May 7, 2009
The kilns are cooking once more at Van Briggle Pottery.
After closing the doors in November on its home of 50 years on the corner of U.S. 24 and 21st Street, the century-old pottery works is officially reopening today at its new location at 1024 S. Tejon St.
"It took awhile to get all of our equipment installed," said Craig Stevenson, Van Briggle's vice president. "The winter went by really quickly."
The new location, in a former antiques store, is smaller and has less overhead than the historic railroad roundhouse that was the company's old home.
The roundhouse is being renovated by developer Griffis/Blessing as a retail and office site.
"The building began to be more of a burden than a benefit for us," Stevenson said.
Pretty much everything that was Van Briggle has made the trip to the new location, including the kilns, molds and half-century-old signs.
The new spot is better suited to Van Briggle's modern business model, Stevenson said, which focuses on collectors and Internet sales rather than the tourist traffic that was the mainstay of the U.S. 24 location.
"We're looking forward to downsizing and an increase in our artistry and our efficiency," Stevenson said.
Van Briggle Pottery was founded in 1899 by Artus Van Briggle, who gained lasting fame for his art nouveau designs before dying in 1904 at the age of 35.
His wife, Anne, carried on the pottery works and later sold it.
Van Briggle Pottery passed through several hands until Stevenson's father, Kenneth, bought the company in 1969. Kenneth Stevenson died in 1990, but his wife, Bertha, still owns the business, and Craig Stevenson serves as the managing vice president and chief designer.
Many of the designs and glazes Van Briggle produces date to Artus Van Briggle himself, but there are new designs, too.
"We don't want to be stuck in that era, but we want a continuity as we go through the decades," Stevenson said.
"We really want to focus on making pottery that's in the vein of Artus Van Briggle."
Contact the writer at 636-0275