Pottery Parts

cowboyshard shardsandrocks

I went out for a dog walk with a friend today near the Bay and wandered over to the place where there are pottery shards strewn all through the rocks. I have collected there since I started doing mosaics a couple of years ago. They are from TEPCO pottery which supplied durable dinnerware to many restaurants all over the country during its heyday in the 40s and 50s. They were known for their western theme designs and the dishes are now pretty collectible. Last year I happened upon a TEPCO retrospective exhibit in Richmond. I had just used many shards for a mosaic I was making for a community garden/art space, so I was excited to see a whole plate or pitcher. Going in, I met the grandson of the Italian potter who started the company. He wanted to make sure I knew that the pottery was dumped in the bay because the city was looking for “clean fill” and I remembered that until a bunch of grandmothers founded Save The Bay in the 70s, the plan was to keep filling in the bay and building on it.

I’ve seen pictures of how the beach looked in 1982, where the broken pottery was many feet deep up and down maybe a quarter mile of coastline. Its picked pretty clean these days but the tide was low and I found this cowboy piece right off, but nothing else with a design so intact.

Erin, who has a beautiful, eclectic, cottage garden, wanted to gather pieces to use as a colorful mulch. She was excited about cup handles – and everything else. She filled up 2 big bags before we made ourselves stop and lug the bags, splitting from the weight, back up the breakwater and all the way back to the car, stopping every few steps to laugh at ourselves and then go back to retrieve the precious chunk of old pottery that had fallen out.


Erin finding something good.


Detail of mosaic table with my tile, and some found shards.


5 responses to “Pottery Parts

  1. Cool story. I didn’t know that about the bay– that people were encouraged to dump clean fill in it. Really interesting about Tepco–are they still in business? The picture of Erin is great!

  2. P.S. I Googled Tepco Pottery to find out more about it and the 4th item listed was your blog post!

  3. Could you women be “pot heads?”

    How interesting this blog is. I love the clean fill idea and the intact image you found and the picture of Erin so enlivened is terrific. What is around her waist??

    What a great writer you are in addition to potter. This blog feels personal and informative and interesting and inclusive and warm all at once.

  4. Jana,
    Yeah, more buildable real estate without all that pesky water. But I guess it wasn’t all “clean fill”. At one point there were 40 garbage dumps in the Bay.

    TEPCO went out of business in 1968 and the building was eventually torn down and replaced by the DMV.


    That compliment means so much coming from such an accomplished writer/poet as yourself
    Erin’s red sash is her dog’s leash. Our dogs are alternately watching us with complete boredom and chasing each other in the water.

  5. What a great cowboy find at the Bay. Love that you are incorporating found shards into your mosiacs. I have second thoughts about some of the pottery I’ve disposed of – thinking it could have been used in mosaics. I can only keep so much though.

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