Thursday, August 16, 2012

Lei Lani and Hawaiian Flowers Dinnerware by Don Blanding for Vernon Kilns

Lei Lani and Hawaiian Flowers 9 1/2 inch plates, designed by Don Blanding for Vernon Kilns
I recently discovered the joys of Don Blanding’s poetry and illustrations, as seen in the lovely set of his notecards from the 1940s which I recently purchased and discussed here.  Now I am on the hunt for the dinnerware Blanding designed for Vernon Kilns in the 1930s--and happily, I found a couple plates to amuse me.

By the mid 1930s, Blanding had achieved success with the publication of numerous books of his poetry and illustrations.  He helped propagate the idea of Hawaii as an exotic paradise in books like Hula Moon, The Virgin of Waikiki, and his best known work, Vagabond’s House.
Vernon Kilns was one of ‘The Big Five’ California pottery manufacturers, based in Vernon, just south of downtown Los Angeles.  In 1936, the firm hired Gale Turnbull as artistic director to and he proceeded to hire three popular artists of the day to design dinnerware--Don Blanding, Rockwell Kent and Walt Disney.  (An aside--the Rockwell Kent pieces are awesome and I want some of the ‘Our America’ series and some Moby Dick plates!  The Disney dinnerware is not decorated with Snow White and Dumbo, but surprisingly pleasing all-over patterns of delicate leaves and pinecones.)
The plates I have are in the Lei Lani and Hawaiian Flowers patterns.  They are essentially the same--both use a transfer-printed center and border, but Lei Lani adds hand-painted details.  Both are on the ‘Ultra’ shape plate, very simple with a downward sloping rim and the pattern was later printed on slightly different pottery blanks.
Lei Lani became one of the most popular patterns produced by Vernon Kilns, and was available from the late 1930s into the mid 1950s.  Blanding’s linear style was well suited to this medium.   The dense profusion of tropical flowers has a feeling similar to English Chintzware of the previous decade, but Blanding’s treatment has a more stylized, modern feel.
Each piece in the line was signed with the pattern name and ‘Aloha, Don Blanding’ the artist’s standard greeting (he signed his books this way, too).
Hawaiian Flowers was available in the maroon color I have, as well as blue, pink and orange (the orange version is beautiful, like a delicious Hawaiian creamsicle!).
I’m on the hunt for more of Vernon Kilns dinnerware--in addition to the patterns I have, there is another floral pattern (the variations are called Glamour, Joy, Ecstasy and Delight!) and one with tropical fish.   Blanding’s designs are pretty desirable, hard to find, and not inexpensive...I’ll post on Blanding again as I find more pieces.

I occasionally offer some of my Blanding pieces in my Etsy shop--check it out here


© All text and images are copyright of Jeni Sandberg

1 comment:

  1. I just happened across your post by searching in regards to Don Blanding's Hawaiian Flowers in orange. I currently have a coffee pot (has some damage, but would look gorgeous as a vase as there is no lid) and a 12.5" Plate in perfect condition. I realize this posting is a few yrs old, but wondered if you are still collecting/seeking these pieces. Please feel free to contact me via my FB page ~Know Time Design for pictures and pricing! Have a lovely day!

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