Collecting Articles and Features

The Unique Tile Designs of the Claycraft Potteries Company

The Claycraft Potteries Company was a pottery studio that operated in California from 1921 to 1939, producing some of the most beautiful and intricate tile designs of its time, including the National Parks series which is attracting growing interest from collectors. Established in 1921, it employed Fred Robertson and Gus Lawson in the same year. These two, along with George Robertson (Fred’s son who joined as a designer in 1925), were to drive the companies decorative tile creation and production.  During their 18 years in operation, the company created many stunning tiles 1as well planer tiles, fountains, garden pottery and lamp bases. In this article we will take a look at Claycraft’s unique tile designs along with a price guide on selected examples.

Claycraft Potteries Yosemite National Park Tile
Claycraft Potteries Yosemite National Park Tile featuring Yosemite Falls. Sold for $2,500 on ebay, March 2020.

History of tile-making in California

A number of faience tile makers who originally came from Scotland and England found their way to California by way of the East Coast. These craftsmen joined tileries such as California Art Tile and Claycraft. Tiles created in these California potteries started to look at the West Coast for inspiration but also looked back to the English countryside for inspiration. A leading tile maker Ernest Batchelder  (1876-1957)  in around 1910 took inspiration from the Arts and Crafts movement and Henry Chapman Mercer who had founded the Moravian Pottery and Tile Works in Doylestown, Pennsylvania in 1898.

ERNEST BATCHELDER scenic tile
ERNEST BATCHELDER scenic tile. Sold for $250 on ebay, April 2018.

Fred Robertson and Gus Lawson took this style of tile with its raised and recessed effects but adding more color and making the designs that were more illustrative than abstract, lighter and more appealing.

Claycraft Pottery English Country Cottage tile
Claycraft Pottery English Country Cottage tile. A typical California Faience scene with fantasy English garden even with wisteria blossoms. The piece features soft, muted, vellum glazes and is self-framed. This example sold for $540 on ebay, March 2018.
Large Claycraft Pottey English Country Scene with Thatched Cottage tile
Arts & Crafts California Mission Style relief tile crafted by Claycraft Potteries circa 1920’s – 1930’s. Depicts an idyllic English country setting – a quaint thatched roof cottage surrounded by gardens behind a stone wall, against a green forest with rolling hills in the background, a castle on a hill in the distance. Great detail is complimented by colorful matte glazes with englobe finish. Self framed and signed with impressed “CLAYCRAFT” mark verso. Measures 16 x 12 3/4″ with a 3/4″ thickness. Sold for $1950 on ebay, September 2018.

Claycraft created typical California Faience style designs including popular themes of Spanish Missions and Country Cottages, molded with soft outlines and using appealing colors with matte or vellum finishes. They came in a range of sizes and shapes, and most were self framed.

Claycraft 6 tile panel of Spanish Revival theme
Claycraft 6 tile panel of Spanish Revival theme. An old Spanish home or mission is depicted on this vintage 6-tile panel. This fine example sold for $3,000 on ebay, July 2017.

The market seems to be growing for the Claycraft tiles with especial interest in the tiles featuring the National Parks and tableau tiles creating scenes.

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Claycraft Potteries tiles on ebay