis / Tonala tile piece at the Mexican Museum in San Francisco, California — Tile with Two Birds and Flowers.

Tile with Two Birds and Flowers at Mexican Museum
Photo via The Mexican Museaum (Click on the photo to see original source)

Here is the text for the above piece, from The Mexican Museum website:

Text for Tonala tile image at Mexican Museum

And here is back angle photo of the bird pottery on my Etsy store:


You can click on the bird photo above to see the Etsy listing.

I think the colors and artwork style of the bird look very similar to the museum’s tile ceramic… what do you think?


Back to Market Tales Home Page

The meaning of Handgemalt… and when you find something on Etsy that matches your item listing

P1240270Despite the Asian motiff of lovely bamboos on these stoneware teacups, this item is actually made in Germany.

The teacups are marked with the  word “Handgemalt” , a German term.


I found the meaning of the term from another great web resource for Etsy sellers, Porcelain Marks and More.


Handgemalt Definition

The website is privately run and free — and again, a terrific resource for Etsy sellers —- so if you can donate a few bucks to this website please do so through their front page “Donate” button.

As my store grows, I expect that I will run into more German and European pottery and have bookmarked this website for future visits.

So what happens when you find an item listed by another Etsy sellter that is a match or perfect for your item?

You link to it of course!

After all, if someone falls in love with my listing — at least I hope someone falls in love with these beautiful tea cups — then they may want the matching tea pot, right?


German Bamboo Scene Teapot on Etsy Bouchard Sisters Store

And so I have added the photo in the listing gallery and a link to the other Etsy seller (TheBrouchardSisters) on my description page.

Sharing the love… and seeing what happens.

Have you tried to do something similar with your listings?

Back to Market Tales Home Page, here.


  • Instead of “hangemalt” or hand painted ceramics, another method of getting artwork from print to pottery is called “transferware”.  Click here to learn more about transferware (a process that the English developed in the mid 1700s).
  • An item listing with a link to another Etsy Seller- The Lonborg Denmark “Brutalist” bowl