What is it and What’s it Worth?

Do you recognize this pearlescent poodle? It’s a Kay Finch original. Do you know the history behind the pottery company itself?  Our Worthopedia currently has over 3,000 listings for Kay Finch ceramic pieces!  If you have any of her pieces, do a search now and see how much they are worth.

This Kay Finch poodle sold for over $600 in November 2017.

History of the Company

Kay married Brandon L. Finch in 1922.  She studied ceramics at the Memphis Academy of Fine Arts.  Kay and Brandon, along with their children George and Frances, moved to Ventura, California, in 1929.  She continued her sculpturing activities including teaching and opening a small studio at her home.

Kay Finch, assisted by her husband Brandon, opened her commercial studio in 1939.  A whimsical series of pig figures and hand-decorated banks were the company’s first successful products.

A whimsical series of pig figures and hand-decorated banks were the company’s first successful products. This pink pig sold for $15 in December 2017.

An expanded studio and showroom located on the Pacific Coast Highway in Corona del Mar opened on December 7, 1941.  The business soon had 40 employees.  Finch designed the figures and the staff did the decorating.  Finch’s brother-in-law Alfred Schultz produced the colors and glazes. 

The company produced a wide variety of novelty items.  A line of dog figurines and themed items, such as a pig family, were introduced in the 1940s.  Finch’s Crown Crest Kennels produced over 1000 Afghan Hound champions.

Kay Finch prospered during World War II.  Clay was a non-essential war item.  Because inexpensive figures could no longer be imported, Kay Finch enjoyed a booming department and gift store business.  By the mid-1940s, Finch figurines were sold in over 1,500 outlets.  Finch found a foreign market in the years immediately following the end of World War II.

By the mid-1950s, Finch was feeling the impact of cheap foreign competition.  She responded by creating holiday items and special lines such as Baby’s First Christmas plates were made from 1950 to 1962.  Kay’s son George started making utilitarian products and one-of-a-kind sculptures.  Working with George, Kay designed bathroom and kitchen accessories.

When Brandon died in 1963, Kay Finch ceased operations.  In the course of operation, Kay Finch had designed over 700 products.  Freeman-McFarlin purchased the molds in the mid-1970s and commissioned Finch to create a new series of dog figurines.  Production of these continued through the late 1970s.  Kay Finch died on June 22, 1993.

What to Look For

Collectors focus heavily on the figurines.  Dogs are the most collectible.  Finch did a series of 12 American Kennel Club champions.  In addition, she produced a large number of dog related items such as ashtrays, banks, jewelry, steins, and wall plaques.

Dogs are the most collectible of the Kay Finch pieces. This dog sold for over $200 in June 2007.

Other animals include but are not limited to cats, fish, horse, monkeys, owls, pigs, rabbits, skunks, and turkeys. Pink was one of Finch’s favorite colors.

Finch made figures in a variety of heights ranging from one-inch to 36-inches.  Many of the larger size pieces were done in limited editions.

Forms include ashtrays, banks, salt and pepper shakers, and Toby mugs.  Pieces from the 1950s Talisman California line have some collector interest.  Collector interest in utilitarian pieces is minimal.

Marks

Very small pieces are not marked.

One example of the marks used by Kay Finch.

Some of the marks used:

  • A crown-like mark (in the photo above) with a horse head at each corner of the crown and an angel in the middle, a stylized “KAY FINCH” in the top of the crown and a stylized “CALIFORNIA” in the bottom, three wavy-like designs beneath crown.
  • Ink stamp: black overglaze or red underglaze, “Kay Finch / California.”
  • Script mark: slight slope, “Kay Finch / Ceramics.”
  • Numbering system:  Pieces made prior to 1946 were marked with three-digit numbers.  Pieces in groups with the same number were designed a, b, c, and so forth.  Banks and Baby items were marked with a “B.”  Items with a luster finish had an “L.”  Topper Flower Bowl pieces had a “T.”  Starting in 1946 and ending in 1962, items had a four-digit number with the first two digits representing the year.  Pieces designed for Freeman-McFarlane are numbered 801-849.

 


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