LOOKING BACK

M A N H AT TA N B E AC H ’ S C L ASS I C P OT T E RY
BY DENIS E KANO

METLOX

It’s hard to imagine a downtown that was at one time less resplendent with designer stores and high-priced eateries, and was home to a popular pottery manufacturer. Yet, the intersection of Manhattan Beach Boulevard and Valley was once the home of Metlox Pottery, a company first known for making advertising signs and, later, colorful dinnerware and ceramic wear that became synonymous with Manhattan Beach.

“I love that Metlox is such a huge part of the history of the town in which I live, and that I have a little piece of that history in my home.”

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SOUTHBAYDIGS.COM | 9.07.2012

Photographs courtesy of the Jan Dennis Collection.

METLOX FUN FACTS:
• The name “Metlox” is a combination of “metal” and “oxide,” a reference to the glaze pigment. T.C. Prouty, the founder of Metlox Pottery was born in 1888 in Michigan. At the age of 18, he invented and patented a tachometer used on aircraft during WWI. Metlox manufactured a neon sign constructed Pantages Theatre in 1928. for the newly-

The earliest Metlox mark was “California Pottery” impressed on the first line of dinnerware produced in 1932.

METLOX HISTORY
Metlox Manufacturing Company was previously located at 1200 Morningside Drive. It was founded in 1927 by T. C. Prouty with the aim of producing outdoor ceramic signs, but the company name was soon changed to Metlox Pottery with the focus on making different lines of dinnerware and ceramic collectibles. Metlox’s first line of pottery, “Poppytrail,” was introduced in 1934, and was available in 15 bright colors and pastels. The poppy, being our state flower, was used in the title in order to emphasize California, and Poppytrail quickly became well known for its vivid glazes which came from locally-mined metallic oxides. During WWII, business suffered and production was limited. Reportedly, Metlox converted most of its production to defense work and produced aircraft parts. After the war, Evan K. Shaw of American Pottery in Los Angeles purchased Metlox and in 1946, the famous “California Ivy” pattern was created — the first of many handpainted patterns. Shaw focused on increasing the dinnerware lines and started expanding into art ware. Barbara Wesser, former 20-year South Bay resident, recalls her parents being given the entire Metlox Ivy collection by the Shaw family. She remembers growing up with the Shaw children and spending time at their family homes, one of which was in Hermosa Beach. “They lived in the Hancock Park section of Los Angeles, in a beautiful, Tudor-style home,” says Barbara. “They also owned a house in Hermosa as a vacation home — I think it was on the Strand.” The Shaw family eventually moved to Palos Verdes. Later, when Barbara’s parents built a home in Arcadia, they received a set of the famous Rooster dishes from the Shaws.

good-sized collection of Poppytrail Lotus pieces that she has amassed over the years. “I have approximately 80-90 pieces consisting of salad/dessert plates, large and small bowls, dinner plates, buffet plates, a duck cookie jar, and gravy boats,” says Robin, who first started collecting Metlox after finding six dessert plates years ago at a garage sale for $1.00. “I love the fact that Metlox is such a huge part of the history of the town in which I live, and that I have a little piece of that history in my home.”

THE MARK OF METLOX
On older Metlox pieces, the Metlox “mark” was incised into the pottery as opposed to being stamped on. For serious collectors, this incised mark is the most desirable. Some authentic pieces may have stamped-on marks which are smeared, and others may be stamped more cleanly. And while some unmarked pieces can also be found, these are not considered as valuable as those with the older, clearlydefined impression.

METLOX CLOSES SHOP
After the death of Evan Shaw in 1980, Kenneth Avery became president of Metlox. However, in 1989, Metlox closed its doors and the property sat dormant for some time. The 97,000-square-foot former site is now known as Metlox, a town square that is occupied by various retail stores. Metlox pottery and collectibles can now be found through a variety of sources. The vintage pottery recalls an earlier, simpler California, and certainly a different type of bustling downtown Manhattan Beach.

LOCAL COLLECTOR
Robin Wesser, Barbara’s daughter-in-law and a Manhattan Beach resident, has childhood memories of walking through Metlox with her mother. She also has a

9.07.2012 | SOUTHBAYDIGS.COM

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