It was at a San Diego flea Market about 30 years ago, that Janek Boniecki found a humble yellow dinner plate that changed his fate.
“There was nothing else like it I had ever seen,” said the London-born Boniecki, “The plate was heavy, solid, and such a bright, happy color.”
On the flip side, indented into the plate, was the name “Bauer Los Angeles.”
In 1885, J.A. Bauer bought out Paducah Pottery, based in Paducah, Kentucky, whose main production at the time was hand-thrown crocks and jugs. 25 years later, he moved production to Los Angeles, California and expanded the line to include flower pots and planters. In 1930 the Bauer Company introduced a line called California Colored Pottery with brilliant-hued dishes intended to mix and match. There is a story that Bauer’s first dinnerware was prompted by a young lady who bought a stack of brightly colored flowerpot saucers to use as plates for a patio party. True or not, it is typical of the flair and informality of the California style. The line was an immediate and continued success. In 1933 they added a band of rings to these dishes, creating Ringware. Sadly, the Bauer Pottery Company closed it’s doors in 1962, rather than settle a labor dispute.
Janek couldn’t stop thinking about his passion for the defunct line. He’d developed a love of Bauer and had collected several more pieces beyond that first yellow plate.
“I was in my 40s, and I started to see that in TV production, a lot of guys never survive past that,” said Boniecki, now 58. “I began to look for something for the next stage of my life.”
“I decided one day to go looking for the trademark,” he said.
By the time Boniecki researched the trademark, it had been long abandoned. “I just re-registered it,” he said, “and then it was an easy transition to thinking I would make new Bauer ware.”
But he was starting completely from scratch and couldn’t locate any of the original Bauer dies or molds used to turn out the pieces.
“To our knowledge, all the original dies and molds were destroyed when Bauer shut down,” he said. “There is a myth that some of them survive, somewhere. But we’ve never found them.”
Using his own collection of classic Ringware pieces and a few others he bought as models, Boniecki hired artisans to make dies that could be used to produce copies. In 1998, working with a variety of ceramics manufacturers, he turned out the first pieces of his new Bauer Company, complete with a copy of the original imprint on the underside. Collectors refer to the new pieces as Bauer 2000.
After dealing with several local ceramics makers, Boniecki became a steady client of a factory housed in a former fruit-packing plant in the small city of Highland. Built in 1923, the factory has 30-foot-high ceilings with skylights, well-worn wood floors, and even a freight elevator driven by an old-fashioned hydraulic system….but most importantly, there were 8 on-site kilns. When the owner of the plant announced a few years ago that he was going to retire, Boniecki bought the 40,000 square foot operation for $1 million.
Today Jarek’s Bauer Pottery Co. turns out more than 90 different Bauer 2000 items, and also a revival of Russell Wright’s American Modern line (another of my favorites that I’m sure we’ll discuss later), and are sold in the on-site factory store, shops nationwide and, of course, online on Jarek’s website BauerPottery.com
Here’s a few of our favorite pieces from Bauer 2000…(in case you need some gift ideas…hint, hint)
(All photos from the Bauer Pottery website)
Our dog Harley has a turquoise Bauer dog bowl, and I have about a dozen human sized mixing bowls, a couple of vases, and several assorted other items.
I’ve been collecting this stuff for years now, mostly old pieces, occasionally with chips……
(The chips don’t bother me, these pieces were just more loved)
Bauer pottery has a cheerful personality that’s unmatched by anything else on the market.
Just ask Janek, I know he’d understand.