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Tower of Bauer

A California Company Revives an American Classic

September 24, 2000|TONI SPENCER

Soon after craftsman Janek Boniecki perfected his scented candle, he realized he had a problem. "I needed something to hold the candles in," he says.

"I was very inspired by Bauer pottery, which I had been collecting for years," Boniecki, 45, recalls. In digging for information about the company, he discovered that not only was the Bauer company long out of business but also that its trademark had expired almost 40 years prior. With no experience as a potter, Boniecki dived in and applied for the rights to the name--"Bauer Pottery Co. of Los Angeles"--and began to reproduce the designs, a learning process that has taken nearly two years.

As any collector of vintage American pottery will tell you, Bauer, which began in 1885 and came to Los Angeles in 1910, was the first company to popularize color in an American market awash with plain white tableware. Renowned for their vividness, simplicity and beauty, the elegant pitchers and bowls and plates hold a strong emotional appeal for many Californians, recalling a time when stylish and durable kitchenware was both commonplace and affordable.

In his tiny Silver Lake workshop, Boniecki re-creates original styles and updates colors. Key lime, flamingo pink and black pearl now join Bauer orange, turquoise and chartreuse green. The line, available at specialty stores such as Freehand in Los Angeles and Pottery Pavilion in Studio City, is made entirely in Southern California. "When I decide on a new design, the manufacturers and myself work very hard to live up to the original Bauer standard," Boniecki says. "Their sense of color was phenomenal." But not always possible to reproduce. "We can't use leaded paint anymore [on serving pieces]," Boniecki says. "But we work hard to achieve the same result."


Bauer Pottery Co. of Los Angeles, Silver Lake, (323) 666-6001.

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