Sunday, October 23, 2016

Vintage Finds: Colorful Roosters!

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Hi Friends! Here in Oregon, we've already had the change of seasons, and it's been cloudy and grey and raining for over a week straight, so let's have fun with some rich autumnal colors and tones, to balance it all out. October's Vintage Finds is a colorful rooster theme; a pair of Norcrest ceramic wall hangings on the left are a recent find while the large orange California pottery wall pocket rooster was purchased awhile back. Although very different in style, shape, color and manufacturer, the subject matter is quite interestingly similar.

Once upon a time here in the United States, decorative household ceramics production were very popular, a trend beginning in the 1930s and lasting through the 1960s. During that time, Los Angeles, California was the largest center for makers of colorful ceramics, with as many as 300 manufacturers in those early years. After World War II began, imports from Europe and Asia were discontinued, and the California ceramics industry reached its pinnacle in the post war era with over 800 small family and larger company businesses in existence. In the 1950s the US began importing ceramic wares again, leading to a decline in the number of California potteries. Sadly, only a few have survived into the 21st century. 

No doubt, this abstract orange rooster was made during the post war heyday of the California pottery makers. It bears an impressed stamp that says 'Made in Calif. USA' along with three letters which are hard to read. It looks like 'CHP' - California something Pottery? What attracted me to this rooster was its modern abstract design, and the fact that it functions as a wall pocket, which allows for some fun floral arranging, resulting in a captivating statement piece!

vintage made in California abstract orange rooster wall pocket

Norcrest China Company has its roots right here in the state of Oregon. The story begins with Hide and Fukiye Naito, who emigrated to America in 1912 from Tara, Japan, a farming community near Tokyo. The couple had two children, Bill and Sam, both born in Oregon. 

In 1920, Hide opened a Japanese imports shop on Washington Street in Portland, selling Japanese goods to the general population, which was considered unconventional at the time because Japanese owned businesses were usually only located in Japan-town, and sold their goods to other Japanese. When the Depression hit, Hide's business savvy was in full gear, running a variety of different small businesses, while at the same time expanding the import business. In 1938 Mr Naito opened an import warehouse in Portland, which at the time was a major West Coast seaport. 

Once the United States entered into World War II, Japanese families, including the Naitos, were forced to give up their homes and businesses and were relocated to internment camps in various isolated areas around the western interior. Although the Naito family was scheduled to go to one of these camps, they were instead allowed permission to go to Utah and live with family.

After the war, the Naito family returned to Portland, and Hide and his son Sam reestablished their family business, which became known as Norcrest China Company. Interestingly, one of the ways in which Sam worked to reestablish their business was to bring pottery up to Oregon from California, most likely sourced  from those very same pottery concerns from which my abstract orange rooster came from! The family continued importing goods from Japan, and due to popular demand for English tea ware, they also began importing bone china teacups and saucers from the United Kingdom.

In the 1960s Hide's son Bill expanded Norcrest China Company into several other businesses, including the "Made In Oregon" retail stores and Import Plaza. These holdings allowed the Naitos to invest in Portland's run-down area then known as "Skid Road", revitalizing the district that they then renamed Old Town. Bill's son Bob joined his father after finishing college, and together they worked on other historic development projects in the Portland area. Bill Naito died in 1996 and Bob has carried on his fathers legacy of historic preservation and sustainable development.    
Considering the humble beginnings this pair of Norcrest stylized dueling roosters represent, I've come to appreciate their striking dynamic appearance, kitschey energetic design and rich color palette even more. I'm already very fond of Japanese vintage collectables, and now look forward to finding additional Norcrest pieces.
Norcrest China Company, vintage Norcrest China Company, vintage Norcrest roosters, pair of vintage Norcrest roosters, vintage Norcrest China Company roosters, two vintage Norcrest China Company roosters

Thank you for letting me share my favorite vintage finds. See you next month! 

1 comment

  1. The beginning of a collection? These would be considered a bit kitsch here in Franc, even though the cock is a national symbol 😃


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