Dear T.S.: The story of Brayton-Laguna Pottery begins in a garage in South Laguna Beach, Calif., just off the picturesque Pacific Coast Highway. There, in 1927, Dulin E. Brayton, who was a graduate of the Chicago Art Institute, set up a small pottery operation making dinnerware, vases and flowerpots.
During the early years, the major retail outlet for Brayton's products was his front yard. They say that behind every successful man there is a woman, and in this case that woman was Ellen Webster Grieve, who married Dulin Brayton in 1936 and subsequently introduced a line of high-quality figures to her new husband's line of products.
These caught the eye of Walt Disney, who gave the Braytons the first license to make products based on Disney's animated characters. The year was 1938, and in that same year the Braytons built a larger pottery-making facility on a five-acre site in Laguna Beach.
Unfortunately, the contract with Disney lasted for only two years before it was awarded to Vernon Kilns, which kept it for only about a year and a half before it went to Evan K. Shaw of American Pottery. In any event, Ellen "Webb" Brayton died in 1948, and her husband followed just three years later. Laguna-Beach Pottery, however, continued to operate until 1968.
Sometime during the 1940s the Braytons introduced a line of figural dogs and cats. There were "Calico Cats," which were decorated with large dots of color (usually red, blue and green, but green, yellow and gold can be found as well); and "Gingham Dogs," which were decorated with a bold plaid design (usually blue and red, but red and gold, or brown, yellow and green were made).
Both of these types of animals are decorated with seams to make them look like they have been crudely hand sewn together. The ears, for example, appear to be sewn on, and there is a painted seam that runs down the face and body and terminates at one paw of each dog or cat. Many of these pieces have seams around their bases and along their tails. Very cute.
Brayton-Laguna made a wide variety of objects in this line and collectors can find pencil holders, creamers, sugar bowls, toothbrush holders, salt and pepper shakers, 8-inch-tall figures, "fireside" figures (which are 14 1/2 to 15 inches tall), as well as cookie jars.
Interestingly, the shaker set usually consists of one "Calico Cat" and one "Gingham Dog" and T.S.'s pair of "Gingham Dogs" is a bit unusual.Most of these pieces in the "Gingham Dog" and "Calico Cat" series were unsigned, and the presence of a signature on the cookie jar is something of a plus to collectors. For insurance replacement purposed, the cookie jar should be valued in the $500 to $575 range, and the shakers in the neighborhood of $100 to $125.
Helaine Fendelman and Joe Rosson are the authors of the "Price It Yourself" (HarperResource, $19.95). Questions can by mailed to them at P.O. Box 12208, Knoxville, TN 37912-0208.