California Faience Collection from Co-Founder’s Family Up for Sale in Alameda

by Kate Nixon


Two years ago, a portion of an important collection of California Faience was sold in Alameda – the remainder of the collection has returned to California Historical Design to be sold to lucky collectors. Kirby Brown’s California Faience Exhibition started this past Saturday, January 5th and will continue through February 2nd. The items within this special exhibition had been featured at the Crocker Museum exhibition and had never been offered for sale before — until now.  California Historical Design will host the exhibition every Saturday and will be open from 10 AM – 5 PM – with over 200 pieces of the collection for sale. This past Saturday saw author Kirby Brown – the former owner of the collection – appear at the exhibition to sign copies of his book, California Faience.

Brown has the distinction of not only being the author of California Faience, but he is the grandson of William Bragdon, co-founder of California Faience Pottery. California Faience was one of the longest surviving Arts & Crafts potteries on the West Coast, operating between 1913 and 1959.  The company was founded as “The Tile Shop” in 1913 by Chauncey Rapelje Thomas –  In 1915 he was joined by Bragdon.  Training at Alfred University in New York under the “Father of American Studio Ceramics”, Charles Fergus Binns,  they would carry on the Arts & Crafts tradition of fine craftsmanship and simplicity of design long after that movement had faded away.

In one of their greatest achievements, during the 1920s, California Faience would produce tiles designed by Julia Morgan for William Randolph Hearst’s San Simeon Castle. As California Faience was first created in Berkeley, California, the company has been known for its high quality – and has been featured in cottages and high profile homes alike – and continues its exposition in the bay area, so close to the location of its first creation.

The products consisted of low-fired decorative art pottery including vases, bowls, and sculptural figures; and an astonishing variety of tiles, both as individual objects of art and for architectural installations.

This exhibition features a comprehensive selection of ceramic wares from California Faience and West Coast Porcelain Manufacturers.  Special emphasis is placed on the variety of forms and glazes, and historical origins of designs.


Lot #39 – Rare California Faience bisque paperweight with face cast from ancient Roman coin circa 1915. Unsigned. Perfect condition. Measures 2.25″d x 0.75″h Estimate: $750


Lot #36. California Faience matte blue covered vase. Signed. Perfect condition. Measures 4.75″h x 3″d Estimate: $1200


Lot #11. California Faience strawberry pot with semi-matte green glaze c1922-1933. Glazed inconsistencies, otherwise perfect condition. Measures 5.25″h x 6″d Estimate: $475


To see lots available for sale currently, please visit California Historical Design’s website.