Posted By whatsitworth on March 23, 2010
Q. Can you tell me anything about the person or company “Brad Keeler?” The name is stamped on the bottom of each of my lobster bowls. The big bowl is about 1.5” across (lobster to lobster) and the divided dish is about 12” across.
A. When collectors think “American Pottery” most of us immediately think “Ohio” the home of Rookwood, Roseville, Weller, et al. More and more, however, collectors are seeing value in California art pottery. It is still available, relatively inexpensive, and desirable partly because so much of it is so highly colored and eccentrically whimsical.
The California pottery boom started in the early 1930’s with Bauer’s mass-market introduction of brightly colored, affordable “California Colored Pottery.” The casual mix-and-march patterns cheered consumers in the midst of the Great Depression and straightforward designs were more affordable and less fussy than European porcelain dinnerware.
In addition to a willing market, Southern California also had all the raw materials needed for the production of ceramics. Talc, mined in the nearby desert, was the major ingredient in California pottery and its addition meant that strong, flexible products could be produced quickly
During the Second World War, many of California’s pottery producers shut down or converted to defense work. Others saw huge growth because European and Asian imports were severely restricted. After the war, hundreds of artists employed in these larger companies set off on their own. Brad Keller, a modeler in the company that produced the Academy Award Oscar statues set out on his own in the mid-forties.
Brad Keeler’s company produced decorative items including birds – especially pink flamingoes – kittens, and circus animals. In 1956 Keeler developed the first successful true red glaze. He called the color “Ming Dragon Blood” and featured it in a “Ming” line of jars, ashtrays, and planters.
What else to do with this fabulous red? In the late 50’s Keeler came out with a line of buffet dishes featuring lobsters. The company made a variety of bowls, divided servers, salt and pepper shakers, and platters all adorned with gloriously red lobsters. As a New Englander who feels adamant that crab will never hold a candle to lobster, I’d say your bowls are priceless. As an appraiser, I’d say that in perfect condition, each of your bowls would sell for $30 to $50.