HISTORY

Until I started my research, little was known with certainty about Kent Art Ware or KAW for short. Identifying it is straightforward enough since every piece is stamped on the bottom Kent Art Ware. Virtually all are also stamped Japan.

KAW was produced during the last half of the 1930’s and possibly into the 1940’s prior to December 1941 when Japan entered the Second World War.

Most KAW ceramics are Art Deco in style, popular in America from 1909 through 1939, and many are copies of high end ceramics by famous makers such as Rosenthal, Hutschenreuther and Goldscheider.

Kent Art Ware was very inexpensive in its day. One of the best sellers, the ten inches tall “Female Head with Applied Hair” seen here, originally sold in stores for $1.29.

It was suggested by a ceramics authority the brand was created by Noritake. Then known as Morimura Brothers, what would later be renamed Noritake did have an American office in New York City during the lifetime of KAW. A phone call in 2008 to the current corporate office did not turn up anything of value including confirmation of the Noritake connection.

The firm suggested I contact a well-known and respected china replacement company well versed in Noritake history. As it turned out they did not have information about Kent Art Ware either, but the gentleman I spoke with was kind enough to contact an expert within a respected Noritake collector organization. The gracious authority on Noritake promptly sent me an email with what she knew. The email was a cut and paste of an early version of this page and I was right back where I started.

Then in October of 2009 I stumbled upon a figurine that shed new light on who actually made Kent Art Ware. The figurine is an identical match of the white KAW “Standing Female Holding a Bowl Figurine”. I say identical, but that’s not quite true. First, the item is an exact mirror image of the KAW marked piece; what was left is right and what was right is left. Second, the skirt of the mirror image piece is pink and the base is powder blue. (These identical colors were also used as a variation on the KAW stamped “pink & blue female figure vase”.)

Of real significance, the mirror image figurine is clearly marked on the bottom, “Moriyama – Made in Japan”. Moriyama Pottery was established in 1911 by Hidekichi Nakamura. Assuming there was a connection between the Moriyama Pottery and Noritake, and to date finding no existing records of Kent Art Ware either in Japan or America, my conclusion is this…

In the 1930’s a fancy-ware (giftware) distributor in the USA contacted the New York City ceramics maker and wholesaler, Morimura Brothers, later to be renamed Noritake. The distributor asked them to produce an inexpensive private label line of Art Deco and other ceramics to be named Kent Art Ware. Noritake chose in this instance to contract Hidekichi Nakamura’s Moriyama Pottery to produce Kent Art Ware. To put it In a nutshell, the Buyer was in the US, Morimura Brothers (Noritake) was the bi-lingual Broker, and Nakamura’s Moriyama Pottery was the Manufacturer.

APPEARANCE

Kent Art Ware was offered in creamy white and less often in a brighter white. Some pieces were cold-painted with gold accents, fired partially painted in a limited number of colors, or less frequently fully painted. The size of the pieces did not vary, but color schemes did, and I have examples of the same items with different finishes.

I find the quality of ceramics in my KAW collection to be uneven as primarily determined by how well the greenware was prepared prior to firing.

My assessments aside, one must remember KAW was not produced for the well-heeled, but for average Americans who took the trolley downtown to purchase something special for their fireplace mantel perhaps – something eye-catching the five and dimes and smaller stores neatly clustered on their crowded shelves.

WHERE YOU CAN FIND KENT ART WARE

KAW may be found primarily on eBay, other auction sites, yard and estate sales, and antique stores though not as frequently as more familiar makers of late Art Deco era ceramics.

It does have its advantages for the collector. Current prices of items that actually sell tend to be reasonable, and it is safe to say KAW is not being reproduced for there would be little profit motive to do so.

I often wonder if I am the only person avidly collecting Kent Art Ware just because it is Kent Art Ware. Others own KAW because it has been handed down within their families, they collect Art Deco, or just like individual items for their merits. For me, it is fun discovering pieces of KAW I never knew existed. If you own a piece not pictured in the Gallery, or a finish variation on one that is, please email me a good digital photo and I will include it with your permission.  davideaton@earthlink.net

I’d be happy to hear from you – especially from anyone who might have additional information about Kent Art Ware.

 

David Eaton