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End of an era for Gainey Ceramics, local maker of garden pots

January 10, 2013|By Lisa Boone
  • Among the pieces that will no longer be produced after Gainey Ceramics closes its pottery operation: the Hanging Sphere, which contains 25% recycled materials.
Among the pieces that will no longer be produced after Gainey Ceramics closes… (Gainey Ceramics )

Gainey Ceramics, the La Verne company known for its glazed planters, urns and decorative pottery, confirmed Thursday that after more than 60 years, it is suspending its ceramics manufacturing Jan. 31 and ending one of the last operations of its kind in Southern California.

Chief Executive Steve Gainey declined to be interviewed, but in a letter to customers dated Wednesday, he cited personal reasons for wanting to retire. Though ceramics production will stop, a spokeswoman said, the company will continue to manufacture lightweight containers made of fiberglass.

In a 2009 interview with The Times, Gainey noted the difficulties of making ceramics domestically. He said cheap imports and the cost of doing business in America had chased away local operations.

“There used to be dozens and dozens of manufacturers here in Los Angeles,” he said. “But almost everyone has fled.”

Among Gainey's clients was the Atwater Village garden store Potted, which had sought out a local company to produce its original designs.

“California used to have so many ceramic manufacturers during the 1950s,” Potted co-owner Mary Gray said. “It’s so discouraging that they are no longer with us.”

Gray said she is "scrambling" to find manufacturing alternatives outside of China, but the closest acceptable options may be in Portland, Ore., or Mexico, she said. Heath Ceramics, Bauer Pottery and Vessel USA, which produces the Architectural Pottery collection still in high demand among midcentury enthusiasts, all still manufacture their lines in California -- a clear selling point when imported designs can be significantly less expensive.

“I am saddened,” Bauer Pottery President Janek Boniecki said. "It's a dying industry. The economy hasn’t helped anybody."

lisa.boone@latimes.com


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