California Faience was a pottery studio in Berkeley, California in existence from to 1915-1959. It produced tile, decorative vases, bowls, jars and trivets. It was run by William Bragdon and Chauncey Thomas who also taught at the California School of Arts and Crafts in Oakland, California. The name refers to a pottery style and technique: faience.
Chauncey Thomas began the studio in 1913 as The Tile Shop and it was located on San Pablo Avenue in Berkeley. Bragdon joined Thomas as a partner in the fall of 1915. In 1922 they moved to a larger building in order to fulfill a 1921 contract for tiles from architect Julia Morgan who used them on William Randolph Hearst's mansion Hearst Castle.
Bragdon died in 1959.
In 1915 Thomas displayed art pottery and tiles at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco. The Hearst Castle employs California Faience tile on its exterior. Architects such as Julia Morgan used the pottery company's tiles, as for William Randolph Hearst at San Simeon. The 1920s were peak years for tile production including "brilliantly multi-colored" tiles with Spanish and medieval inspired designs. The pottery business withered during the Great Depression, but the business survived until 1959 "as a studio for artists and students". An exhibition of California Faience was planned at the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento for the summer of 2013 and a book on the subject is also reportedly in the works.
Tile Heritage Foundation co-founder and president of Kirby William Brown lectures on California Faience and is the grandson of Bragdon, one of California Faience's owners. Brown took over work on a book on California Faience from Peter Monsour of San Francisco. Brown is scheduled to curate the exhibition Of Cottages and Castles: The Art of California Faience February 22 – May 17, 2015 at the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento A California Faience vase is held at LACMA.